Armored Warfare: A Slight Spin on Tank MMOs

Whether fighting on the frontlines in a heavily armored MBT or causing havoc from the back in a tactical artillery vehicle or finding someplace in-between one can always find their place of enjoyment in Armored Warfare. Set in the modern world, players find themselves either playing the role of a mercenary making his way into the world in Armored Warfare’s notable PVE environment or making the difference in immersive PVP settings. When ready to go even the most casual players can dive right in with a simple WASD movement controls and a point-and-shoot mechanics; unique maps, tanks, and tactics however it also keeps even the most hardcore gamers engaged in the action.

The Basics

Similar to its biggest competitor and predecessor World of Tanks, each player starts out with a personal “garage” and two starter tanks. From here the player can look at possible upgrades and retrofits for their selected vehicle, look at the two currently available dealer trees, customize their “base”, look at their dossier, choose to create or join a battalion, or hop right into their first battle as a PVP or PVE tanker. The most original idea being the “base”; simply put it is a players own customizable buff-station. By using the 100 free “raw-materials” given to the player on a daily basis he or she could choose to purchase buildings which would increase the rate crewman earn experience, cut premium costs, or even cut the repair cost for a tank!

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As for the dealer trees, Armored Warfare took an inventive spin on typical progression trees by allowing players to change their mind at the end of a tree instead of forcing a player who realized a certain role isn’t their style abandon their work and completely restart their progression on another tree. How does this work? Simple, currently the trees are set up in a tier system of 1 through 9 (similar to other progression trees the lower numbers are generally needed to be unlocked before the higher) for each vehicle type other then artillery. However the big twist comes into effect between tiers 8 and 9. After becoming renowned (completely maxing out the experience needed to advance to the next tier) with a vehicle, instead of simply continuing down the progression, the player can redeem one “tier 9 unlock” which allows the player to research and purchase any tier 9 from the same dealer without specifically having to complete the vehicles tree.

Armored Warfare 1

Sadly Armored Warfare is close to identical to its competitors when it comes to vehicle customization. In the actual garage tab the player is able to change a selected vehicles ammo type, consumables (such as repair kits to fix damaged modules), retrofits (such as intercom systems to boost crew skills), and some aesthetic options such as decals and paints. The distinctive portion comes in the way the crew members work. Unlike other games in the same genre, Armored Warfare not only has a set crew for a specific tank that provides set bonuses but it also has a commander with unique attributes that can transfer from tank to tank. These commanders are both given to the player at his or her first launch of the game and can be unlocked through dealer progression trees. Another slight difference is when you select the upgrade tab for a specific tank. Although it resembles World of Tanks in its module progression it has a slightly different experience bar. Instead of simply getting to 100% completion and being able to move onto the next tank, Armored Warfare also has tank exclusive unlocks that can be researched after reaching 50% of the total progression on a chosen tank (such as the commanders that were mentioned earlier)

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Last but not least are the dossier and battalion tab. In comparison to similar games Armored Warfare has the same basic dossier (statistics page) layout with a slightly different format which allows the viewing of certain stats in graphic form. As far as the battalion is concerned from the looks of it – it is just a standard clan layout but because I have not experimented with it I cannot say with 100% certainty.

Gameplay Mechanics

When inside the game, be it PVP or PVE, Armored Warfare isn’t much different from any other game. The main objectives consist of either destroying all enemy vehicles or capturing and securing a specified point. Nevertheless it still does have its differences. When playing an artillery class a player’s attention is increasingly brought to counter battery as a large indicator on the players minimap occurs to opposing artillery upon firing as well as a set sound alert. If you are in any other form of tank and you are fired at by an opposing artillery a large text indicator will appear to warn the player of an incoming artillery shell. Also artillery get two special shell types: smoke shells and illumination flairs. The smoke shells can be placed between a spotter and a specified target to cover the advance or retreat of an ally. Likewise, an illumination flare can be shot to bring vision of any target within a certain radius underneath it to the entire allied team.

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Another big part that sets Armored Warfare apart is its ability system for both scout and tank destroyer type vehicles as well as specific MBTs. When playing a scout vehicle (whether it is a recon or a fire support type) by default your “E” key will trigger one of a few specific abilities. These range from marking a target (force lighting them even if they go out of view as well as guaranteeing max pen rolls) to decreasing terrain resistance for a short period of time. Some of the fire support type scout vehicles even get rockets which are medium pen high damage guided missiles. The tank destroyers’ ability is very beneficial as well; upon activation a TD can fire three shots from the same position and only lose a small percentage of their camo rating. Lastly certain MBT’s come with the ability to launch smoke shells a small distance in front of their turret which would act in the same way as artillery’s smoke shells upon landing. Along with this some MBT’s unlock a active protection system which, while active, can shoot down incoming heat and missile rounds (artillery not included).

Final Impression

Armored Warfare is a fun and easily immersive MMO tank shooter with competitive graphics and some unique gameplay mechanics and whether you are new to the genre or an experienced tanker you are likely to enjoy its style.

Mad Max The Game Review

mad max car

If you loved Saints Row, the Batman Arkham series of games, Borderlands, and the Mad Max movies then you will love Mad Max the game. The game consists of taking the role of Mad Max after his ride has been stolen, recruiting a crazy mechanic that will help you build a car that will let you get your ride back, and rebuilding civilization in the region along the way.

Pros:
-It’s Mad Max!
-Really captures the low technology and scarcity of the post-apocalypse world.
-Gives more insight as to what might have caused the Armageddon.
-Game engine performance is amazing (very well optimized).
-The sand storm parts are terrifying.
-As much carnage and slaughter as a Mad Max movie or anything from Warhammer 40k.
-Persistent auto-save system that works flawlessly so it doesn’t interrupt gameplay.
-Fast travel system that although convenient can also be used to cheat in many situations (such as low health/water).

Cons:
-Too expensive ($60 price).
-Too short.
-Car combat is not as good as Auto Assault.
-Game events/activities are too repetitive. Some events/activities you might expect are missing such as escort missions, etc.
-Game ending was TOO EASY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Game is badly in need of a 2nd campaign (DLC please!)
-Damage system is not realistic at all (I was ran over by a car going at full speed without dying).
-Pretty much no replay value (unless they add DLC that changes the game a lot).
-Mechanic fixes car too easily (it’s basically immortal if you know how to play).
-In a world of finite extremely-limited resources, you’re going around blowing up oil production plants which is the OPPOSITE of you would want to be doing in the post-apocalypse! This major logic-fail makes the game stupid when you really think about it.

Review score: 6.5 out of 10

Darkspore

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Originally, I picked Darkspore up because I wanted to see what Maxis would do with an action RPG built on Spore’s creature creator.  Spore was a mediocre sandbox game in which you guided a species through its entire evolutionary process.  The highlight was the creator, which offered the player a deep level of customization.  How does this system carry over to an action RPG?  It’s not quite what I expected, but the game does a bunch of things well.

Darkspore - Gameplay

If you’re like me, you thought you’d be making your own genetic heroes from the ground up for this game.  Wrong.  While this is disappointing, what they’ve done instead is fairly robust.  Customization of your heroes is driven by what gear you pick up, which is then integrated into their bodies.  You can mount dropped items almost anywhere on the hero’s body, with a couple exceptions like boots and weapons.  There’s a wide palette of colors and color schemes, for even more tweaking.

Darkspore - Gameplay

I didn’t spend too much time playing dress up, but there were definitely a lot of options for crafting a unique appearance.  In addition to making cosmetic changes, the gear solely determines your level.  That is to say, there are no skill or stat leveling trees for individual heroes.  Instead, you gain “Crogenitor” levels as you play, allowing you to do things like unlock additional squad slots, heroes, and the option to chain-finish levels in succession for better loot.

Darkspore - Gameplay

Not everyone will like it, but I feel it’s a fresh twist on the classic RPG formula.  Probably a consequence of this leveling system, there is no way to trade with other players.  I suspect the devs don’t want people getting power-geared too much, which would definitely happen if trading was a feature.  I’ve been told that they’re implementing a way to drop items on the ground, which will allow friends to trade but doesn’t help much for trading with untrustworthy strangers.

Darkspore - Gameplay

You start the game on your ship, which is your hub for genetic hero customization, multiplayer chat channels and anything else that isn’t standard gameplay.  To prepare for actual combat, you make squads of 3 heroes each.  You select one of your squads for each deployment and you can swap between squad members at will, albeit on a short cooldown.  Each hero has a unique standard attack, 2 core skills, one or more passive abilities/auras and a squad ability.

Darkspore - Gameplay

The squad ability is interesting because it is shared amongst all 3 heroes.  Since there are upwards of 40 heroes in the game, there are many combinations of squad abilities to mix and match.  At higher difficulty levels, you will need to find the right balance of survivability, damage and crowd control to avoid becoming dead.  The possible combinations only increase as you add more buddies to your squad in multiplayer, which capped out at 4 in beta.  There are two other considerations for squad composition.

Darkspore - Gameplay

There are 5 genetic types that your champions and enemies alike share: Necro, Plasma, Bio, Quantum and Cyber.  Enemies of the same type as your hero will deal double damage, so you’re not going to want to bring a bunch of Cyber heroes to a planet that’s all Cyber monsters.  Additionally, heroes are separated into Tempest (Mage), Ravager (Rogue) and Sentinel (Tank) classes.  You’ll want to mix and match appropriately for different situations.

Darkspore - Gameplay

My overall impression of the game is mixed.  On one hand, the combat is crisp and fun, especially when you’re cooperating with friends.  The abilities are satisfyingly destructive and the heroes that I played all felt unique.  It’s like playing league of legends in action RPG flavor, in that you only have a handful of spells available at one time, but a ton of different characters to choose from.  There’s a good mix of enemy types with various special abilities you’ll need to adjust to.  On the other hand, there are aspects of the game that worry me.

Darkspore - Gameplay

The level design is boring.  All the missions unlocked for the beta had simplistic layouts, making you feel like you’re on rails.  There’s only the bare minimum of exploration.  The game rewards you with loot for finding badly hidden obelisks, which is hugely disappointing to me.  Level randomization is almost nonexistent.  Zones layouts do not randomize AT ALL when you replay them, other than obelisk placement and location/composition of monster packs.

Darkspore - Gameplay

This has the potential to get incredibly stale, especially since the game follows the Diablo format where you play it 3 times over on different difficulties.  Additionally, the game offers arena style PvP which may prove impossible to balance given the sheer number of heroes.  The hero customization, while not a failure, is mostly cosmetic, which is basically a cop-out.  I would rather they left out any attempt at PvP balance and gave the player some manner of ability customization outside of items.  Lastly, the hero editor interface is somewhat clunky.  If there is a way to view all a character’s equipped gear at once, I haven’t found it.  You have to assess it one slot at a time.

Darkspore - Gameplay

That said, I will be playing this game.  The core gameplay is solid enough to provide action RPG fans with hours upon hours of casual fun with friends.  But Diablo III this ain’t.

Wasteland 2 Review

Wasteland 2 loading screen

Wasteland 2 Review by Honorabili

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10

Wasteland 2 is the direct sequel to the original Wasteland, the game that Fallout was based on. Wasteland 2 takes the setting from the original game and updates it with isometric gameplay elements we love from similar games such as Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Jagged Alliance, Jagged Alliance 2, the X-COM series, and Silent Storm 2, as well as the lost Amiga classic RPG Perihelion. In spirit, to me, this game is what Van Buren would have been like for Fallout 3 rather than the Fallout 3 Oblivion-like game that actually got made. The writing for Wasteland 2 is also a lot like the one in the games I previously mentioned as well as Fallout: New Vegas.

Storyline:

The game takes place in an alternate timeline. The nuclear apocalypse happened in 1998 (although if you play the game it feels like 1988, maybe even 1983 based on the computer technology you find in the game) and it’s now nearly a hundred years after the end of the world. The kind of destruction of civilization and barbarity that take place would be at home in the Mad Max universe. Out of the chaos of the apocalypse, some engineers and military personnel in the territory that used to be the United States of America organized itself in the shattered remains of Arizona to become a paramilitary organization that would police the wastes. They are called the Desert Rangers. Your party are new members of this group that are quickly sent to investigate the murder of Ace, one of the characters from Wasteland 1.

Survival Elements:

Not only must you contend with the surviving psychopaths of the Wasteland but you are also trying to survive in an environment where you are not only battling radiation, limited ammo, limited healing, but also the lack of water. This is an element that was also found in original Wasteland and it will make you feel a lot like playing a Dark Sun Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

Gameplay:

Every location and they way you interact with the people in those locations affects the world in a large or limited way, depending on how relevant they are to the storyline of the game. Much like Fallout 2, this game is also filled with easter eggs, pop culture jokes, and inside jokes. Exploration is encouraged as the game will reward you with rare items which usually don’t seem useful but they may be useful to a character that you might meet after 10-20 hours of gameplay later. It’s this kind of depth that makes Wasteland 2 as enjoyable as playing all the RPGs I mentioned previously.

The game consists of making your characters explore and interact with locations (people and objects) as well as a LOT of combat. I would say this game is the polar opposite of Planescape: Torment (another favorite RPG of mine). Whereas Planescape: Torment had very little combat, the slaughter in Wasteland 2 is legendary! Combat happens very much in the same manner as Jagged Alliance, Fallout Tactics, and X-COM games. You position your crew in a square-system based grid and they move and shoot based on Action Points. These action points are based on your characters’ statistics as well as reduction in AP based on what armor you are wearing and also a bonus/penalty to AP based on whatever trinket you have equipped.

The game uses a hit point based system, much like most games do, which although is not the most realistic system is not as punishing to new RPG players as some other systems are (Vampire or Shadowrun proportionate health systems). Much like the original Wasteland, the game uses a very intricate healing system for which first aid and surgeon are two separate skills. First aid is mainly used to increase the efficiency of first aid kits in healing hit points, whereas surgeon is used to recover fallen soldiers and bring them back from the brink of death, as well help them recover from bleeding, and other status ailments.

Combat aside, the game has a very straight forward attribute and skill system. Most of the skills have a use which is self explanatory towards objects in the environments of locations. What’s interesting is that what is the speech skill in Fallout is implemented in this game instead as three separate kind of social skills: smart ass, kiss ass, and hard ass. Smart ass applies towards dialogue options in which logic is usually involved. Kiss ass involves towards stroking other people’s egos. Hard ass involves threatening (usually physically) some weak minded fools to bend to your will (basically intimidation). Much like many other games only social skills will open up special dialogue options that will lead to new plot lines.

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SUMMARY:
Pros:
Deep storyline
Hectic combat is a lot of fun
Completely customizable player characters
Well written characters for NPCs (including party members and town NPCs)
Really well made audio (both sound effects and music)
Can run on most systems (even obsolete ones)
Amazing dialogue
Very immersive environment
Many hours of game relative to the cost of purchase
Buying this game will continue to fund more games like this
Using the radio saves having to return to home base and that saves time
NO DEADLINE (aka gun to your head) like in Fallout 1 and 2
The funny, detailed combat log from the old Bard’s Tale games as well as the original Fallout games is implemented in this game too
This game is proof that really good games that people need can come out of crowd-funding projects

Cons:

Single-player game only
No editor for making custom campaigns
AI is not that effective in combat (in fact, it’s pretty dumb)
Unity graphics engine looks dated
Unity engine is sluggish (latest updates have made it faster though)
Limited replayability
Inventory management could be a little bit more polished
People who did not play 80s-90s-early 2000s RPG games will be not interested in playing it
Lots of loading and saving because of sometimes ridiculous skill tests (10-13% probability of passing with 45% critical failure rates)
Loading games on a hard drive can be slow and since loading happens often because of critically failed skill tests the game can get boring
I found some bugs/expoits (they have been patching the game every week or two since it came out so soon there will be none)

CONCLUSION:
We finally got the Wasteland sequel that we needed. How much did we need this? Well, fans of the original game had reverse engineered that game in order to modify it. That was a project that took years and a lot of patience. It’s been years since an actually good science-fiction, especially post-apocalypse RPG has come out. The wait was worth it.

All fans of the original Wasteland and especially fans of Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics MUST play this game. I highly encourage you to BUY IT especially since inXile did such a great job and they will continue to make the RPGs we crave. Keep the dream alive! Now here’s to hoping they make Wasteland 3! 🙂

The Night of the Rabbit

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The Night of the Rabbit

The point-and-click adventure game is not extinct, but it has been largely in hiding over the last several years. It is not a surprise, video games have evolved a great deal over the years, with a lot of AAA titles sporting amazing, fully animated visuals and high-priced voice and musical talent. Still, I have a soft spot for the genre. They are not generally the first games I go out to play when I see one released, but every now and then a storyline, or some gorgeous artwork will catch my eye and I settle in for a good old fashioned bit of video game nostalgia.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I think perhaps my most recently point-and-click adventure was also courtesy of Daedalic Entertainment, back when I reviewed The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav – which I liked quite a bit. I happily scored it an 8 overall and it was definitely time well-spent.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play The Night of the Rabbit, and it has a lot of the same hallmarks found that title as well – a likeable main character, a distinctive art style and good audio that helps present a story that is probably the biggest Daedalic has released to date and definitely worth your time if you are a fan of this genre of video game. It is still somewhat short of a play compared to some titles, but for an adventure like this, it holds up nicely.

Graphics – 9:

These are not a technical achievement by any means, but sometimes visuals simply resonate with you.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The art style here is bright, colorful and shows incredible style and detail. The animations are quite good, especially for the lead character Jerry Hazelnut, a twelve year boy reaching the end of his summer. It is not going to tax out anyone’s video cards, and that is a good thing in this instance as I was able to just settle in on my laptop and run it very smoothly from my bedroom.

Sound & Music – 8:

The sound effects are usually minimalistic in nature, but are woven into the game’s events skillfully.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The music was also quite good, never grating on my nerves and offering up enough variety to keep it from ever really getting repetitive. Best of all, there is a ton of well-voiced dialog to be had here. You can skip it if you want, but you lose some of the vibrance of the world all around if you do.

Gameplay – 7:

This is a click-and-point adventure, so from an interface standpoint you should know exactly what you are getting here.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I never had any detection issues, it all ran smoothly enough. The puzzles generally work well, but there are a few that can strain your patience. I admit that sometimes I wish the games would point you in the right directly a bit more than this one did, but maybe that is my own personal preference.

Intangibles – 8:

I thoroughly enjoyed the story in general, and Jerry in particular as our protagonist.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

I touched on the length above, and I would guess I spent about fourteen or fifteen hours with the game. I suspect a big factor is how often you get ‘stuck’ on puzzles – which can certainly happen. There is some bonus content in the game as well, most notably a fairly basic card game called quartets – all of which is welcome because once you have beaten the story and seen it through to the end, there is not much reason to give it another go.

Overall – 8:

I actually liked The Night of the Rabbit a bit more than The Dark Eye.

The Night of the Rabbit - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Both games have a distinctive style about them, both are point and click games, but they do some things differently as well. The spells you can learn on your quest in The Night of the Rabbit are actually quite fun to attain. As soon as I got one, I found myself pondering how it might be used in an upcoming puzzle of some sort. Point-and-click adventures are not for everyone, but if you are a fan of the genre, The Night of the Rabbit is very easy to recommend.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

TMNT Smash Up is everything that’s wrong with fighting games in the modern era. It lacks any sense of cohesiveness, more content with slapping characters on-screen to flail around without a sense of pacing or flow.

Trying to discuss motion controls in a fighting game is pointless. They simply shouldn’t exist. That said, even with the classic controller Smash Up is awful. Jumping is floaty, creating a disconnect between the player and the character. The lack of d-pad controls are unforgivable, making the already loose movement nearly impossible in terms of preciseness.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

That creates an additional issue when attempting to complete the mini-games, forced on the player whether or not they simply want to continue in the arcade mode… twice. Asking for any accuracy in a game with so little is absurd, yet that’s what Smash Up’s mini excursions are designed around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

An atrocious tutorial is a simple video, not one tailored to your chosen control scheme. The mechanics, such as ninja powers, are never explained. It creates a learning curve that forces the player out before they can be drawn in, something that makes a supposedly accessible melee brawler out of the reach of many.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

Mirage artists craft cinematics tailored to mimic the art style of the original comics, but also clashed with the in-game visuals capitalizing on the recent animated cartoon film. The comic drawings also appear rushed, with oddly proportioned characters and limited detail.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

If Turtles fans will gain anything, it is a set of voice actors who instantaneously create familiarity with the Turtles. They fit, even if the rest of the game does not. Smash Up doesn’t even seem to be a case of rushed development. There is not a game here that could have become anything besides a sloppy melee fighter. The end results are nothing short of disappointment.

Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones

Ever since first hearing about an RPG set as a parallel story (and not just a retelling of known events from the television show and books) in George R.R. Martin’s amazing fantasy world, I was holding out hope that it would lead to an excellent game with a compelling story.  My basic thoughts on the matter?  Well, we got halfway there.

Game of Thrones - PC

Game of Thrones is a third person action-RPG that follows the exploits of two characters, Alestyr and Mors, though their own stories that eventually wind up intersecting in later chapters.  Much like the books (but on a much more limited scale since it is just these two characters), you go from one point of view to the next, getting pieces of the story delivered to you along the way.  While the narrative execution is excellent, the game itself was sorely lacking.

Graphics – 3:

Game of Thrones - PC
The graphics are just terrible and I do not really have anything to sugarcoat that opinion with.  The textures lack detail and tend to be very bland.  The colors are dark and limited.  Character animate stiffly and little graphical oddities and artifacting popped up regularly as I played.  Considering how pretty Skyrim was on this same PC with settings set to half, it is amazing how bad Game of Thrones looks by comparison.

Sound & Music – 6:

Game of Thrones - PC
Some of the musical scores, including the television introduction (which I am very fond of) sound pretty good.  The sound effects by and large do their job – they are unremarkable and not terribly varied but they never got on my nerves either.  The voice acting was a mixed bag of mediocrity.  Almost none of the voice actors stood out as particularly impressive, though there were a handful that were painfully bad in their delivery.  Honestly most of them just muddled around average at best,which is a shame since the game is so heavily voiced and relies on these voice overs to tell the story.

Gameplay – 5:

Game of Thrones - PC
I really disliked the controls using a keyboard and mouse, but I could never get the game to recognize my PC controller.  I am not certain if a control would have made it any better, but I have serious doubts it could have been any worse.  Even adjusting all kinds of settings like sensitivity, I found the control of your character’s movement and the camera in particular to be awkward at best and frustrating the majority of the time.  A few gameplay items were implemented like a slowdown system during combat that does not freeze the action as you make tactical choices, but dramatically slows it down help.  The character customization of class and skills was fairly detailed as well.  Still, when basic movement is such a chore, it does drain a lot of the life out of the game.

Intangibles – 9:

The story is excellent.  Fans of the series will not be disappointed on that front.  Both of your main characters are well-written and very different protagonists who have very distinct roles in this twisting story.  At first their paths are completely disparate, but by the time you reach the last portions of the game, they are interwoven very nicely.  There is also a good deal of freedom of choice and some of these decisions do nothing more than change conversation branches, but most seem to have some tangible impact on things like whether or not a character will be around to talk to later in the game.  Beyond that there are multiple endings that branch off events in the final chapter, so there is some replay value to be had here as well.

Overall – 5.75:

You would think that with a score like this and the remarks above that I completely regretted my time with Game of Thrones.  While I regretted the technical shortcomings and some of the painfully awkward movement and combat, I enjoyed the story a great deal.  For me that was enough to at least enjoy the journey for the most part, though I will probably not replay this title again any time soon.  Unfortunately I suspect a lot of people, even those who are fans of the books, may not want to put their time into this game because of those shortcomings.  That is a shame too, because it is an excellent story with some good gameplay ideas that never really reached their full potential.

Psychonauts

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Psychonauts

The other day I was looking back through the games I’ve covered so far on the blog, and it dawned on me that I have a very odd taste in games. Loads of people have been asking me when I’m going to cover classics like Sonic the Hedgehogand Sensible Soccer, but to be honest I’m more interested in writing about oddities like Doshin the Giant and Emergency Call Ambulance.

Psychonauts

 

That’s partly because odd games are a bit easier to write about of course. One of the most difficult posts to write so far was the one on Super Mario Kart – it’s clearly a fantastic game that had to be included on the blog, but how do you write something new and interesting about a game that everyone already knows everything about? I ended up going with the whole ‘which version of Mario Kartis the best’ angle, but I think I rewrote the whole post about three times before I was reasonably assured that it wasn’t incredibly boring.

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But the main reason that I tend to pick odd games to write about is that I genuinely like them. Give me the choice between playing Katamari Damacy andHalo 3, and Katamari would win hands down. That’s not to say I don’t like the Halo games of course,  but in the end they’re just a more refined version of a genre that’s been around for nearly 20 years, whereas there’s just nothing like Katamari Damacy out there (except for its sequels of course).

But it’s not just originality that attracts me – a good story is a plus too. I’m not one of those people who just keeps playing the same games again and again (I’m looking at you Ian) – I generally just play through a game once and then move onto something else. But the game has to make me want to see what’s around the next corner to keep me playing, and story is a big part of that.

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Dark Sector is a good example of a game that doesn’t quite get it right – the story is all over the place, to the point where the game would probably have been better off without a story at all (watching the developers painstakingly try to explain why some young man has ended up with an organic, psychically controlled throwing blade for an arm is excruciating at times). Not only that, the limited story available is delivered through incredibly dull, poorly scripted cut scenes that actually leave you even more confused about what the hell is going on rather than illuminating the finer details of the hackneyed plot (which mostly centres around the usual mad scientist/femme fatale/betrayed friend gubbins). Thankfully, the game was saved from utter mediocrity by the small spark of originality that is the glaive – the amusement to be had from lopping people’s heads off from a distance was just about enough to keep me playing to the end.

psychonauts

The wonderful Psychonauts, on the other hand, has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to originality and story. In fact, it almost goes too far in the opposite direction – basic things, like the controls (which are ridiculously floaty), seem to have been added in almost as an afterthought, such is the focus on telling the sublimely ridiculous story. I won’t go into the details of the plot here (you can read the Wikipedia entry for that), suffice to say that at one point you get trapped inside the mind of a giant mutated lungfish and lay waste to an imaginary city – populated by tiny little mutated lungfish.

Graphically too, the game is exploding with imagination, and the stylized characters and landscapes are totally unlike anything I’ve seen before in a game (think The Nightmare Before Christmas, but set in a psychic summer camp). Not only that, in a welcome change from the norm, the voice acting is absolutely fantastic, and the deadpan one-liners often had me (genuinely) laughing out loud.

psychonauts

Most importantly, the game kept me playing not because I was trying to collect 100 of this, that and the other, or because I was desperately trying to get some obscure, yet utterly meaningless ‘Achievement’ – I kept playing just because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Which is the way all games should be.

Kuon

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Kuon

 Eurogamer Review 4/10
Gamespot Review 6.3/10
Gameinformer 6/10
1up Review 6/10
kuon_ps2Official Website
Screenshots from Eurogamer
Walkthrough from Gamefaq
kuon_ps2I’ts been out for a while in the US (july ’04) but only recently released in the Eu (April ’04) hence the walkthrough.

kuon_ps2Kuon takes place in a haunted mansion in ancient Japan during the Heiankyo period (dating back to the late 1100s, and no i am not that elderly).

Game Overview:

 

The main character is a 15-year-old girl who has wandered into a huge mansion in search of her father and sister. Together with four trainee exorcists sent by their master to uncover the mansion’s mysteries, the girl must use a number of seals (similar to medallions) to survive numerous Japanese-style monsters. An action title with a ghost story theme, Kuon allows the player to assume the roles of several different characters in an effort to explore a multitude of plot threads.

kuon_ps2

The game’s story is set in the Heian period. Strange things are happening in an old mansion — eerie singing voices and moving shadows. You play as three characters, Uduki, Sakuya and Seimei Abeno, each with their own special chapter, respectively the Shadow Chapter, the Sun Chapter and the Kuon Chapter. A key focus of the gameplay is the use of martial arts, which the protagonists have to use to defeat the evil water spirit that inhabits the mansion. You’ll find beasts aplenty as well as numerous traps and puzzles, giving the game a Resident Evil-feel.

Metro: Last Light

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Metro: Last Light

It’s time to return to the underground world of Moscow in a post apocalyptic world. Will Metro: Last Light make you care enough to save what’s left, or should it all be left in the dark and damp underground subways of Moscow?

Read our review to find out.

Metro Last Night

Back in 2010, 4A Games teamed up with Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky to take his post apocalyptic book and turn into a top of the line video game. Metro 2033 was unleashed on the masses for the PC and Xbox 360 and received better than average scores, and turned out to be a fun and well thought out IP. Fast forward to 2013 and the sequel, Metro: Last Light, is ready for its world premiere.

Metro: Last Light picks up the timeline right where Metro 2033 left off. Our hero Artyom has just wiped out a race of creatures known as the Dark Ones by raining missiles upon their hive. These are creatures that could fight you from within your own mind and make you see things that weren’t what they seemed. A dream sequence shows us how the Dark Ones led Artyom to kill his own friends by simply making him hallucinate and see his friends as creatures that were trying to kill him.

Metro Last Night

We are introduced to the different characters in the story through a first person narrative that really puts you right into the world of Last Light. Instead of cut scenes, most of the story is told during the game play, meaning you’ll need to stand around and pay attention or you may miss some finer points of the plot as well as some side quests that pop up from time to time.

After the destruction of the Dark Ones in the first game, the underground world becomes thrown into a power struggle between several groups with Artyom being a member of The Rangers who are tasked with defending D6, which is believed to be a huge food cache amassed by the previous government. Those that control D6, will control the known world. The other groups are the Nazis of the Fourth Reich, the communist Reds, and bandits that will do anything to help themselves.

Having never played the first game or having read the book Metro 2033 I was worried I might have to read up on it, but the story was pretty easy to follow and understand and the intro gave me enough information from the previous story. Quite often story lines aren’t the first thing a developer starts working on, and there aren’t too many games that have a story that could stand by itself. Developer 4A games, with direction from author Dmitry Glukhovsky, seems to have made sure that this story could stand by itself. It is well written and left us having actual feelings about Artyom and his decisions in the game. The story consists of thirty one total chapters and should take most gamers ten to twelve hours to finish.

Metro Last Night

Gameplay will have you moving between the dark and dangerous tunnels of The Metro, which hold not only human enemies but other deadly creatures as well, and above ground where your breaths are measured in seconds and death can come from anywhere, including from above. Creatures you’ll run into, and that may run into you, vary from shrimp like critters, to ground crawling things on legs, to flying dragons that want nothing more than to pick you up and take you to their nest to feed their young.

Two things that are in short supply, and that are key to your survival, are your gas mask filters and ammo for your weapons. Gas masks have replaceable filters which can be found, quite sparingly, in boxes and on the bodies of the recently deceased. You can also damage your gas mask, so keep an eye on the face mask. If it starts getting cracked, grab another as soon as you have a chance. You wear a very useful watch that might not look like a Rolex, but is worth more to you than any diamond encrusted timepiece you may have coveted in the past. Your watch has a timer counting down the life of your current air filter, whenever you are actually wearing your mask. Pulling up your menu will show you how much time you have as far as filters in your pocket, but don’t swap them out until your watch hits zero because each filter has a set amount of time and this time doesn’t stack. Once a filter is swapped out, it is gone for good and you lose that time.

Metro Last Night

Almost all levels give you the ability to stealthily move through them and when sneaking up behind a bad guy you’ll have the option of either killing him or just knocking him out. There is an achievement for finishing the game without killing any humans unless forced to, so going the stealth route is a distinct possibility. Your trusty watch also has a blue light that lights up whenever you are visible and is dark whenever you are hidden from sight. That blue light becomes key to your stealth as it will light up whenever you leave the shadows.

Ammo for the various weapons in the game is just as scarce, so picking your shots should become second nature because a well placed bullet is much more efficient than running and gunning with guns blazing. Spray and pray will only leave you with nothing more than your trusty knife and no one wants to bring a knife to a gun fight. There are two types of ammo in the game as well. There are bullets that were created down in the Metro that are effective, but not as powerful as the military grade rounds that are much harder to come by.

Metro Last Night

The weapons in the game are many and range from a variety of shotguns, auto rifles, sniper rifles, hand guns and stealth weapons like dart and bolt guns.Stealth weapons are air powered and will have a gauge of some sort to let you know how much pressure is available. Once the weapon is empty of pressure, you’ll have to pump it back up or it will no longer work. On the PS3 all you have to do is hold L2, press right on the d-pad and then R1 to pump it back up. Your flashlight also requires being pumped up to continue working so you’ll need to make sure to check that often. On the PS3 all you have to do is hold L2, press left on the d-pad and then R1 to pump the generator.

Weapon dealers can be found in a few areas in the game and they offer attachments for your weapons that can make them quieter (but weaker) and add better sights like laser or ACOG. With in-game currency being hard to find though, you’ll find yourself being a very frugal shopper. You may also want to save some of that money for a nice lap dance in Venice, but then again maybe not.

Metro Last Night

This is a dark game and definitely not for the young gamers, with the ‘M’ rating truly being earned. Killing bad guys with a gun is your typical shooter fare, but taking someone out stealthily gives many different variations of executions with your knife. These are all brutal, but some can seem extra disturbing. Plunging a knife downward into the back of a bad guys neck, knowing you just severed his spinal cord, is a pretty effective way to take someone out, but very graphic in nature.

Gameplay is mostly linear, but a couple of locations do allow you to roam freely, albeit in a limited area. Venice has a shooting gallery, an adult theater complete with a stripper pole, and the aforementioned lap dance parlor, as well as an arms dealer and ammo dealer. A couple of other locations are similar, but there’s very little free roaming available. There are collectible items strewn about that will help tell the story through Diary pages, and some of these are well off the beaten path, so completionists will be busy with those for a while. Once you’ve completed a chapter it becomes selectable to re-visit so if you do miss a note, the game will tell you and you’ll be able to start that chapter over again if you quit to the main menu.

Metro Last Night

Metro: Last Light is a great looking game on both the console and the PC. We played in 1080p on the PS3 and were very impressed with the graphics. The level of detail across the board was incredible. When traveling through the darkest reaches of the Metro and using your flashlight, these details pop out at you with a sharpness you might not expect. We did run into a few glitches along the way where we fell through the map and had to reload the last checkpoint in order to remedy it. We never ran into any fatal glitches and the game only froze up on us once during the twelve or so hours of game play.

Developer 4A Games did a great job of staying true to the world created by Dmitry Glukhovsky and wrote a great story, with characters you’ll like and characters we know you’ll want to put a bullet in. Sometimes, there aren’t enough bullets to go around.

Protip: Holding your breath in the real world doesn’t help in the game.

Metal Gear Solid 4

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Metal Gear Solid 4

Back in 1998 I was almost unaware of Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation. It wasn’t until Metal Gear Solid 2 was announced that I was aware of how popular the series really was. I played the remake of the original called Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes on the Nintendo Gamecube and loved it. I also loved the 2nd and (especially) the 3rd game on PS2. However it took me until just recently to get a PS3, and I made sure Metal Gear Solid 4 would be my first adventure on the console.
metal gear solid 4- ps3 - gameplay screenshot -
 The game takes place five years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2, with most of the world in some type of war or conflict. Snake is taken out of retirement for one last mission. He arrives in the Middle East but later will visit other areas of the world including one very familiar spot. The newest game-play additions are the 3rd person aim, a chameleon-like camouflage suit, and a new (and ironically inferior) radar.
metal gear solid 4- ps3 - gameplay screenshot -
I will have to say, even with all my experience with the Metal Gear series I had to take some time adjusting to Metal Gear Solid 4. The first area you land in is a total war-zone and using stealth is much different than before. Also in the older games, most of the non-boss enemies were typically average soldiers, but you are now faced with unmanned vehicles. Such as the walking Gekko tanks which are quite fearsome.
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Overall I thought 4 was a fantastic game. Though while I enjoyed the story, there was some parts I wished were different such as Snake’s accelerated aging. While I enjoyed the variety of each location, some (especially the last one) don’t just make stealth optional but it’s almost impossible to get passed many areas without an epic battle. While the third game is my favorite (so far) in the series, the fourth lives up to its pedigree.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

When Super Mario Kart landed on the SNES back in 1992, it was one of the most beloved racing games of all-time. Sega countered Mario with Sonic R on the Sega Saturn, and I considered it one of the most horrible games I’ve played. I did play a little of the original Sonic & All-Stars Racing on the Xbox 360, and was honestly shocked by its quality. Impressed by it’s predecessor, I decided to see if the sequel was any good.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Like Mario Kart, Transformed is a simple go-kart (sorta) racer with power-ups that either help you or slow down your opponents.  While I wasn’t terribly familiar with the original, I can tell the new feature in the game is the ability for your car to morph. It can fly in the air as a plane or ride the waves as a boat.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
 The single player features a rather impressive world tour mode which features challenges at your own pace. The good majority of the challenges are against A.I. opponents in a race to the finish. But there are also some unique ones here and there like a drift challenge and a challenge that has you maneuvering through traffic. And of course like any racing game from this decade, an online-mode to race friends and strangers.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Overall I ended up enjoying Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed a good bit. I thought the game had surpassed Mario Kart in offering a more full-filling campaign mode. Though the actual racing isn’t as fun as Mario Kart, and the boat and plane transformations aren’t that revolutionary. When compared to Sonic R, it’s a masterpiece, but overall Mario is still a good bit better than Sonic.
Score: 7 out of 10

Frozen Synapse

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Frozen Synapse

When Frozen Synapse first came out, I really did not pay much attention to it.  The visuals were really bad, and it was something that had almost no pre-release buzz.  Then I picked it up cheap as part of a bundle and finally decided to see what all of the fuss was about.

I went into this title blind.  I will admit that I saw the blocky, basic visuals and thought it might be a puzzle game of some sort – wow was I off-track on that one.  What you have is a turn-based strategy game that actually feels fresh.  Now, I cannot give the graphics a pass – they are pretty rough in my opinion.  The map and characters would feel right at home on a PC from two decades ago, though there are some decently rendered sequences between missions that show peoples’ faces and locales.

Frozen Synapse - PC

The reason this game works though, is because the strategy is actually interesting.  You really do get back what you put into it.  At first the learning curve was a bit high – there was a lot of information to take in right away.  That said, the layout was clean, the menus are helpful and easy to navigate and those elements helped ease the transition.

Frozen Synapse - PC

Essentially you are in command of a number of soldiers, who have different weapon types.  You move them to specific locations, set them up with options like hiding behind shorter barriers, guarding windows or trying to control intersections by positioning and aiming them.  You make these choices without knowing what your opponent has planned.  Then both sides ‘go’ and move through their commands, and the sides engage in firefights if they call into each others’ cones of vision.

Frozen Synapse - PC

If this all sounds a bit strange, that’s because it sort of is at first.  But there is a very long single player mode, and a fairly interesting multiplayer mode that handles rankings and matchmaking.  I enjoyed the multiplayer, and had a frustration with it at the same time.  The game plays out just like it does in single player mode, in that both sides plot out their turns and then flag themselves as ready to proceed.  Once both sides are ready, the computer handles how the scenario plays out, and you are informed that you have a new turn available.

Frozen Synapse - PC

You can then access that game again and watch your turn play out.  This was neat because I could react very quickly and have a handful of rounds roll out one after another if my opponent was still online at the time, or I could check back the next day and see if I was up yet.  I really enjoyed that sort of measured play.

Frozen Synapse - PC

 

The downside is it is way too easy for players to abandon games they have no hope of winning.  I had several matches I was almost certainly going to win, having my opinion down to their last soldier or two, but then they just never finished the map.  This can create a very false win/loss record.

Frozen Synapse - PC

The music is decent – certainly better than the graphics, but the meat and potatoes here is in the gameplay itself.  Adding further value to it, these maps are randomized.  So even if you lose on a map, you start the level over and you will likely have an entirely new situation.  I liked that because it forced me to actually get better at the game and not just memorize maps and movement patterns.

Frozen Synapse - PC

All in all, this game was a fun little surprise for me.  It’s not perfect, but it was a title I did enjoy playing all the same and would score a 7.5 out of 10.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

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New Super Mario Bros. Wii

 The original New Super Mario Bros. on DS was a good platformer and a great revival of the classic 2D games. Though it was too easy, a little bland, and there was a lot they could have improved upon. I was surprised to see the first sequel appear on Wii instead of the DS (or the eventual 3DS), but I thought it would be about the same quality as the first. I was thankfully wrong about that.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Gameplay screenshot -
Don’t get me wrong, I did like the first game but I loved New Super Bros. Wii. It had such a variety of levels, proved to be a challenge in the later levels (though not terribly difficult), and had levels almost as fun as Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. I have yet to play either the 3DS or WiiU sequel, but I will.

WarioWare Smooth Moves

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WarioWare Smooth Moves

Good evening, Seamus the Leprechaun here, guest blogger on the Decrepit Gamer, comin atcha from the bowels of Southern Ireland, where the weather is freezing my goolies off.

Well the old fella has let me loose on a review, so in a effort to give new life to the standard yawn inducing reviews we’ll take a little rumage at what ye the players have had to say about the bloody game.
WarioWare Smooth Moves

Well as if there was any doubt, scoring 83% from the readers reviews on Metacritic.com
the games the cat’s pyjamas.

Readers Reviews Summary:
Terribly stupid and shallow gameplay mechanism. At least Wii Sports was free and had bowling but Warioware is just DISGUSTING! Score 1/10
I find no enjoyment whatsoever in this. It’s painful to look at. How can I enjoy a game, regardless of the controls if I can’t stand the graphics? Score 0/10As you can see theres always some eejit willing to make a …(censored -elderly) of themselves in public.

WarioWare Smooth Moves

Gaf Comments: So I took me a trip over to the Wario thread on GAF forums, where spOrsk said
“the game seems over, way before it should be……..it just seems the game is missing the ambition of games like RT and Twisted.” Which frightened the crap out of a number of members till the following emergedPeru..This game is magical. It’s fantastic. It’s the best wario ware game by far
Memles… I think it’s a whole lot of fun, contains some moments of brilliant game design, but there just isn’t enough here.
Alternative Ulster…Wow, this game is beyond amazing.
wasting….Its awesome, finally a reason to turn my wii on again
2D mention…I’m quite impressed
Phife Dawg…I’m having a great time with this. Beating the high scores is fun and multiplayer is a blast.

Warioware_Smooth_Moves

So dere you have it… straight from the horses mouth, not those namby pamby professional reviewers who wouldn’t know a good game if it bit em in the ar…..(censored–elderly).

Right thats me done!. . . . . Oh yeah!!!

. . . . .theres a neat (I suppose) option over on the Nintendo site providing exclusive content. But to access it you’ll have to stick your pin in….. (elderly—-you actually have to enter a pin number contained in the special software insert included with the game)

TRINE 2

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Trine 2

Trine brought with it some fun platforming and cool puzzles, with local only co-op. Developer Frozenbyte added online co-op with Trine 2. Does that make the sequel better than the original? Read our review to find out.

Our three heroes, Amadeus the Wizard, Zoya the Thief, and Pontius the Warrior, have returned. Their world is now being taken over by strange plants and goblins. They are once again united by the artifact known as the Trine and it is up to them to save their world. The story is told through text and narrative and can be a little hard to follow at first. This doesn’t really affect the actual game play and doesn’t take anything away from the game.

trine2_gameplay

The gameplay is a mix of platforming and puzzles, in side scroller style. If you are playing solo, you’ll be able to switch between all three characters. Each one has their own special abilities and that adds to the intricacies of most of the puzzles. The characters’ abilities are upgraded through experience points that you’ll earn as you play along. Once you’ve spent these points, they aren’t locked in. You can reset them and apply them to other needed abilities for any of the characters. This is a nice little feature that comes in handy early in the game while you are still trying to earn more points. Points are earned by grabbing orbs that can be found all over the place in each level.

trine2_gameplay

The puzzles can be a little mind boggling if you don’t look at them through the eyes of each character collectively. Using the brute power of the Warrior can open up paths that only the Thief can get across. The Wizard is great for reaching higher places, but the grappling hook of the Thief might still be needed to get to those hard to reach places.

All three characters start out with little in the way of abilities, but this changes as you spend those experience points. The Wizard can earn the ability to create more boxes and planks out of thin air, as well as levitate objects and  goblins. The Thief will be given more powerful arrows which can freeze or explode enemies. The Warrior’s hammer becomes an actual throwable weapon, with auto retrieval. His shield becomes stronger and can freeze goblins, which can then be shattered into a bunch of goblin pieces.

trine2_gameplay

The original Trine used a mana bar, which limited you with the amount of magic you could use at any given time. Trine 2 does away with that and you can use your abilities without any restrictions. This is definitely an improvement and makes the game a little more user friendly.

The game can be played completely offline solo or with local co-op, but playing online with two other players is where this game really shines. Puzzles are a little easier as long as everyone knows their part. You can play with the three separate characters, or play Unlimited where as you can all play as any of the three. Having three Warriors in battle at one time will make any pack of goblins a mere speed bump along your journey. Having three powerful Wizards can also make life easier when you work together building things with your blocks and planks.

trine2_gameplay

The graphics for the game are some of the best looking graphics for a downloadable title to date. The level details and landscapes are crafted to make the game strikingly beautiful. Puzzle and level design give you the sense that much thought was given to their creation. Some puzzles can be solved in different ways, and it is the level of detail that adds to this design. A few glitches here and there may force you to restart a checkpoint or two, but it’s not a game breaker to say the least.

The sounds of the game vary from very relaxing, to up-tempo depending on the level. The rise and fall of the tempo matches the game play. The sound track is already available on iTunes and has some great scores. Ari Pulkkinen, the man behind the music, has created a great collection of music for this game.

trine2_gameplay

Trine 2 is hard to categorize as a single genre of game, and that adds to its overall appeal. Platforming, while not always perfect, is fun and entertaining. The puzzles can be quite intricate, but tend to be a little too easy once you start thinking using the collective mind of the three characters. The RPG elements are thin, but do give the title a nice RPG feel to it. Battling goblins and various enemies can get a little repetitive, but that doesn’t take away from the overall fun the game offers. Online co-op sets this game apart from the original, and definitely makes this game an upgrade.

Trine 2 is a beautifully crafted game, with a great soundtrack and intricately detailed levels. With it’s low price tag, and hours of game play, it is well worth its price.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

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Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Super Smash Bros. Melee is one of my favorite games of all time, and when the sequel Brawl came out on the Wii I was more than excited. It had been a good number of years since Melee and there was plenty of new features and characters. Including the first non-Nintendo ones being Metal Gear Solid’s Snake and Sega’s Sonic.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Nintendo Wii

The game was generally the same as Melee with the layout and moves. They did recreate the adventure mode with a story and impressive cut-scenes. Though I did miss the Adventure Mode of Melee, as I thought it was overall more fun.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Nintendo Wii

Besides the online matches barely working, and tweaks in the game physics (though only super-fans will be able to tell the difference), I was overall satisfied with Brawl. I did miss that Roy and Mewtwo were no longer around either, but even though I had less fun than I did with Melee it was still one of my favorite Wii games.

Zelda: Skyward Sword

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Zelda: Skyward Sword

legend of zelda -skyward sword
For those who don’t know, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has been my favorite game since I first played it back in 2000. While all the 3D sequels have been excellent, they all had their faults. Though none of them (except Majora’s Mask) really innovated the series. While Skyward Sword follows a similar formula, the new Wii MotionPlus controls (which weren’t around at the time of Twilight Princess) took the series to a whole new level.
legend of zelda -skyward sword
The motion controls for the first time let you swing Link’s sword like if you were really Link himself. This allowed the game to evolve with enemies (the ones that used swords anyway) to block and counter your moves and vice versa. The aiming for the bow and other long-range items was also excellent.
legend of zelda -skyward sword
I also really liked how the story was the ultimate prequel to the series. There was no Ganon, Zelda isn’t a princess, and there is no Kingdom of Hyrule yet. The story was fresh and the main villain for most of the story is the demon Ghirahim who wishes to revive his dark lord. He was also the most memorable boss of the game for me as when you first fight him, he can catch your sword (not in a cut-scene either) and toss it on the other side of the room.
legend of zelda -skyward sword
The game was also one of the longest in the series. It had plenty of dungeons, lots of side-quests, and overall is one epic adventure. While I still prefer Ocarina of Time,Skyward Sword really showed that the series is still one of the best in the industry. My only real complaint is that I wished they had saved it for the WiiU. Not being in HD  in the year 2011 did make it feel a bit dated visually.

 

War of the Roses

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War of the Roses 

War of the Roses is an interesting title, because it takes a few chances that generally pay off, makes use of perhaps one of the most popular gaming modes on the market right now, and feels like a game with some as of yet untapped potential.  So what is War of the Roses?  It is an online experience that feels to me like a Battlefield or Call of Duty game, but with swords and bows instead of rifles and machine guns.

War of the Roses-PC

Graphics – 6:

The visuals are not particularly striking.  They do the job, and there are some nice pieces of flair here and there, like seeing your coat of arms show up on your shield for example.  One of my complaints is that the video controls lack granularity in the settings.  My PC ran the game fine, but my laptop was much more of a struggle at more moderate settings, so I had to move the game’s video settings to the most basic. There were areas I would have liked to have tweaked upward, trying to find that sweet spot between appearance and performance, but those controls were not there.  One very positive note however, is that the game ran smoothly for me, even when crowds of fifteen to twenty people were onscreen together in the same general vicinity.

Sound & Music – 6:

Again, nothing here that particularly impressed me but at least the audio did nothing to offend me either.  A few of the songs in the sound track were pleasant enough to bump this up from a five to a six and make this a very slightly above average offering, but none of the tunes really struck me as memorable either. Weapons clank off of shields with a satisfying thud and cries of pain are a constant on the field of war.

Gameplay – 8:

I am among that minority that prefers to play my shooters with a controller over a keyboard and mouse.  In truth the only games I prefer keyboard and mouse on are strategy or sim/builder titles.  This game unfortunately does not have controller support, so what you get is an interesting if sometimes inelegant control scheme using the mouse and keyboard combination.  Movement by keys is what you would expect, but combat is handled in interesting fashion.

War of the Roses-PC
For those using a bow and arrow as their weapon of choice, you click one mouse button to draw back the bowstring and you have to manage a few things at once.  You have to aim your shot – while taking into consideration that the arrow will lose height as it travels any considerable distance.  You have to pull back the string, and hope to release by clicking the other mouse button while trying to time it for a ‘sweet spot’ release where the weapon will do maximum damage.  Hold the string back too long, and you will tire and lower your weapon.

War of the Roses-PC

Crossbow is similar in that it is a ranged weapon, but where longbow is rapid aim and release, the crossbow takes time to load each bolt.  When you first spawn using this weapon, I always load a bolt right away and then go looking for trouble.  It definitely packs a bigger punch, but if you have any melee opponents nearby, you will probably have to switch off to your secondary short sword because you will not have time to safely load another bolt.

War of the Roses-PC

Melee combat also makes use of both mouse buttons as one activates block and one swings a weapon.  Melee comes in a couple of different flavors as you can use larger, two-handed weapons that can be used to block, but have a narrow window for being successful.  On the other hand, that heavier weapon can make for some longer reached and more impactful blows when they connect.  Sword and board gives you better defensive options as you have a shield you can raise – particularly useful if you are trying to close in on an archer – but a lighter, quicker weapon in your main hand.

War of the Roses-PC

Swinging a weapon though, can be a slightly awkward affair.  You press the mouse button to swing and then swipe your mouse to swing your weapon in that direction.  It works well enough when you get used to it, and these combat mechanics are touched on in the tutorial.  That said, I think that this could have been handled in interesting fashion with say, a second analog stick on a game controller as well.

Armor is certainly a factor.  Better, heavier armor generally means you stay alive longer in the scrums.  Some helmets have a visor you can drop down over your face, limiting your field of vision but better protecting you as well.  A nice touch, really.

Intangibles – 8:

So here is where I get back to my initial paragraph a bit.  This game is really only an online multiplayer game with two modes: deathmatch and take the checkpoint.  Some people joke about how Battlefield or Call of Duty should not even bother with a single player mode since they are usually short and the majority of the fans spend the bulk of their time in the multiplayer modes.  Well, Paradox took that to heart in their design here because the only offline mode is a training mode that I found more frustrating than helpful.  There is very little hand-holding going on either in training mode or in the actual game.  Players who have played War of the Roses longer have more levels and more money and therefore better toys than newcomers.  That being said, Death does not discriminate much here – everyone dies quite a bit, though there are certain classes and configurations that do seem more successful than others (horseback and heavy armor are very nice).

War of the Roses-PC

The maps are well made, and with as many as 32 players possible on either team, you can find yourself participating in some very interesting skirmishes.  You have opportunities to aid fallen comrades or to execute wounded enemies.  Both are boons in that you gain experience and the executions can be particularly visceral – from either side of the equation.  These do present some risk versus reward propositions though as you leave yourself vulnerable to an enemy sword or arrow as well.

War of the Roses-PC

So with only one component: online – and only two modes, why give the intangibles such a high score?  A couple of reasons.  One, I simply enjoyed the game.  I had some rough initial impressions.  The tutorial annoyed me, I could not really configure my video the way and wanted and the bells and whistles failed to impress.  I found myself greatly enjoying the game as I waded into combat, fighting side-by-side with my teammates.  Even better was the post-match content, however.

War of the Roses-PC

As you gain experience, and levels – you unlock new classes.  The first four are built in advance, but the next few are fully customizable.  As you dive into those customization options, you can unlock various perks, weapons and pieces of armor for the coins you earned playing the game.  Want to use a polearm as your primary weapon?  Go for it – you will have several to choose from.  Want to play an archer?  Unlock the class, pick your type of bow and then feel free to purchase the perk that lets you hold the string longer.  This part of the game is surprisingly deep and enjoyable.

Overall 7:

I mentioned potential in my introduction, and it is here.  There has been talk that the developers will be adding new contact in the near future, and promise that it will be significant.  I have not yet seen what that will entail – more maps?  more online and potentially objective-based modes?  Perhaps more unlockable items or crest customizations?  That part is unclear at this point.  This game probably will not be for everyone with its essentially lacking storyline and limited number of modes, but for those who enjoy some multiplayer carnage, you can do a lot worse than a title like this that focuses only on that aspect of the gameplay while adding a medieval flavor to the proceedings.

NES Remix 1 and 2

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NES Remix 1 and 2

I always view the NES era of gaming through sugar-frosted spectacles, forever unable to uncover much fault in this special time when I started identifying myself as a gamer.  Sharing notebooks full of passwords on the bus, the two-month long wait for Nintendo Power in the mailbox, and saving every penny for a year in order to buy Kid Icarus, these are the memories of a wonderful childhood.  Honestly, how can anyone really not love Nintendo?

NES-Remix

If you have ever left a game on pause overnight so as not to lose progress, you know exactly where I’m coming from.  Both volumes of NES Remix were made for people like us, the kids who could beat Castlevania in one sitting or still remember the location of every power up in Bionic Commando.  If you can still navigate through the Lost Woods from memory or decimate Ridley without taking damage, you will certainly find something to enjoy in NES Remix.

Think of NES Remix as your Nintendo favorites perfectly packaged for generation ADD.  Each game is broken into familiar bite-sized chunks that must be completed quickly in order to succeed.  Finishing levels earns the gamer stars, and stars unlock more levels and different titles.  You can also earn stamps to place on messages you leave for members of the Wii community, which Nintendo seems to think is better than a point-based achievement or trophy system.  Personally I would prefer a traditional ranking system where I could match up and meet with new players, but Nintendo doesn’t want their own army of Xbox Live assholes, and I can’t exactly blame them for that.

NES-Remix

Between both volumes of the series, tons of old favorites make appearances. Only a few of the choices are questionable, especially the “what in the fuck were they thinking” inclusion of the obscure and extremely terrible Wario’s Woods.  I would rather play through Captain Novalin (the 8-bit train wreck about living with diabetes) than be subjected to one more minute of Wario or his hackneyed woods.

The remix part comes in with 60 plus special challenges that completely change the familiar levels and games around.  Playing Donkey Kong with Link (who can’t jump) or plowing through lights-out Excitebike are just two of the awesome tweaks that make this the mode worthy of the purchase.  Some of the challenges are downright brutal. For example, imagine playing Balloon Fight (aka C-List Joust) while the screen continually shrinks.  The remix levels are hands down the hardest to complete, and they will certainly test your 8-bit mettle.

NES-Remix

Besides the palpable ire you will feel for Wario’s Woods, this game will also make you loathe the primitive jumping mechanics in Ice Climbers.  I never played it in my youth, but had I, this would have been the first game that made me contemplate unnecessary controller abuse.  You can’t float your jumps at all, which makes for an excruciating platforming experience, especially by today’s standards.

NES-Remix

The only other major problem I had was with the lack of attention given to Punch Out.  Most of the Mario titles get 20 plus levels, but Punch Out only gets seven?  And the final level is literally just you watching Doc train Little Mac in the park?  Punch Out deserves so much more than some slapped together levels.  Soda Popinski, Bald Bull, and Super Macho Man don’t even make appearances. Piston Honda serves as the final challenge, which is like getting a beer half filled with head—it’s still tasty, but it feels so incomplete.

Rumors are swirling that SNES remix is next.  If this is any indication of the direction the big N is willing to take with their back catalogue, they can just go ahead and take my ten bucks.

 

 

 

 

 

Elven Legacy

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Elven Legacy

Recently I reviewed the game Fantasy Wars. Despite the somewhat generic title, I found it to be a pretty effective turn-based strategy game. A couple of years later, they released a follow-up game called Elven Legacy, which in turn has spawned a trio of expansions: Magic, Ranger and Siege. I picked them all up as a combo pack from Steam and finally had a chance to play them. Since they use the same basic engine, I figure I will review them as a whole here.

Graphics – 7:

Elven Legacy - PC

They’re okay – the environments are bland, and the characters themselves do little to stand out at a distance, though they tend to fare a bit better on their close up. The maps themselves are easy enough to navigate visually. The cut scenes are pretty basic-looking, and in places, ugly if I’m to be perfectly honest. The engine looks very, very familiar to Fantasy Wars, which is a bit disappointing given a couple of years development time between titles. Thankfully, there does seem to be more color and the flying units look better, and the environmental textures are a bit more detailed.

Sounds & Music – 6:

Elven Legacy - PC

The music’s what you expect, but it can be a bit repetitious too. There are not a ton of sound effects, but what is there gets the job done. The voice acting is in fact, terrible at times. What’s worse is the tutorial, which is broken in terms of audio. Overlapping sentences, phrases that get cut off early, these things make the tutorial almost completely useless. The expansions don’t seem to have any voice acting at all.

Gameplay – 8:

The menus and overall interface were very similar to Fantasy Wars, which is to say they are easy to get around once you’re familiar with them, but there is a bit of a learning curve. There’s quite a few units though, and the turn-based tactics are solid. The way units progress is entertaining, and gives you a reason to feel invested in them – but be prepared. Like Fantasy Wars, this game is tough. The Fog of War feature keeps you from seeing what you’re getting into at times, and the enemy is very adept at ganging up on and beating a single unit to a pulp.

Elven Legacy - PC

One returning feature I am not particularly a fan of is the time-based gold/silver/bronze system, where you have a certain number of turns to meet your objective, and it seems like gold in several of these is virtually impossible. When you try to rush to complete objectives, you tend to lose more units and overlook things you might have found if you took the time to scour the map a bit, which is a shame. Still, the rewards for gold completion are usually quite nice – solid gold earning, usually a free troop and it unlocks a parallel mission that does not really affect the outcome, but is interesting all the same.

Intangibles – 8:

Elven Legacy - PC

The games are a bit short – I got through my first run of Elven Legacy in about fifteen hours or so, but there’s plenty of replay value with things like the side missions you can unlock and also a separate mission feature on top of the campaign mode. I also found the story more interesting than what was presented in Fantasy Wars, though I felt it was better in Elven Legacy than the additional packs.

Overall – 7:

Elven Legacy - PC

Technically the games are not great. The graphics and sound/music are average, but the gameplay is challenging and there is a fair amount to do within the game. Like Fantasy Wars, this series of games can be found relatively cheaply (though not quite as cheaply). It’s a bit disappointing that the series did not come a bit further over the two year span, but for strategy enthusiasts there is enough here to keep you busy. The AI presents a good challenge and there’s a fair amount to do.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

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Kid Icarus: Uprising

I never played the original Kid Icarus on NES, but I do know of it’s notable legacy. I did play the sequel on  the Nintendo Gameboy called Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters and was rather unimpressed. Like many others, I did like the “new” Pit (the hero of Kid Icarus) in Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii. I guess it’s no wonder that Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai was asked to make a sequel for the modern generation of video games.

kid icarus uprising 3DS

The game features a single and multiplayer mode. The story sets off with Pit being asked by the goddess Palutena to protect the Earth from the revival of the evil Medusa. Most of the levels start with flying missions (similar to StarFox) but due to Pit’s limited flight powers, the later part of levels finish while you travel on-foot.

kid icarus uprising pit vs boss
 The non-flight sections are almost like Zelda meets Metroid Prime. Pit can travel around dungeons and castles with plenty of secrets. At the same time defeating enemies and bosses with different strategies and weak-points. The online-multiplayer features two modes with a versus mode and battle royale though while they are fun the better part of the game is the story mode.
kid icarus uprising 3DS
Overall Kid Icarus: Uprising will most likely leave you unimpressed at first, but after the first ten levels it will get remarkably better and frankly pretty awesome. I also thought the voice-acting was superb and the dialogue and story between Pit’s friends and foes was hilarious and brilliant. I would give it a better recommendation but the only thing really holding it back is an uncomfortable control scheme similar to Metroid Prime Hunters on DS. I really do think the Wii or WiiU would have been a better platform for the game, but maybe a sequel one day.

Dungeons

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Dungeons was a game I was really looking forward to, only to be very disappointed by the end product. ~Nick Herber

Dungeons

Sadly, Dungeons is in fact the exact opposite of one of those stories.  The premise is one that caught my attention from the very beginning.  You are the evil overlord who creates, adds to and manages dungeons that foolish, intrepid explorers will visit in hopes of satisfying some deep need or quest.
Dungeons - PC

Your job is three-fold.  Lure them in, sate their interest by giving them what they want, and then finish them off when they try to escape your dungeon.  I have long heard that Dungeon Keeper was a classic PC title (I never did play it) that Dungeons tries very hard to emulate.  I get the feeling though, that Dungeons missed the mark on several points.  Dungeons was a game I was really looking forward to, only to be very disappointed by the end product.

Graphics – 6:

The details and animation are all pretty average.  This is not a game that will tax your video card by any means.  That said, I actually liked the color schemes and ambient lighting used throughout.

Dungeons - PC

The lack of detail and often minimal animations do little to help matters, but at least the visuals do not seem to cause slowdown and do not tear through environments.

Sound & Music – 7:

I really would have liked more music.  What they have here is actually pretty good, but there is not a ton of variety to be had.

Dungeons - PC
The voice acting is pretty decent as well, which is a big perk since the dialog is pretty well-written for the most part.  The sound effects are nothing special though.
Gameplay – 5:

Where to begin… overall the game’s core mechanics are adequate if shallow.  The idea of luring people in to more or less ‘fatten them up for the kill’ is okay on paper, but quite often I found it frustrating how you had to pander to a hero’s needs.  The lack of direct command over minions only made the missions that much more repetitive as well.

Dungeons - PC
The commands are a bit clunky to access and use as well, though the tutorial does a good enough job of at least getting you pointed in the right direction.

Intangibles – 5:

So, generally I want a long game, but in this case Dungeons just plods on for a bit too long.  The missions really are so similar to one another that I was ready for the game to end well before the last level.  I also had some stability issues with the game.  It would freeze or crash on occasion, but for reasons I could never properly identify.

Dungeons - PC
It was not using a ton of memory and my computer is well above the specs for this title, but somehow I kept getting it into bad states.  That problem did seem to diminish once I got a few levels in, but it got me off on the wrong foot initially.
Overall – 5.75:

What happens when you make a game with a great idea but poor execution?  You wind up with something like Dungeons.  I went into the game with an open mind, despite some negative reviews about it early on.  Usually I can find a couple of high-points for a game to discuss – even if I do not particularly like it.

Dungeons - PC
While there was some witty dialog that was reasonably well-executed, I could not help but feel disappointed in how average the rest of the title was.

Jaws Unleashed

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About as much fun as having your leg chewed off.

Jaws Unleashed

“Take control of Jaws the Great White Shark while playing out the themes and
locations from the JAWS film universe”. Though you’d wonder why you’d bother,
with a score of 53% for the xbox format,
and 55% for the Ps2 from Metacritic.com

jaws unleashed

Xbox reviews
summary

glitches, camera issues, satisfying missions, large environment,
unique combat
about as much fun as having your leg chewed off
Fans of the
film will love it, but prepare to wrestle with controls
technical flaws, but
the savagery makes it fun (???)
lacklustre camera, collission detection,
graphics

jaws unleashed

Ps2
reviews summary

Playing as a killer shark a refreshing change of
pace
Reasonable amount of fun at a budget price
Unforgivable
gameplay
In the spirit of generosity about 30 minutes of fun

jaws unleashed

Official website (don’t bother)
Gamespot
screenshots
IGN
Trailers
Gamestats
popularity rating 40.7%

The Wolf Among Us

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The graphics portray a part of New York that feels gritty and dirty and makes you feel like these characters couldn’t really be happy in their current environment. ~Louis Edwards

The Wolf Among Us

Set prior to the events seen in the first issue of the FABLES comic book series, The Wolf Among Us puts players in the role of Bigby Wolf, a man once more infamously known as The Big Bad Wolf. Now the sheriff of a hidden community in New York City, exiled from the land of fairy tales, Bigby is tasked by the bureaucrat Snow White to keep order within a society of mythical creatures and characters trying to remain undetected in the world of the mundane.

The Wolf Among Us

From a chain-smoking member of ‘The Three Little Pigs,’ to a car-stealing Mr. Toad itching for his next wild ride, The Wolf Among Us examines the lives of beings straight from the pages of myth and lore, now trying to survive on the meanest and most run-down streets of New York City.

Gameplay is a mix of seek-and-find areas and quick-time events, but don’t be fooled by the names of the characters. While it is loosely based on the land of fairy tales, this is all Grimm with no sign of Walt Disney. This game is clearly aimed at adults, with adult language and murder and mayhem galore. That’s not a bad thing, though. The story is well written while giving the gamer a quick understanding of who and what they are dealing with.

The Wolf Among Us

This is a story driven game that uses its surroundings and language to give the gamer a true feel for each character they encounter. While episode one is a little on the short side, it’s still long enough to introduce several key characters, and even re-writes one well known childhood story. That’s not a bad thing either. The story will give you many choices, and will remember each answer you give. Characters will take note of your responses, and their future interactions will reflect your previous approach to the game.

The graphics aren’t your run of the mill 3D style but more of a graphic novel style. This lends well to the overall look and feel of the game and fits right into the storyline. The graphics portray a part of New York that feels gritty and dirty and makes you feel like these characters couldn’t really be happy in their current environment. Add in the well fitting music and the overall sense of despair can make one feel sorry for these folks.

The Wolf Among Us

Telltale Games has once again created an episodic masterpiece that can’t fully be judged until the final episode is upon us. We know there will be five episodes in all, and it is the anticipatory waiting that will make you enjoy the next episode even more.

Well done Telltale Games, well done.

Rage

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Rage also has a driving element. At first glance, you might think this was just an add-on thrown in without much thought, all just bells and whistles. You would be wrong. ~Louis Edwards

Rage

It’s the year 2029 and our planet faces impending destruction by the Apophis asteroid. Unable to stop it from impacting, groups of people are sent underground into cryo-pods, known as Arks, where they are frozen in suspended animation. Here they are to wait out the destruction above and to resurface at a later time to rebuild the planet. You are one of these people. Upon your awakening you find that your Ark has malfunctioned and you are the only survivor from your pod. Over 100 years have passed since your cryo-sleep began, and it’s now time for you to face the New World.

Rage - PC Game

The story is well written and original, with many unique characters and a deep storyline. The opening sequence itself tells the entire story of the impending doom and how the people of Earth dealt with it, and is worth the time to watch. The story is continued with dialogue from different characters and does not disappoint.

The world of Rage is separated into several different towns, and all are separated by the vast Wasteland. Each town has a unique set of characters that will want to send you on a task that will have you blasting through bad guys, or racing and shooting your way to the finish line. The tasks will vary, but each one ultimately will have you shooting your way towards a certain goal.

The tasks vary in difficulty and length, but all are fun and non-repetitive. Throw in some boss battles, and you can easily kill 12 or so hours in the campaign. Difficulty can be set to one of four settings depending on your skill level. If you are in the mood for a real challenge try Nightmare difficulty. Fair warning, it does live up to its name. Always be sure to check corpses to see what they may have on them. Ammunition can be hard to come by early on in the campaign, so taking money and ammo from dead bodies is to your advantage. It’s not like they need it anymore.

Rage - PC Game

The Wasteland is controlled by six different clans that you’ll have to come up against.

  • The Wasted Clan is a dim-witted bunch that enjoys mechanics, home-brewed alcohol and fighting. They would rather grab a club than a gun.
  • The Ghost Clan is fearsome and fearless. What seems like a nod to the roots of Doom, they deal in the occult and stage gruesome sacrifices in order to gain power in the afterlife. They use the environment to their advantage while fighting and can be seen climbing around walls and hanging from beams. Their wingsticks provide both melee and ranged opportunities for them to cut you to pieces.
  • The Scorcher Clan believe the asteroid Apophis was the horse of a demigod. They believe that tapping the energy of the asteroid will make them invincible. The Scorchers like fire and cover everything they can in its images.
  • The Shrouded Clan are deserters and are a combined group of all other clans. They use a mix of fighting styles, ranging from clubs, to guns, to exploding RC cars.
  • The Jackal Clan are a vicious clan that covers themselves in fur and look and act more animal than human.
  • The Gearheads are the most intelligent of the wasteland’s factions. These bandits have built advanced machinery and weaponry that make them a force to reckon with.

The cities and the Wasteland are detailed nicely and well designed. Tasks will have you fighting your way through dungeon style rooms reminiscent of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. iD Software definitely knows how to make a first person shooter. Flanking can be used effectively, if you are aware of the side paths. These aren’t always easily spotted, so keep a keen eye out for them.The number of enemies isn’t overwhelming and they use frags sparingly for the most part.

Rage - PC Game

Your path will be mostly linear, but there are a few offshoots where loot can be found and collected. Loot can be just about anything from collectible playing cards to dress shoes in a box….. WTH?….. Dress shoes in a box?….Really?….Why do I need dress shoes in a frickin box??!!….

In each city there will be a shop of sorts where you can purchase upgrades and ammunition. All of the strange items you may find along your way can be sold at these shops. Be careful what you sell though, as some of these items can be used to make helpful items. While shoes can’t be used for anything other than cash, there are plenty of other things that can be used to make useful items. A bunch of rags can be used along with some antiseptic for a nice little health boost, and those are always handy. Blueprints are acquired by completing tasks and these tell you what is needed to build different items. Shops carry everything you may need.

Rage - PC Game

Rage’s weapon system and inventory system turned out to be more RPG than FPS. There aren’t too many weapons to choose from but each weapon can be enhanced or changed by changing it’s ammunition type. You main weapons are the pistol, shotgun, AK style assault rifle, M4 style assault rifle, sniper rifle, crossbow and a rocket launcher. To give an example of how a weapon can be changed, load up some explosive rounds for your shotgun and it’s now a grenade launcher. Throw some electric bolts in your crossbow and you have a perfect weapon to take out a group of bad guys standing in a pool of water. The ability to change ammo type takes your modest arsenal and turns it into a vast array of weapons with exponential choices.

Rage - PC Game

Rage also has a driving element. At first glance, you might think this was just an add-on thrown in without much thought, all just bells and whistles. You would be wrong. Your first vehicle in the game is a small, unarmed buggy that is great for getting from point A to point B. Nothing too fancy, but it has a decent boost so you can get there in a hurry. The vehicles drive with power and precision, and can turn on a dime if needed (gotta love the e-brake). As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock better vehicles as well as mini-guns and rocket launchers to arm them with. These make traveling through the Wasteland a much more enjoyable trip. Taking out bad guys in the Wasteland can also earn you cash, so make sure you talk to the proper person in a bar to activate your bounty hunting task that will then be ongoing. Eventually you’ll unlock even better weapons for your ride, so don’t think your weapons will always be the same.

Multiplayer has also been included with Rage and offers a few choices. You can opt to play through one of nine side stories with a friend in Wasteland Legends. Either online or split screen, you can play through missions that you may have heard mentioned in campaign mode. You can choose either Normal difficulty or Nightmare difficulty.

Road Rage offers a mix of different styles of vehicle game play. Meteor Rally has a mix of Zones and CTF styles of game play where you collect meteors and drop them off to capture Zones. Chain Rally will have you capturing Rally Points and chaining them together for an increased score. Triad Rally has you capturing three consecutive Rally Points to score. Carnage is exactly what you think it is. It’s a free-for-all death match where killing the other drivers earns you points.

Rage - PC Game

iD Software introduced us to a genre that has long been a staple across every gaming platform known to man. Wolfenstein 3D took us on a mission to eliminate Hitler in WW II, while Doom took us on a mission to eliminate Satan’s minions. So many franchises owe their very existence to both of these games. For id Software to break away from known franchises and to embark on a brand new one took guts, ambition, and balls of steel. Not only did they succeed in creating an incredible game in RAGE, they also created a story that can easily be built upon and expanded on in this age of DLC.

Where Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake created the bar that all FPS games are measured, RAGE raises that bar a few notches above any other shooter this generation by using RPG elements, mixed in with vehicle combat, and downright awesomeness.

Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls changed the way I play video games.  Every other modern game seems undemanding in comparison, and certainly not half as fulfilling.~Eric Hollis

Dark Souls 2

The original Dark Souls is one of my favorite titles of all time.  Truth be told, I hated it the first time I picked it up.  I couldn’t even defeat the first boss, and in a fit of geek rage I took the game back to the store, vowing to play something more enjoyable. This decision to give up so easily haunted my pixilated nightmares.  Six months later I attempted it again and I’ve never looked back, it’s slowly becoming one of my favorite games of all time.  The main reason: it’s so damn rewarding.  Sure, it’s tougher than leather, but also completely fair, impatience and bad timing are your greatest enemies, not the gigantic bosses who can (and will) demolish your health bar in one well-timed combination. Needless to say the sequel had a lot to live up to.

Dark Souls 2 - Gameplay

Thankfully From Software hasn’t made many changes to the original formula that still feels so close to perfection.  The game is a lot prettier graphically than the original, oceanfront hub Majula is certainly a more visually comforting place than Firelink Shrine, though both areas function exactly the same.  Bosses are consistently brutal and seem to appear a lot more frequently, and normal enemies can still take your souls after one ill-timed blocking attempt.  Prepare to die.  Often.

Dark Souls 2 - Gameplay

Dark Souls 2 also never holds your hand or provides more information than absolutely necessary.  I’ve had numerous friends restart entirely after finding out they were using items the wrong way or making character builds that just don’t succeed in combat.  I even completely respec’d my own character after I realized that a very strong shield was needed to get past a certain boss.  Granted, you can locate tons of information on the internet, but that takes away all of the gratification earned by figuring things out for yourself.  Playing this with a walkthrough will completely rob you of one of the most worthwhile and demanding gaming experiences out there.

Dark Souls 2 - Gameplay

One major tweak that might infuriate gamers is the new health bar reduction.  When you die, a small portion of your health bar is permanently removed.  The only way to restore it is with a very rare item called an effigy; these also essentially replace humanity from the first game.  This new twist on the formula made me a lot more cautious at first, but eventually I just learned to function with half a health bar at all times.

Dark Souls 2 - Gameplay

The other major change is the ability to fast travel from the very beginning of your quest.  The player didn’t gain this ability until roughly halfway through the original and it definitely changes the overall pacing of the game for the better.  I was never faced with conquering one boss to move forward, there were always at least three paths open to me I could utilize at any time.  This overcomes this sheer frustration I felt on the first title when I was stuck in Anor Londo for over a week trying to best Orenstein and Smough.  There are always multiple options in Dark Souls 2, which in a title this exhausting can never be a bad thing.

Dark Souls 2 - Gameplay

Dark Souls changed the way I play video games.  Every other modern game seems undemanding in comparison, and certainly not half as fulfilling.  When I walk up to an unopened treasure chest I always take a precautionary swing.  Always.  Even if I think there is no danger, I do it just in case the chest turns into a toothy monster ready to devour me down to the marrow.  I expect a trap around every corner because there usually is one.  It’s made me a shaky, paranoid mess and I’ve begged for and enjoyed every single second of it.

Dark Souls 2 - Gameplay

Dark Souls 2 is more addictive than pure heroin.  I’ve never done heroin, but I have a few friends that have.  I’m basing this statement on how quickly they were willing to sell me their game collections to obtain more heroin.

Mega Man 9

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If Capcom was so intent in keeping Mega Man 9 in an era of NES classics, why are we paying for downloadable content? All of that work to keep this firmly planted in its roots is wasted if you can unlock secret characters with cash instead of skill. ~Matt Paprocki

Mega Man 9

There’s something wrong with Mega Man 9: It doesn’t fit. That’s not necessarily a knock against the game itself, but purely a poor design call by Capcom. Why have we went back all the way to Mega Man 1 and 2, when the last game was on the PlayStation and Saturn?

MegaMan 9 - PS3

The true 8-bit stylings run deep through this retro revival, in the truest sense. This is a NES game, right down the flicker. The music is phenomenal, the pixel art excellent, and boss design mostly interesting (Galaxy Man looking a little too much like the obscure Japanese monster Guilala).

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Here’s the problem though. Mega Man 9 is hard, and any fan of the series should expect that. However, Capcom has taken that mentality and multiplied it, creating some absolutely absurd level designs that even die-hard masochists will frown upon. While past Mega Man games relied on memorization and precision, Mega Man 9 requires a higher level of both. You can almost hear the level designers laughing at how devilishly difficult certain segments are.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

It’s certainly up for debate whether or not this is an attractive feature or a reason not to buy. Regardless of where you stand, you have to agree that a certain level of fun is still necessary for this game to succeed, and much of the difficulty saps that away.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Part of the problem is the original 8-bit style, and that means true original 8-bit. Even though Mega Man 3 introduced the slide move and Mega Man 4 brought us the Mega Buster, Mega Man 9 has neither of those. If you can get past the graphical downgrade which doesn’t let this game fit into the timeline, not including these classic maneuvers really messes with your head.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

That’s not saying the visuals are bad. In fact, they’re wonderful, especially just to see the style brought back (the dragon mid-boss is arguably the highlight). The problem is in calling this Mega Man 9, it’s following a 16-bit and 32-bit entry. Making a Bionic Commando sequel that looked like this would have made far more sense given that franchise lived and died on 8-bit hardware.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Also, if Capcom was so intent in keeping this in an era of NES classics, why are we paying for downloadable content? All of that work to keep this firmly planted in its roots is wasted if you can unlock secret characters with cash instead of skill. This is such an authentic experience, you can’t switch weapons with the triggers. You need to enter the pause menu. Yet, we need to pay more for a complete game.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

From a pure play perspective, Mega Man 9 is fine. It’s the same game any true gamer should have played numerous times before. The platforming is spot-on, as are the controls. The bosses maintain their own attack patterns, acquired weapons do extra damage to the right enemy, and the final castle stage is an absolute nightmare to pass.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Had this come out and been called Mega Man 7 on the NES, it would have been slammed by critics for being more of the same with nothing new to offer (much like Mega Man 6 was). However, the passage of time has gave way to warm nostalgia, which Mega Man 9 tried to bring back. In most cases, it does, but it more or less limps its way into your nostalgia-fueled mind instead of Mega Busting it.

Batman: Arkham City

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Batman: Arkham City doesn’t really rock the boat, content instead to offer up what is essentially an improved and expanded version of the last game. Apparently, sometimes that is more than good enough.~Aaron Izakowitz

Batman: Arkham City

When Batman: Arkham Asylum came out in 2009, it was a revelation. For decades, gamers had been conditioned to assume that any game based on a licensed property, particularly a superhero, would be at best decent and at worst execrableAsylum ignored all that, vaulting from relative obscurity to become a surprise Game of the Year contender and making Rocksteady Studios a top-tier developer overnight. Now, two years later comes its sequel, Batman: Arkham City, and the circumstances surrounding its release could not be more different. While Asylum had everything to prove, City has the perhaps even more unenviable task of trying to top its exemplary predecessor.
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Arkham City more than rises to the challenge, and it does, paradoxically, by taking the safe path. This is the very definition of an iterative sequel, with very few if any changes to the formula that made its predecessor a success. The environment is bigger, you have more tools, the combat has been improved with more combos and more varied enemies, you face more of Batman’s iconic villains, and the Riddler challenges are more numerous and more devious. It is what fans wanted and expected.
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It is also an astonishingly good game; unquestionably one of the best released this year. While this is perhaps more a testament to the quality of the first game than anything, the fact remains that Batman: Arkham City renders Asylum utterly obsolete, and makes it look easy.
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The story kicks off six months after the events of Asylum. Following the total breakdown of order on Arkham Island, the city of Gotham has cordoned off an entire district and converted it into a sort of megaprison, the titular Arkham City, with the megalomaniacal Professor Hugo Strange in charge. Surprisingly, Arkham City soon descends to the state of “wretched hellhole,” with Gotham’s supervillains rapidly setting up rival factions to vie for supremacy in the prison and forward their own nefarious ends.
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At the game’s outset, Bruce Wayne finds himself arrested and framed under ill-defined pretenses (more on this later). Before long he has donned the cowl and cape from within Arkham City and set out to get to the bottom of the mysterious circumstances surrounding Hugo Strange and his own incarceration. The plot, as you might expect, only spirals outward from there, and before long many prominent members of Batman’s rogue gallery have a part to play, including the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, a few others I shouldn’t spoil here, and of course, the Joker.
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While Arkham City qualifies as an “open world” game, it is not really a sandbox. Other than fighting random goons, there isn’t a whole lot to do if you are just wandering around. Rather, it is closest to something like Assassin’s Creed II. You always have a single story objective to work towards, but as you grapple, glide, and fight your way across the city, smaller, quick objectives will reveal themselves. By far the most common of these are the Riddler trophies, which are scattered quite liberally across the city, and many of which are in plain sight but require you to solve some sort of puzzle or riddle to obtain. Beyond these, there are crime scenes to investigate, bullet trajectories to recreate, Riddler informants to interrogate (which reveal the location of trophies on your map) and, for some reason, holographic rings floating in the air to fly through. It can all be a little overwhelming at times, but fortunately it’s all completely optional, and it’s always clear where to go next if you are only interested in advancing the story. Even better, if you see a Riddler trophy that you don’t feel like tackling immediately, you can now tag it and it will appear on your minimap, a very welcome feature.
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Once on a story mission, things become very similar to the first game. Stealth and hand-to-hand combat are both back mostly unchanged, with some added wrinkles. In stealth mode, for example, certain enemies might have a signal jammer which disables your detective vision, or a thermal vision upgrade which allows them to see you even when you are hiding in the rafters, which will obviously influence your plan of attack. Combat sees similar additions. Goons equipped with body armor, riot shields, knives, and stunguns are all in the mix, each requiring a unique approach. Fortunately, your arsenal has also been expanded. The game’s story thankfully does not contrive some reason to strip Batman of all his abilities at the beginning, so you start the game with a healthy range of options, and your toolset only grows over the course of the game.
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Once you complete the campaign, which took me somewhere from 12 to 15 hours with moderate sidequesting, there is plenty of additional content on the disc to keep you coming back. The Challenge modes, both combat and predator, return largely unchanged, complete with online leaderboards. A new addition is what they are calling Campaigns, which have a string of different challenges to be played in a sequence, with optional modifiers to either assist the player, such as regenerating health, or provide an extra challenge, like a time attack mode. There is also a New Game Plus, which lets you play through the game with all your upgrades and trophies unlocked but retools the game somewhat to provide an extra challenge. On top of all this, there is a huge amount of supplemental material including concept art, character biographies, and a lengthy history of Arkham City, all of which are unlocked by collecting enough Riddler trophies.
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Again, in many ways these are exactly the sorts of enhancements and tweaks that we have come to expect from a sequel. It’s true that Batman: Arkham City doesn’t really rock the boat, content instead to offer up what is essentially an improved and expanded version of the last game. Apparently, sometimes that is more than good enough.
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In short: Batman: Arkham City, is really, really fun. It’s so fun you will literally yell in disbelief at how sweet whatever you just did was, and you will do it a lot. It’s so fun you will make your roommate/significant other/whoever walks into the room watch you play it so that they, too, can appreciate just how awesome you are. I can think of very few games that are more satisfying to just play. Simply traversing the city, using your grappling hook to fling yourself into the sky and then divebombing and pulling up to gain momentum, is an absolute joy. The predator sections of the game are even tenser than before, with the enemies’ new gadgets robbing you of what little security you once had. The rhythmic combat system, which at first seems like a button masher but which ultimately rewards careful observation and focus, remains the best brawler that I’ve played, period. Whether you just race through the story missions or take your time to explore all the extra content to its fullest, the game is expertly paced, invisibly propelling you forward. Layered on top of all this is a satisfying progression system, which provides you with a new ability or gadget just when you feel like you have mastered the game.
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As in the first game, Rocksteady has taken a fantasy that, let’s face it, everyone has had at some point in their lives and made it as close to a reality as anyone will ever experience. Every aspect of the game’s design reinforces the notion that you are Batman. His strength is in his careful planning and execution, and if you are impatient or sloppy in Arkham City, you will be punished. You are stronger and smarter than everyone else, but you are not invincible, and few games make you feel so powerful in such a tangible and realistic way.
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This pervasive sense of Batman-ness extends into the game’s presentation. Its world is an alchemic combination of elements from the comics, the animated series, and the various movies (even Joel Schumaker’s monstrosities have something to contribute), creating something familiar, yet distinct enough to stand apart from any of those universes. The new character designs are excellent, Mr. Freeze in particular. The game is not afraid to drift into the fantastical, indeed reveling in it at times, yet the universe feels gritty enough to give the characters’ actions some weight.
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Vocal performances are also generally pretty sharp. Mark Hamill reprises his outstanding performance as the Joker, who finds himself in an unusually vulnerable position this time around.  The Riddler remains incredibly obnoxious, as befits the character, with his constant taunts and boasts. The new characters, for the most part, make a strong impression. Unfortunately, nameless thugs have uniformly terrible dialogue and acting, constantly spouting off lines that no person in the world would ever say, shouting exposition at the top of their lungs for any passing Batmen to pick up on, and yelling ridiculous taunts to Batman as he flies by or hunts them from above. It’s not quite Splinter Cell: Conviction bad, but it does infringe on the authenticity of the game’s atmosphere a bit.
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While the premise and setting are very effective, the actual plot has some significant problems. The most immediate concern is that the game’s writers seem to have forgotten to include a beginning. The central conceit of the game, that Gotham would rededicate an entire district for a prison, run by known madman Hugo Strange, is pretty outlandish, even for a comic book property, and this is only made worse by the total lack of explanation. There is a comic book that comes with new copies of the game that fills in the gaps between the last game and this one, but if you haven’t read it (as I hadn’t, and as I suspect many won’t), or actively sought out information on this game online, then the opening of this game will be very confusing, and indeed many things are never explained at all. The plot’s twists and turns can at times feel a little contrived, like they exist solely to get Batman to a new location, particularly towards the beginning of the game. Some of the characters’ motivations also don’t really make a lot of sense under scrutiny. The ending, while better than that of Arkham Asylum, is a little abrupt, and ends on a fairly lazy cliffhanger.

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More significant problems lie in the game’s handling of Catwoman. She was a major part of its presentation and marketing, and we’ve known for months now that she would be a playable character. This is indeed true, as there are a handful of episodes strewn throughout the game in which you control Catwoman. Unfortunately, these episodes are all very short, and it turns out playing as Catwoman is a lot like playing as Batman but without any of the gadgets that make playing as Batman enjoyable. She has very few combat options compared to Batman, and she gets around more or less just by pouncing really high. Her stealth sections are entirely dependent on her ability to jump up and hang upside-down from chain-link ceilings and then descend on enemies when they are isolated, which…is not a thing that cats do. Also, what kind of building has chain-link ceilings? Beyond that, Catwoman herself is annoying, with absolutely no depth beyond making pointless cat jokes and flirting lamely with everyone she sees.
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There is another, rather ugly, aspect to Catwoman’s presence in the game. In an effort to curb used game sales, Rocksteady (or, more likely, Warner Bros.) have chosen to lock off the Catwoman portions of the game with a code included in new copies of the game. What this means is that the first time you play the game, you will have to enter this code and then download around 250MB of data, just to play a part of the game that was clearly meant to be there the whole time. This is after the requisite patching and, on PS3, installation. If you didn’t buy the game new, you will have to buy the Catwoman DLC for $10. While the Catwoman sections are the weakest part of the game, I feel like their absence would result in some confusion, and it’s disappointing to see what was clearly intended to be an integral part of the game gated behind an anti-used game sale measure. It’s more annoying than anything, but I sincerely hope this does not become a trend.
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Despite all of these problems, the fact remains that Batman: Arkham City is an absolutely stellar game. Its story issues, while substantial, do absolutely nothing to temper the quality of the overall experience. From its thrilling open world traversal to its hair-raising predator sequences to its unparalleled melee combat system, every element of the game reflects dedication to the source material and the talent and expertise of Rocksteady Studios. It’s a tour de force that cements their position at the top of the industry. At the risk of sounding gushy or hyperbolic, Batman: Arkham City is the sort of game that will remind you of why you like videogames in the first place.

Elf Bolwing 1 & 2

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 One of the reasons why it had a faithful following on PC was because it wasn’t posed as a legitimate game. Just a fun little side-project of sorts. It was no challenger to say Half-Life. ~Adam R.

Elf Bolwing 1 & 2

Back in the early days of the Nintendo DS, Elf Bowling 1 & 2 was released. I had no idea the series had a decent amount of popularity on PC. However that wasn’t enough to convince me to get this strange little Christmas game.
elf bowling DS game
 The game is basically about Santa Claus taking revenge on the striking elves at the north pole. How? By striking them down in bowling. Get it? Yeah it’s not funny.
elf bowling ds
 One of the reasons why it had a faithful following on PC was because it wasn’t posed as a legitimate game. Just a fun little side-project of sorts. It was no challenger to say Half-Life.
elf bowling
However it’s crude graphics, bare-bones game-play, terrible music, and weak content was an insult as a DS game. To make matter worse they also made a GBA version too. Both were universally panned by critics and gamers alike.

Super Mario Galaxy

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Reviewers did have some minor complaints with “the spring suit”, a power-up which at times proves difficult to control and the occasional niggle with the auto-camera. ~The Elderly Gamer

Super Mario Galaxy

We’re going back, back in time, back to November 12th 2007 and the release of
the game that saw the Nintendo hero take the ultimate step … out into space.
Now available for your Wii at a bargain bin near you.

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The game follows
the protagonist, Mario, on a quest to rescue Princess Peach from the principal
baddy “Bowser”. Levels are galaxies filled with minor planets and worlds, while
gameplay is updated with gravity effects and power-ups. The game also features a
co-operative two-player option called “Co-Star Mode”.
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The 9th best
selling Wii game to date, with 8.84 million copies sold as of May 2010.  At the
time the game was hailed by several gaming websites as one of the best video
games of all time even managing to pick up it’s very own BAFTA.
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The
game’s soundtrack won numerous critic awards, which belies the story behind
the composition of the astonishing 81 tracks featured on the Platinum Edition
CD.
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Reviewers did have some minor complaints with “the spring suit”, a
power-up which at times proves difficult to control and the occasional niggle
with the auto-camera.
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A sequel Super Mario Galaxy 2 was released on May
23, 2010, many reviewers claiming that it is even better than its
predecessor.

The game Scored a staggering  97% averaged from 73 critic scores on
Metacritic.com.

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Quotes of the Review
bunch

“It will frequently hug your inner child,
evoke tears of joy and tug at the heart.”
NTSC-uk

an astoundingly brilliant
game. It’s filled with wild new ideas (that work), is huge, looks brilliant and
should be taught at game design courses.” Gnomes Lair

Reviews Summary:

It is as if the boundaries of the genre have become
transparent, allowing a unique light to shine
forth.
A bravura piece of design that pulls off stunts no
one else has even thought of.
May feel a little too easy
for most gamers
Nintendo can still make something old feel
new again
Generates a consistent level of excitement that
few games can replicate.
Gameplay, visuals, sound,
presentation and overall value and fun are off the
charts
Not as technologically pioneering as its
grandfather
Level for level, more fun to play than “Mario
64.”
The only word to describe fighting Bowser with an
orchestral score in the background is “badass.”
After 25
years he’s still fat, still round, and still bouncing on the ground. And still
the greatest.

Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)

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Red Dead Redemption is a game that really is unparalleled when held up to any other current title. It is more vibrant and alive than any game, including GTA IV. ~Geoff Calver

Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption is an awe-inspiring game. From the get-go, Red Dead Redemption fascinates with its unique characters, witty dialogue, deep storyline and beautiful game world.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot

Red Dead Redemption begins, appropriately enough, in the small city of Blackwater, a town at the edge of the wild west. As John Marston, the hero of the game, gets off a boat with two federal agents, a car is lifted by a crane from the ship onto a dock. A newspaper boy calls out headlines and a train waits at the station, ready to carry passengers into the wilderness beyond.

This opening scene segues into a train ride. As Marston looks out the window, we, the gamer, see plains turn into desert plateaus. As the sun sets, John Marston listens to ladies describe the savages who live in the west and a preacher explains to a young woman that only through an acceptance of God into their lives can people reach heaven.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot

These opening scenes set the tone for the game. The car arriving represents the onward thrust of modernity into a west that, in 1911, was still very wild. The land of Red Dead Redemption is one of liars, thieves and murderers. But it is not a soulless world, and that is something that lends the game a stark beauty. Amidst the gorgeous yet savage setting, there are people with good hearts who need saving but who also, frequently, offer help to Marston.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot-

Marston is a former outlaw tasked with bringing his old comrades to justice. The newly formed Bureau in Washington, DC has taken his wife and child hostage in order to force him to help bring law back to the wild west. And in his journeys, Marston meets a huge variety of characters.

A small sampling of the characters would introduce you to a well-educated, well-grounded young woman who prefers ranching and lassoing wild horses to civilization and banking; an old woman who is waiting by a church for the man she intends to marry, unaware that he died 20 years ago, madly in love with her, and is buried in a cemetery nearby; an enterprising swindler with a flair for histrionics and musician who sleeps with whores and who implores with you to convince his wife to stay with him. Some of the characters are downright evil and some who appear evil at first are shown to have a soul after all. And that isn’t a coincidence, as Marston himself is a reformed outlaw, forced back into a life he wanted to leave behind.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot-

The characters in Red Dead Redemption are truly human, and that is a high compliment, because most games feature wooden characters who drop one liners and stiff discussions with pregnant pauses. The characters in Red Dead Redemption are unique, expressive and wonderfully voiced. They come to life, and with them, the world of Red Dead Redemption is made vibrantly real as well.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot-

Red Dead Redemption’s most prominent feature is simply it’s landscape. Spread over a huge area, Red Dead Redemption encapsulates the American west. Great plains give way to huge, snowcapped peaks which transition to wetlands, mesas, deserts and canyons. There are hidden treasures in the landscape. Caves, waterfalls, lakes and small chapels nestled in the hills. Striking through the middle of the game world is a large river which separates the United States from Mexico, which is equally gorgeous with its scorching, hot days and star-filled nights.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot-

This is a believable world. Animals chase each other through the wilderness, lightning flashes in the distance as a storm approaches. The light of late afternoon is harsher than the light of early morning. Characters request your assistance on the side of the road; some with intentions, some with bad. Travelers halt their horses to relieve themselves in the woods before continuing on their journeys and every once in a while the sounds of a shootout carry on the wind.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot-

Red Dead Redemption is a game that really is unparalleled when held up to any other current title. It is more vibrant and alive than any game, including GTA IV. It’s landscape is diverse, huge, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s analysis of the retreat of the wilderness is simple and elegant. It’s characters are more alive than any that have come before them, and the sheer amount of things to do in the world of Red Dead Redemption is nearly endless.

Red Dead Redemption - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot-

Red Dead Redemption is a game that I heartily recommend to everyone. It is a Rockstar Game, so it isn’t intended for youngsters with its violence, seedy characters and stark portrayals of life in the west, but it is an essential game in that it truly represents a step from interactive medium to an emotional, involving, beautifully created experience that truly blends the line between cinema, game, and art.

World of Tanks

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World of Tanks Xbox 360

I would have gotten more enjoyment out of World of Tanks if the learning curve was a little more gradual. Unfortunately, the game throws you into the fray with about as much wartime knowledge as Maxwell Klinger.  This is certain to minimally frustrate even the most seasoned gamer. ~Eric Hollis

There’s something about reviewing a free-to-play game that makes me feel extremely ungrateful.  I’d never complain about a free lunch, or a mercy hand job, so I certainly have no room to complain about a free game, right? Wrong. But at least World of Tanks doesn’t feel like either a free-to-play crapfestival or a micro transactional grind, both of which make it an extremely refreshing and pleasant change, especially on the 360.

World of Tanks - Xbox 360

If you love blowing up tanks with other tanks, you couldn’t ask for a better game.  While the content is a little dumbed down from the PC version, you still can choose between multiple vehicles from American, German, and British stables.  Upgrading said vehicles can become a chunky grind. Even if you are willing to throw down real cash for a new ride, you still have to play multiple matches with each vehicle to move to the next tier.  The higher-level beasts will take most players weeks to obtain, and that’s with a lot of dedication and perseverance.  One hundred plus hours of gametime that cost absolutely zero is nothing to scoff at, especially when you aren’t getting something that feels even close to a budget title.  Hell, I’ve played tons of sixty-dollar games that, by comparison, should be ashamed they charged at all.

World of Tanks - Xbox 360

The premise of World of Tanks is simple—it’s a third-person shooter that uses tanks instead of soldiers.  Players participate in large 15 on 15 battles that involve either capturing a base or annihilating the enemy team.  The seven included maps represent varied terrain. Fortunately this concept works very well. As far as control, besides a few tweak to the aiming, if you’ve ever played Battlefield, you’ve already learned everything about the actual controls you need to know.  There’s also a very brief tutorial that explains how to traverse the map.  Unfortunately, map use is about all that is explained, which led to my biggest frustrations with this title.

World of Tanks - Xbox 360

The biggest problem with the game is the sheer lack of critical information.  Nothing is ever explained in detail, with the exception of a few scant loading screens. Armed with only minimal quality instruction, I felt extremely over my head during almost every match.  Why do tanks disappear off the map at random?  Why do my shots immobilize enemy players as often as they do no damage whatsoever?  Why can I crush some objects like aluminum cans yet others stop me dead on my treads?  I would have gotten more enjoyment out of World of Tanks if the learning curve was a little more gradual. Unfortunately, the game throws you into the fray with about as much wartime knowledge as Maxwell Klinger.  This is certain to minimally frustrate even the most seasoned gamer.

World of Tanks - Xbox 360

My other issue is the rhythm of gameplay.  In World of Tanks you never respawn in the match; death is always permanent.  With that, hastiness in battle never proved to be an intelligent option.  (Trust me, I tried the old bum rush the enemy base play.)  This kind of mortality causes the player to think more fully about strategic methods, which is fine, but lasting death also means that even the most minor mistake will force you to stare at another player’s screen while waiting for the next match to start.  Thankfully, there is no penalty for quitting a match early, but an early exit hinders the chance to make friends and talk trash at length with other Tankers, two activities that are crucial not only to shooters but to online gaming in general.  Some of the matches also felt extremely unbalanced, but this was probably due to the fact that I was absolutely garbagedick at the game. Simply put, I never felt like I figured out how to play well enough to enjoy myself.

World of Tanks - Xbox 360

Unfortunately I couldn’t get into World of Tanks, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least give it a try.  If you really want to get into the vast community that WarGaming has created, my research tells me that the PC version is a lot more substantial and developed than the version I played on 360.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

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Nothing like dangling a storm trooper over the edge of cliff using force grip or throwing him halfway across the map! ~James Hare

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

[infobox color=”blue”]Released: Sep 2003 (PC) Developer: Raven Software Publisher: LucasArts & Activision Genre: 1st/3rd Person Action Shooter [/infobox]

Decided to dust off Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy and see who still played it online, I was surprised to see quite a few people still do so I thought why not play through from start to finish. By the time I gotten to my favorite part of the game (choosing between the light path and the dark path) I realized I’d never actually completed the ‘light path’ version of the storyline. All done but I still prefer the dark side ending.

Either way I realized how well this game has lasted for its age, the game play is still as fun and exciting and the lightsaber combat second to none. I’m still in awe of the amount of customization you were able to do (back in the day of course) on your character in a game that is a first/third-person shooter and not an RPG. It was developed by Raven Software and published, distributed and marketed by LucasArts in North America and by Activision in the rest of the world.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

You play as Jaden Korr, (a character you can customize to be male/female, human, twi’lek etc) a padawan who is travelling to Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy on Yavin IV, along with other new Jedi hopefuls. Kyle Katarn, (the reluctant Jedi you played as in Jedi Outcast) returns as a mentor at the Academy and becomes your master. However your ship is attacked and crashes into the planet, leaving Jaden and one other student, Rosh Penin, to make their way to the academy on foot.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

 

Story

The storyline revolves around solving several questions related to this attack at the start of the game. From here you take on several missions, mostly with Kyle to begin with to find these answers and soon discover that a dark jedi called Tavion (Dessans apprentice in Jedi Outcast) is behind the attacks. Tavion is attempting to resurrect the spirit of dark sith lord Marka Ragnos by using his sceptre to drain dark force energy from locations across the galaxy. On each subsequent mission after the training you set about finding out more about the cult, battling with dark Jedi, the remnant and a few bounty hunters along the way.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

The options of customizing your character does not end at physical appearance, you are able to specialize and train in a selection of different force abilities, light and dark. You start out with eight core force powers; pull, push etc which are automatically upgraded every time you return to the academy after missions. There are also eight advanced force powers to choose from (4 on the light side and 4 on the dark) the light side abilities are; absorb, protection, heal, and mind trick. The dark side powers include life drain, force lightning, force grip, and rage. You receive a point when you complete a mission (each power has three levels of improvement) and you can distribute it in any of these eight powers at the start of the next mission.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Personally force grip and heal are the powers of choice to get up to maximum level, and whether you choose the light or dark path nearer the end of the game (each with its own ending) you can have as many of the dark side powers as you like. Nothing like dangling a storm trooper over the edge of cliff using force grip or throwing him halfway across the map!

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Jedi Academy captures the excitement of lightsaber combat perfectly and not to far into the game allows the player to select between single, dual or a staff lightsaber. The problem with Jedi Outcast was the amount of tedious levels you had to play before you got your lightsaber, in this game you have it from the start and can customize it to your liking. I tend to favor dual lightsabers in green and purple, I have no idea why. After completing the single player I was actually surprised when I logged into multiplayer to find servers still running and being played online.

Usually by now they’ve been taken over by bots and the odd nostalgic gamer but these were very full and active. Good times. The game itself is relatively easy to complete (mainly due to the lack of good AI in the enemy) and even has the option of avoiding harder missions if you choose too. Some of the better levels involve locations or characters from the movies. The Hoth mission is particularly good and the fight with Bobba Fett is awesome (although I feel they could have done more with this level).

Star-Wars-Jedi-Knight-Jedi-Academy

Jedi Academy is a great game and still worth revisiting. It is still highly playable in single and multiplayer mode and has plenty to offer in the way of character customization and mission/weapon selection. I love the choice of the light or dark path nearer the end of the game as it actually evokes real emotions in the player and for the situation the characters are in.

All I can say is the dark side path isn’t easier by a long way. The sound effects, music and voice acting really add a great atmosphere to the game and an extra dimension to the characters. Jeff Bennett returns to voice Kyle Katarn and Jennifer Hale and Philip Tanzini provide the female and male voices of Jaden Korr, with some great supporting voice artists Bob Bergen, Kath Soucie and Cam Clarke.

[You can find Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy on Stream]

Reflections: Titanfall Beta

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I wasn’t sure what I would think about bots being mixed in with human players, but it really does increase the amount of action, downtime isn’t an issue because there’s always something to shoot at.  ~Eric Hollis

Titanfall Beta

Part Halo, part Mirror’s Edge, part Armored Core, this highly anticipated FPS amalgamation was released as a public beta this past weekend.  Does it live up to the immense hype?

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

Here are my initial thoughts:

Not to start on a down note, but it would be really remarkable if the environments were at least partially destructible.  Sure, this would make the battle a lot harder for the soldiers, but it would also add a little more heft to the formidable power of the Titans.  Also, blowing up buildings with shoulder-mounted rockets is always an enjoyable time.

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

Ejecting out of your Titan while it turns into a nuclear bomb and torches your opponent is absolutely thrilling.  You can actually sabotage Titans while in soldier mode which keeps the playing field a little more even.  My favorite moment over the 25 matches I participated in was ejecting out of my Titan, launching my would-be Titan-jacker into the air, and then shooting him in the face before I hit the ground.  I’ve never played a game where I could do that.

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

The leveling progression is taken right out of Call of Duty, pre-made loadouts are available at first, but after a few matches customization options open up at a frequent pace.  There is also the introduction of “burn cards” which enable you to temporarily power up your character, these are one-use only items you earn based on match performance.

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Titanfall runs very smoothly, I didn’t notice any lag while playing, always a good sign, especially with an open beta.  I was playing on the One, not sure how it holds up on the 360 where most of the copies will be sold.

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

I wasn’t sure what I would think about bots being mixed in with human players, but it really does increase the amount of action, downtime isn’t an issue because there’s always something to shoot at.  For people like me who are abysmal at shooters, this means I actually get a few charity kills every match.

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

Surprisingly I didn’t feel completely out of my element like I normally do in first person shooters.  The gameplay seemed both balanced and accessible.  I’m sure this might change when the full game launches, but I didn’t have any moments where I wanted to quit due to frustration, something that happens to me in every single other online frag-fest.

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

Titanfall’s beta was level capped to 14, which was a really good idea, because a lot of people would be in the high 50’s by this morning if it weren’t.  The first taste is always free, after that it’s sixty bucks in March.

Titanfall_beta-gameplay-screenshot

My biggest problem with the game?  The release date.  I had a blast playing it, but nothing in my mind can compete with the release of Dark Souls 2. Did you play Titanfall this weekend?  What did you think?  There’s plenty of time left to try it out, they aren’t talking the beta down until the 19th.

The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day

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The first time I heard a curse word, I was actually taken aback. The nice, clean comic-book look of the game doesn’t feel like an environment where you would hear R-rated words. Adding to this feeling you also don’t expect to see gratuitous violence and bloody head-smashing, but it’s there too. ~Justin Richardson

The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day

Do you hear that pounding? It’s not the Tell-Tale heart under the floorboards, no, it’s your own heart racing in Telltale’s newest game. A game where you actually care about the characters.The zombpocalypse in media has been popular for a long time now. Many people feel that it’s high time it dies and is finally laid to rest. While this may appear to be the overall vocal consensus, somehow the zombie craze manages to shamble on, selling movies, games, books and perfumes. Well, probably not that last part. There are still groups out there, banding together and hanging on for life, voraciously eating up the zombie media like the living dead gathered around a corpse. Why?Perhaps we like the excitement and the thrill of the concept – the adventure of it all. Perhaps it offers us a way to fantasize about venting our frustrations of humanity, on humanity, without feeling as much as a twinge of guilt. And perhaps we’re just fascinated with the idea of reanimation. Whatever the reason, Telltale Games has just released the first episode in their The Walking Dead Pentalogy, and overall it does what you might expect a zombie adventure game to do, but rather well.

This is my first Telltale game. After going into this without having any kind of expectation I can say that I finished this two and a half hour episode with a smile on my face. None of Telltale’s previous games have ever really managed to grab my attention, but The Walking Dead feels like a good match for a developer that is revered for its focus on story, humor and having a personal touch. While Telltale may not have a lot of experience with heavy material or gritty violence, they pull this off with aplomb.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
The proper “I’ve just seen a zombie” face.

It was nice not to be stuck in the conventions of another run and gun game, which, for me, was a much needed break. Come to think of it, the protagonist, Lee Everett, throws down a shotgun in one of the first sections of the game, as if Telltale is saying, “No. This isn’t a first person shooter. We’re going to slow down and look at how these characters interact as the world collapses around them.”The game is quick to get you into the story. Lee, who I immediately feel an attachment to, finds himself in a squad car being escorted to prison for a crime that he may or may not have committed. It doesn’t take long for the player to pick up on the fact that, in the spirit of the show (and comic) you’re in Georgia, and have returned to your hometown after a long time away. There is an accident and the story quickly escalates into the chaotic mess that you have likely come to expect from The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
Option A – Not For the Kiddies
 The quicktime events (QTEs) / decisions are just that: quick. They offer only a few critical seconds to make key decisions that could drastically change your game. Many of these decisions have a great deal of permanence and will persist throughout the episodes, so think on your feet and choose well. These choices will change how other characters view you, who lives and ultimately who doesn’t. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t reload once or twice so that I could hit the desired response. If you don’t respond fast enough your character remains silent, which is a response in and of itself, which not everyone appreciates. Some of these QTEs come in times of great tension, and do a great job of boosting the heart rate a bit. If you hear pounding in your ears, beware, it could be the Telltale heart.You’ll spend your time mostly talking to people, exploring small open areas and reacting to QTEs when they arise. You’ll have to use your head a little bit, but not too much. If you aren’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to adventure games, the process of elimination will eventually make the solution clear. There are only so many interactive points. You’ve either clicked on everything available or you haven’t. Unfortunately, I suspect that there is only one way to solve any given puzzle.

With that being said, the puzzles are actually quite fun and varied, even if they are a bit simplistic and linear. In The Walking Dead, you won’t be straining your brain or doing nonsensical things like placing wine in a time capsule and visiting the future where it has turned into vinegar. Nor will you mix cat hair and honey to make a mustache disguise. No, these puzzles are designed to be intuitive. A nice touch is that during these sequences, your perspective is constantly shifting based off of the situation or the nature of the puzzle that you have to solve. Have to unlock handcuffs – first person. Need to get from here to there – third person. Need to see a larger area – here’s a zoomed out view of the yard. I found this to be a refreshing change from static mounted-camera views, and from other games in general.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
This picture says it all. Sadness. Emotional depth. Baseball hats.

The first time I heard a curse word, I was actually taken aback. The nice, clean comic-book look of the game doesn’t feel like an environment where you would hear R-rated words. Adding to this feeling you also don’t expect to see gratuitous violence and bloody head-smashing, but it’s there too. As a result, there is a bit of dissonance between the cartoonish look of the engine, and the dark, apocalyptic feel of The Walking Dead. However odd it may feel, it’s not really a problem, and I’m glad they are approaching the material with the gravity that it deserves.

I say all of this not to fault the graphical engine. While it is admittedly dated, it’s still highly polished and works well for the comic book art style that they’ve gone for. It has the polish and feel of a late generation game  engine that has been pushed to its max. Again, not a problem as it serves it purpose while still providing a slick and attractive environment.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
I’m an expert tracker. I have followed the bloody marks in order to locate the body.

This is predominantly a character driven story, and to this end the voice acting and dialogue is truly brilliant. A friend of mine was asking me how the voice acting was and I wasn’t immediately able to answer him. Not because I was uncertain, but because I hadn’t really noticed the voice acting at all. And I hadn’t noticed it because it was so well done that it never shook me from my immersion in the game. Bravo, Telltale. Sometimes, I was so swept up in the story that I yelled out in victory, or shrank down and felt shame over a decision I had made.

For the most part my complaints with the game are few. There were a few audio stutters and blips during the dialogue, but it wasn’t consistent enough to really hinder my experience. However one of the most glaring issues wasn’t technical at all. There is a section of the game where a character doesn’t know how to put batteries into a radio, or what kind of batteries it could possibly ever need. This really serves to undermine the believability of that character and to shatter the player’s suspension of disbelief. This wouldn’t have been something to point out in a bad game, but The Walking Dead is otherwise intelligent and well conceived.

I’m not sure how differently the game would have played out had I made different choices, and I’m anxious to go back and replay it in a different way. There are a total of three save slots, so Telltale has accommodated the curious player like myself. Heck, I’m curious like a cat. I have a couple of friends that call me Whiskers. So I intend to fill all three slots.

The Walking Dead - Episode 1 - A New Day - Telltale Games
Hell comes to the suburbs of Georgia. Quick, hide in the tire!

The length of this episode felt about right for the first episode of five. I beat it in one sitting and never felt like my attention was drifting. For $25 this is a nice, bite-sized morsel of splendid content.

Fans of the excellent Idle Thumbs podcast will note the inclusion of names such as Sean Vanaman & Jake Rodkin in the opening credits. At an early stage in the episode, a character mentions “Ol’ Breckon” down the road, which is of course represents another Thumb member, Nick Breckon. This reminds me of the mention of Christopher di Remo and Jackie Rodkins in Bioshock 2, thanks to Steve Gaynor. Also himself. These guys are name dropping each other all throughout your videogames. Oh, Idle Thumbs. If you don’t know who they are, go check out their podcast.

Spolier alert! This video shows all of Episode 1

If you’re not entirely sick of zombies and are looking for a fun change of pace and some interesting characters, you should probably pick this up for PC, Mac, on the Playstation Network or Xbox Live Marketplace. I for one am not sick (or infected) of zombies. I realize that I’m in a constantly shrinking minority, but I find that there is something primal and fascinating about the juxtaposition of our modern world with this catastrophic zombie event. Perhaps even more importantly, I feel that we are drawn to the idea because it provides humanity with two important things that we perhaps otherwise lack: unity and purpose. Maybe reading World War Z has renewed my interest in the genre and Telltale happened to come in at the right time to give me an interest boost. At any rate, enough waxing zombitic. Go play The Walking Dead.

State of Emergency

state of emergency - ps2
While Grand Theft Auto took the video industry by storm back in the early 2000’s, many companies wanted to copy it’s success. There was even competition internally by Rockstar themselves and the video game media sites paid attention.
state of emergency - ps2
Despite the apparent similarities, the two games are really total opposites. While GTA put you in the role of an anti-hero in a world of crime, you’re just some random person against a major corporation who took over after the government collapsed.
 state of emergency - ps2
While GTA gave you the freedom to do anything, you’re limited by a good bit in State of Emergency. There’s two modes and frankly their both boxed-in areas where you rack up points by taking down police guards, gangsters, and breaking all kind of things like glass, cars, and other kinds of property.
state of emergency - ps2
Even though the game was released in 2002, the game-play style is too old-school for much enjoyment. It’s too simplistic with little sense of accomplishment or hopes for being awarded anything. Combine that with aging graphics, and you got a game that should be forgotten. It certainly didn’t deserve the hype.

Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior

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The problems with Fire Warrior, you see, are firmly rooted in its dirty console past. The game sports an incredibly annoying auto-save/checkpoints feature that forces you to replay levels again and again (only to be killed seconds before beating them), has pretty clumsy controls, very poor AI, astonishingly few tweaking options and an obviously tacked-on online multi-player side. ~Konstantinos Dimopoulos

Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior

Now, why would you dear readers care for a review of a spectacularly unremarkable 5 year old game, that was released to public apathy and less than stellar reviews? And why would I bother with a game that dared tempt the PC crowd without a proper save feature, while offering only lackluster multi-player options? Why should we even care about the existence of another generic FPS instead of, say, the joys of Blue Lacuna? Well, simple really. It’s all happening because I’m oddly enjoying playing through Fire Warrior, that’s why. Shockingly for the second time in my life too.

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Better start at the beginning then. Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior is -as you might have already guessed- a pretty standard FPS set in Games Workshop’s dark and gritty sci-fi/Gothic world of Warhammer 40,000, where -as is customary with these things- there is only war and apparently many interesting stories to be told. You, the player, assume the role of a young warrior of the Tau Empire and set out to fight for the greater good in general and, in a more specific way, against the rather fascist Empire of Man. Actually, you get to live through the frenetic first 24 hours of your service while battling through 21 hour-long levels, essentially making this a properly real-time FPS in the strictest of senses. Interesting innit? Regardless. It still is longer than the average shooter and that sort of makes up for the fact that the game is definitely showing its age. It was after all a 2003 release.

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Fire Warrior also was the first pure action game set in the Warhammer 40k universe and, frankly, this must have been why I actually decided to give it a chance in the first place. Let me explain my train of thought like this: Shooting Space Marines? Yes, please. Walking through Tau spaceships in glorious 3D? Definitely. Being a nameless grunt in a war-torn universe? Sure. Playing a lazy PS2port on the PC? Well, uhm, not that I’m thrilled with the prospect, but guess I could put up with it.

warhammer 40k - fire warrior - pc

The problems with Fire Warrior, you see, are firmly rooted in its dirty console past. The game sports an incredibly annoying auto-save/checkpoints feature that forces you to replay levels again and again (only to be killed seconds before beating them), has pretty clumsy controls, very poor AI, astonishingly few tweaking options and an obviously tacked-on online multi-player side. Then, it doesn’t even try to add anything new to the genre and its sole innovation is a rather failed copy of HALO’s shield system. And don’t get me started on the extreme linearity of the thing or the truly archaic need to collect color-coded keys…

warhammer 40k - fire warrior - pc

On the plus side -and besides the setting- Fire Warrior does manage to do some things rather well. Or at least, well enough to help you relax, turn your brain off and enjoy many hours of frenetic shooting a la Serious Sam. You get 15 different weapons to experiment with, an impressively balanced difficulty curve, a great (or at least engrossing for FPS standards) plot, a variety of well-presented locations, bits of horror, a couple of smart set-pieces, boss battles and tons of enemies. What’s more, there are more than a few fantastic cinematic sequences and I bloody love fantastic cinematic sequences. I am quite fond of them unlockable WH40K artwork goodies too.

So, and in order to reach some sort of a verdict, should you grab a copy? Well, if you don’t mind Fire Warrior’s flaws and lack of originality, care for a simple though highly atmospheric and extremely addictive FPS to last you for a week or so, then, by all means, I think you should. After all, Warhammer 40,000 Fire Warrior is indeed dead cheap. Oh, and Warhammer 40k maniacs that can forget their miniatures for a while will definitely appreciate it too. Mind you, Amazon has quite a few well priced copies lying around last time I checked.

Killer Instinct

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All in all, Killer Instinct is pretty disappointing for a next-gen release, especially since the game is a glut of microtranscations.  If you want the full game, it’s a standard twenty bucks. You can also just buy the individual characters if you want, which would be really cool if there were more than seven to choose from. ~Eric Hollis

Killer Instinct

Gamers are an extremely nostalgic people.  Whether fans are still clamoring for a Final Fantasy 7 remake or wondering whether we’re ever going to get a great port of Q-bert, we hang on to a good thing forever, sometimes to the detriment of newer and more inventive properties.  The original Killer Instinct and its sequel fall firmly in this camp for me, as I spent many a beer-soaked college afternoon challenging friend after friend to just one more match on the SNES from the comfort of my miserable dorm room.  I often wondered why no one had attempted a modern take on the franchise.  Double Helix picked up the mantle from Rare here; I guess Rare, one of the most prolific developers of last two generations, decided they now want to make Kinect games that no one will ever play.  Thankfully, Double Helix stays extremely faithful to the original titles, even if there are some major missteps with the total package.

Killer Instinct - Xbox One

Killer Instinct on the One plays magnificently.  Everything you loved about KI—the combos, the breakers, the manuals, and special attacks—are all here.  Other than a few tweaks on the move-set, there is nothing added to the original formula, which is truly a blessing.  The remake took me instantly back to the Tate Center arcade (mad respect if you know where that is) where I played the KI cabinets religiously.   I’ve played over fifty matches against multiple opponents, and they were repeatedly a blast. Most of them were also very close, and for me that’s a huge part of the replay value of fighting games.  The battles are very fluid, extremely fast, and downright addictive.

Killer Instinct - Xbox One

Gameplay itself isn’t a problem. The problem is that the total package just feels like bare bones.  For starters, the inclusion of only eight total playable fighters (one of whom—the illusive Fulgore—isn’t even out yet) feels like an Endokuken to the face.  I’m no fighting game expert, but the last game I remember with less than eight playable characters was the original Mortal Kombat.  Twenty-two years later, I expect more girth in roster selection, especially when similar titles generally have a lot more fighters to choose from.  Characters like TJ Combo, Cinder, and Riptor, all of whom have appeared in at least one of the other installments, aren’t even represented at all.  You also only start with one playable stage (out of a measly six); the rest have to be purchased with in-game currency that you earn from completing battles.

Killer Instinct - Xbox One

All in all, Killer Instinct is pretty disappointing for a next-gen release, especially since the game is a glut of microtranscations.  If you want the full game, it’s a standard twenty bucks. You can also just buy the individual characters if you want, which would be really cool if there were more than seven to choose from.  If you want everything the game has to offer, which basically boils down to a couple of aesthetic character accessories and a playable version of the original KI, prepare to double-up on that Andrew Jackson.   The only thing I was interested in besides the core game was the original that, unlike everything else, isn’t available separately.  This fact, my friends, is worthy of ire right there. Unfortunately, this is the model I see more companies gravitating towards.   I understand that Microsoft wants to nickel and dime me while making me squat on a rabid porcupine, but the company should at least have the courtesy of letting me enjoy that while its happening if I so desire.

If you’re a fan of Killer Instinct and you have a One, you’ve probably already put this game through its paces, and maybe you know what I mean. While it’s fun to bust out to show off the only fighting game on your new system, the lack of variety and annoying microtransactions left me dissatisfied.  While many parts of quality of life have improved since I lived in my old dorm, especially access to free pornography, at least back in that abysmal dorm room we had a much better version of Killer Instinct.  Let’s hope that Double Helix and Ken Lobb have a true remake or sequel in the works and that the lack of polish here was strictly due to a rushed launch window.

No More Heroes

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The game features a free roaming world with Travis moving around on foot or on his trusty scooter, the “Schpeltiger”. Originally planned as an ultraviolent title to rival Manhunt 2, the copious amounts of blood were later replaced with black pixels and coins spurting from fallen enemies, resulting in final ratings of Pegi 16+ and ESRB M. ~The Elderly Gamer

No More Heroes

Off to the bargain bins again and this time out we’re looking for a Wii original “No More Heroes” which first hit the shelves way back in January 2008. It’s popularity spawned a sequel in 2010, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle and a port  to the Xbox 360 and Ps3 titled “No More Heroes’ Paradise”.
Designed by none other than Suda51 aka Goichi Suda, you play as Travis Touchdown, a card carrying otaku, who lives in the fictional town of Santa Destroy, California. After an unexpected turn of events, and the purchase of a light saber on ebay, you find yourself on the bottom rung of an Assassins’ organization. You must  prove yourself worthy and defeat 10 other bloodthirsty killers, all with deep stories of their own, to make your way to the top of the assassin’s league.

no-more-heroes-nintendo-wii

The game features a free roaming world with Travis moving around on foot or on his trusty scooter, the “Schpeltiger”. Originally planned as an ultraviolent title to rival Manhunt 2, the copious amounts of blood were later replaced with black pixels and coins spurting from fallen enemies, resulting in final ratings of Pegi 16+ and ESRB M.
no-more-heroes-nintendo-wii
The reviews at the time were resoundingly positive, withMetacrtic awarding it a score of  83% from 64 critc reviews.

Quote of the Bunch:
“SUDA-51 has delivered a game that can match its absurd premise with equally stimulating gameplay, making for one of the most unique and satisfying action games in recent memory”
Gamespot.
no-more-heroes-nintendo-wii
Reviews Summary
A true joy of creation that is too rarely seen in gaming.
The overall weird factor of the game are the main reason to check it out
F…ing awesome.
Some mystic element about it that makes it worth playing.
Top-tier mature gaming and pitch-perfect swordplay.
A funky, fun third-person hack and slash marred by some boring open world side-missions.
A unique title with some genius moments.
Open world sections do more harm than good
A love letter to videogames that never grows old, tired, or dull
There are few games as good as this on any platform.

The only surving…
Official Game site (Japanese)

WET

WET is a unique-looking game with a lot of fun features. What it lacks in depth, it makes up for with a Kill Billesque storyline and visual styling, and ridiculous gunplay that is over the top and absurdly fun. Unfortunately, WET isn’t a perfect game because it lacks creative depth and can feel repetitive, but it is definitely a fun shooter if you’re just looking to kill a couple of hours. ~Geoff Calver

WET

Gameplay

WET tells the story of female assassin Rubi Malone. Rubi carries a pair of revolvers and a sword, and she dispatches her foes with style. The game obviously focuses on having fun while completing your mission. Rubi is beautiful and athletic. She is able to run along walls, jump high over obstacles, and slide for ungodly lengths of time along the floor, all while shooting not just at one enemy, but at two. The game encourages you to run along a wall and then jump into mid-air and slide along the floor while killing enemies left and right. As you perform such combinations, you have points rack up. The more points you gain putting together awesome acrobatics and the more enemies you kill while performing the acrobatics, the faster your health will replenish and the more points you’ll have to spend towards upgrading Rubi’s weapons at the end of each mission.

WET - Xbox 360

WET tells an interesting, if a bit convoluted story. The game begins with Rubi watching a suitcase being handed between two men in an ornate room in Chinatown. The suitcase is her target – she needs to retrieve it – and she crashes through the glass ceiling and begins shooting up the place. This leads to a chase where she follows Simmons, the man carrying the suitcase. It turns out the suitcase holds a heart, which a man named Ackers has hired Rubi to retrieve so that he may have heart surgery. He rewards her well and comes back a year later asking if she can go to Hong Kong and find their heir to his crime fortune, Trevor. From there, Rubi travels around the globe through a twisted plot of backstabbing, lies, and falsehoods. She gets beat up a few times, engages herself in high-speed chases, and in the end, prevails.

WET - Xbox 360

The story of WET is fun in that it is over the top, just like the gameplay. The twists and turns are at times so ridiculous that you feel you are watching a ‘70s B grade action film. And that’s the point. WET is fashioned to look and feel like a Kill Bill or even more aptly, Grindhouse style of film. It is over the top, action-packed, and features a grainy visual style meant to replicate cheap 70s Technicolor film.

WET - Xbox 360 - Gameplay Screenshot

Unfortunately, though the upgrades to Rubi’s weapons are decent (she can eventually gain access to shotguns, SMGs, and crossbows); they don’t change the gameplay dynamic much. The novelty of putting together acrobatic kill combos begins to get stale when you realize that the AI isn’t very intelligent and are mostly just cannon fodder. The difficulty in playing through WET is fighting off huge numbers of enemies rather than thinking about how to do so.

Graphics

The graphical style of WET is completely unique to recent video games. The only other game I can really think of that reminds me of WET in terms of atmosphere, film influence, and graphical styling is the old driving combat game Interstate ’76, where bellbottomed 70s hipsters drove around vehicles outfitted with guns. It, too, was over the top in its action and in its depiction of its heroes, and it screamed of 70s B-movie styling.

WET - Xbox 360

WET makes great use of its graphical deficiencies. The graphics engine behind WET isn’t all that great. The character models look decent but not special, the locales are colorful and varied, but the amount of detail on the buildings, vehicles, and in everything else around you isn’t anywhere near that of many newer titles. What is impressive is how the team working on WET managed to work around the weakness of their graphics engine. The 70s B-movie looks manage to make it okay that the graphics aren’t like Gears of War or Metal Gear Solid 4. The screen has little dots all over it like grainy film, and occasionally a bar will move through the screen like a slide in a film that suddenly shows itself. If you’ve ever see a Quentin Tarantino film, you know what the visual style of WET is. And it’s really unique and fun.

Sound

The sound in WET is a mixed bag. The music is fantastic. It features a great score, and beyond that, there is a ton of original music made specifically for the game by artists ranging from Gypsy Pistoleros to The Chop Tops. It is excellent music that is loud, vicious, and fits right in with the game style.

WET - Xbox 360

The voice acting ranges from good to great. Rubi’s voicework is fantastic. Voiced by Hollywood actress Eliza Dushku (who is the lead character, Echo, in Fox’s Dollhouse) she sounds great and her voice really gives life to her over the top female assassin character.

The Final Word

WET is a fun, action-packed game that takes lots of inspiration from 70s B-grade action movies and Quentin Tarantino’s work. It isn’t going to keep you up at night wondering about where the plot will go next, and it isn’t going to be on any “game of the year” lists, but it certainly is a fun title that is over the top and features great styling, music, and an innovative approach to how you go about taking out enemies.

The Scorecard

73%

+ Great atmosphere that evokes Kill Bill, Grindhouse, and cheap 70s action films

+ Fun gunplay

+ Easy to pick up and play for just a few minutes

+ Excellent music

– The storyline is a bit convoluted and doesn’t really draw you in

– The graphics are dated

– The AI is about as smart as my fish

San-X Land: Theme Park de Asobou

Sanrio can suck it

San-X Land - Theme Park de Asobou

For those unfamiliar with cutesy stuff from Japan, San-X is a company that creates characters that are plastered all over stationary, novelty items, and the like. Not unlike Sanrio, who is responsible for Hello Kitty, Badtz Maru, Keroppi, ect, San-X is very popular and probably best known for characters like Rilakuma, Tare Panda, and Afro-Ken, among many others. Mascots are big in Japan and people are willing to pay stupid amounts of money for anything with their favorite characters slapped on it, this includes mediocre video games. I found a copy when I was at Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas last month. It was the only Japanese DS game the vendor had and I’d be damned if I was leaving a gaming convention without picking up a couple of obscure titles.

San-X Land - Theme Park de Asobou

While the description of San-X Land: Theme Park de Asobou says that it’s an action game, it more accurately falls under the category of ‘Party Game’. Like, you know, Mario Party, or Sonic Shuffle, which is pretty much a less entertaining rip-off of Mario Party. San-X Land places you in a theme park based on characters from their various franchises. You can choose from 8 different characters, each with their own themed game board. When picking up this game I was only somewhat familiar with 4 of the 8 characters; Tare Panda, Monokuro Boo, Kogepan, and Nyanko. The other 4 characters are Afro-Ken, Mikan Bouya, Wanroom, and Nanka. Nanka wasn’t even in the san-x wiki of characters so I had to go back to the game and decipher the hiragana and look it up on Google Japan. I don’t even know what this character is supposed to be anyways. It’s like a seal with a phallus protruding from his head or something. Nan…ka? Oh! It’s a word play joke (an informal way of saying “what is this?”), you cheeky, cheeky bastards.

San-X Land - Theme Park de Asobou

So once you’ve chosen a character, it’s time to get on with the game. Each board is played out the same no matter who you choose. You spin a wheel to choose the number of spaces you move. The boards are fairly small, but even if you reach the goal you will be turned around because you need to first finish a puzzle of an image of your character, each piece being obtained by either landing on a particular place or playing any of the various mini games. The mini games include said puzzle, slide puzzles, mix and match memory games, a random cut scene, or character specific action mini games. These action mini games are just about the only fun you’ll have playing this game at all, unless you get your thrills from puking rainbows and sparkles on to fluffy woodland creatures and furniture with animal faces on them. Each of the action mini games can be played on easy, medium or hard, and even on hard they aren’t hard, not in the least bit. Of the 8 character specific games, I’d have to say that Tare Panda’s is the most entertaining. It’s a balancing game where you must stack pudgy pandas on top of one another without all of them toppling over. It’s fantastic, really, the first couple times you play it. After you’ve unlocked everything, you can just play the mini games by accessing them from the start menu, so it’s not necessary to have to actually play the game to get to the fun part.

San-X Land - Theme Park de Asobou

The only reason you would want to play through this game more than once is to unlock everything. Luckily for me, whoever had this game before me must have been fluent in Japanese and must have also had OCD, because everything was already unlocked. All of the characters, their stupid digital trading cards, all of the art, the mini-games, everything was at 100%. This game would have been damn near impossible to review accurately otherwise(as I’m NOT fluent in Japanese). This game is, more than anything, a novelty. Something for the fanatics of the mascot trend to add to their ever-growing collections of fluffy stuffs. It’s one of those games that you might want to try if it just happens to be around, but nothing I would recommend going out of your way to play.

San-X Land: Theme Park de Asobou gets a 6.5/10

And why does Sanrio suck more than San-X? Click here.

Homefront

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If you’ve read other reviews or talked to folks who have played Homefront, no doubt you’ve heard it described as “a worse version of Call of Duty.” This is accurate in some respects: it’s not, overall, quite as tightly executed and the range of available weapons is smaller. ~Seth Rosen

Homefront

Homefront packs a punch, and it doesn’t wait for the first bell to ring before socking you hard, right in the belly. The game starts with the player being abducted and put on a bus to Somewhere Bad. I sit on the bus for a few minutes, peering out the windows, unable to move or twist around to get a better view of the proceedings of a depressed suburban Colorado town. At first, the restriction on my view bothered me, but then I realized that it had to be this way: the Korean People’s Army (KPA) guards wouldn’t take too kindly to me jumping around the bus, repeatedly ducking and standing back up on top of the seats (which is exactly what I did on the trains in Half-Life and Half-Life 2). So, I settled in, ready to play their way. Soon I saw that “their way” really delivers on the game’s tagline: “Home is where the war is.” The bus trundles through the town and I see several limp bodies, their heads covered in blood-spattered sacks, strewn across the sidewalk. I see people desperately pleading for mercy. I see parents gunned down in front of their wailing child. Truly a horrible and disturbing scene. What’s more, given Unified Korea’s rise to power as laid out by the game’s alternate history in the introduction, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

Homefront

Though Homefront is not really an adaptation to the interactive medium of writer John Milius’ previous work (Apocalypse NowRed Dawn), you can see their ehem influence throughout the game’s story and setting. The world is intricately and brutally realized and I was itching to join the fight. In short order, my bus was rammed by a Resistance cell in order to secure me, the all-important pilot, for their mission. Unfortunately, the the game’s mechanics immediately got in my way. I was hot-blooded and ready for the warpath, but I had to wait for my savior to finish what he was saying before the game prompted me to press ‘E’ to climb out of the bus, rather than let me duck and crawl out on my own when I wanted to, which would have been immediately. It was primarily little things like this that prevented me from fully engaging with my tasks at hand and immersing myself in the world. All-too-often, I would end up waiting for the game to catch up to me (sometimes dialog and sometimes the actual characters) before I could proceed, despite the fact that I was the slowest runner in the entire resistance force. I would get frustrated watching my comrades press their bodies against cover and lean out, while I was stuck with standing, crouching and going prone. Summed together, these small annoyances would periodically break my immersion.

Homefront

These complaints are valid, but plenty of excellent games came before Homefront, overcoming somewhat clunky controls, so I didn’t want to abandon it. And I didn’t have to stick with it for very long: I finished the single player campaign on Hard in about 5 hours. Though the recent trend of military shooters sporting such short single player components is a disappointing one, it sort of worked in Homefront’s favor. Over the course of the entire game, though your path is oft waylaid, your mission is relatively small in scope: escape the bus rescue, commandeer a few fuel trucks, drive them to San Francisco and then lase a target on the Golden Gate bridge for the newly-fueled air support to bomb the ever-living shit out of.
Homefront
On that note, Homefront rarely lets you lead the charge, resulting in a genuine sense that you’re just another foot soldier, though there are some set-pieces that you have to take down in order to advance.  Your comrades do a good bit of killing themselves and some of their dialog excellently portrayed the atmosphere of the resistance and their venomous hate of the KPA. You’ll also find old newspapers scattered throughout the game that relate more background of how the U.S. got to be in such a dire position. Interesting stuff that helps build the world, but the interface for the blurbs felt more like a game menu than a newspaper in your hand.
Homefront
When it came to handling the futuristic high-tech weapons, it seemed like an order had come down from on-high that you were the only resistance fighter capable of wielding the blasted things. This was to the detriment of the fun and believability of the game. For one, you had a tech-wiz with you for at least half of the game who I’m sure was capable of using the weaponry. Second, the technology behind the Gladiator (a vehicle that riddles with holes any enemy you can look at for a full second) just doesn’t seem to fit with the grittiness of the rest of the world. Lastly, the Gladiator targeter simply wasn’t very satisfying to use. I found it significantly less fun to pop out from cover and target the next KPA soldier and have a vehicle drive over to him and unload a machine gun in his face when compared to the visceral experience of creeping around the suburban yards and through the White Castle, shooting baddies as you went.
Homefront
Similar to this imbalance of how enjoyable the different weapons were to use, Homefront suffered from some uneven pacing. In particular, I found the levels taking place in and around the countryside to be a bit slower. It didn’t help that the vehicle sections were significantly easier than the ground-fighting (which, inexplicably, was suddenly against extremist American conspiracy theorists). I found a few spots to be massively more difficult. Some of these sections I died and reloaded at the last checkpoint 10-20 times. There was, however, one moment that I really enjoyed in the country level: our small force was attempting to cross the camp of the extremists undetected and we came upon a pair of hooligans that were torturing a KPA soldier, shooting at his feet to make him dance. I saw this and I was disgusted. Without considering my actions, I walked up behind one of the men and sank my knife into his back. The mission was failed (I guess the other guy standing there noticed his buddy getting shanked), but I felt vindicated. For me, Homefront was about doing what needed to be done to get our land back, not about acting maliciously towards the  invaders.
Homefront
To that end, it’s in the first few and final levels (out of 7) that Homefront truly shines. These are the levels that take place in the remnants of civilization and you find yourself battling across yards, sneaking through gaps in broken fences, and dashing through a burning computer parts store next to a Hooters. You see what this war has done to our homeland and you are compelled to right the situation. It truly feels like you’re fighting to get America back to its rightful owners when you’re running from abandoned car to abandoned car on the Golden Gate Bridge, getting into a position where you can call in air support and kickstart the rebellion.
Homefront
While the game’s environments were very rich, its graphical fidelity wasn’t top notch. The music, on the other hand, was spectacularly done and very effectively instilled in me a sense of patriotism. I played Homefront on the PC and I am forced to wonder whether the fact that Kaos Studios outsourced the PC development toDigital Extremes impacted the quality of the port.
Homefront
If you’ve read other reviews or talked to folks who have played Homefront, no doubt you’ve heard it described as “a worse version of Call of Duty.” This is accurate in some respects: it’s not, overall, quite as tightly executed and the range of available weapons is smaller. As for the multiplayer, which I played briefly, it is more or less what you should expect from a military shooter: realistic weapons and environments with unlockable content based on your performance. The maps seemed to differ wildly in quality, with the better ones tending to be smaller, more tactical suburban environments and the worse ones being large, open country settings that beg for snipers. Homefront’s multiplayer does feature some ground and air vehicles, which mixes up the gameplay a bit. As far as I’m concerned, there are two interesting aspects of the multiplayer. The first is small deployable bots (also ground and air) that players can pilot remotely. The second is Homefront’s capture point game mode, which has a tug-of-war dynamic: only 3 points active at any time and in order to access and capture the points beyond those, one team had to control that section of the map.
Homefront
Yes, Homefront is, on some level a worse Call of Duty. Honestly, though, how different can military shooters truly be? I say, “so be it, judge the game on its own merits.” Homefront, unlike a certain other recent release, had a somewhat humbler goal in mind than to be the next Call of Duty: tell a compelling story in a rich and emotionally-charged environment where the player is not playing the hero at every turn. Though it wasn’t stellar all the way through, I think it succeeded in that respect.
Should you play it? If you’re interested in emancipating the United States of America from the control of United Korea, hell yes. If you’re a Communist and just want to shoot more dudes so you can rank up and get a new scope, don’t bother. Seriously, Homefront is not one of the best executed interactive experiences I’ve ever had, but if you were at all interested in playing the game just based on the premise, I’d say go for it.

F1 2011

F1 2011

For Ps3,Xbox 360 3DS, PC and Playstaion Vita,
release: September 2011 20th(US) 22nd(Aus) 23rd(UK)

F1 2011

F1 2011 (the game) is a sequel to the BAFTA winning FORMULA ONE videogame from Codemasters. And coming with the tagline ‘Be The Driver, Live the Life, Go Compete’ I wish! well the live the life bit 🙁

The first game, whilst a rush to publish, had all the game elements and polish fans of the F1 series were looking for.  Now with more time for the developers to ….erm develop, the sequel promises the following.

F1 2011

Co-op Championships and split-screen mode,
16 players in online Grand Prix mode with 8 ai drivers to complete the pack.
Two new circuits in India and Germany
All twelve teams and twenty-four drivers, all the new rules, KERS, and DRS
New Parc Ferme area, expanded and revamped Paddock, Pit Lane, celebration and reaction cinematics,
Enhanced media interaction system, “Authentic” new damage failures,
New atmospheric effects, dynamic clouds, advanced rain model affecting on-track grip

F1 2011

New!!! however does not necessarily mean better , but I am impressed with the additions.

Early reviews heaped lavish praise for improvements in handling and Ai and the additional layer of strategy in the game with the inclusion of KERS and DRS.  However it was the lauded Ai which also drew the potentially most damaging criticism, suggesting it made the game very difficult. And what about all those “NEW” additions? nope game critics weren’t overly impressed suggesting they did little to change the core gameplay.  Which is kinda good as the first title was a cracker, even though I still can’t get first place at Monaco grrrrrr!

F1 2011

Currently scoring 85% (xbox), 86% (Ps3) on Metacritic, seems we have a winner 🙂

F1 2011

Reviews Summary:
The most complete representation of the sport to date
A must buy for F1 fans, a better game than last year
An absolute blast, whichever skill level you approach it from
Strip away the new lick of paint and it’s tough to tell F1 2011 apart from its predecessor
well-crafted and solid racing simulation, doesn’t shine on innovation
For a seasonal update there’s a remarkable number of tweaks and changes
Play it properly, and F1 2011 is an incredibly satisfying experience
Not without its problems, but it has moved the series forward

Family Game Night 4

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Overall I would still recommend this game to anyone with either a passion for board or family gaming.  It has its shortcomings, but they are not fatal, and there’s enough that’s right about Family Game Night 4: The Game Show to override that which is deficient.  Give this game some playtime when you have a hankering for some simple, clean, and non-violent fun! ~Dan Epp

Family Game Night 4

Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is a collection of mini-games set within a broader game environment.  You are a contestant (and can play with others or against computer opponents) playing to win a virtual version of the Hub Network television game show of the same name.  Some of the games you play include: Scrabble Flash, in which you attempt to form as many words from a set amount of Scrabble tiles as possible; Connect 4 Basketball, in which you must aim your basketballs carefully to form a row of four balls or to prevent your opponent from doing the same; Yahtzee Bowling, wherein the pins are the dice that you must knock over with your bowling ball; Sorry! Sliders, a shuffleboard-style (or curling) game in which you must attempt to slide your pawns into the highest possible scoring areas; and Bop-It Boptagon, which is essentially a hand-eye coordination and reaction game.

Scrabble

I found the various games to be a mixed bag in terms of “fun,” which arguably is the best metric to judge a video game based on a television show based on board games.  I enjoyed the Scrabble Flash and Yahtzee Bowling, and found I could play these two games multiple times while still maintaining a sufficient level of “fun” gameplay. Connect 4 Basketball could be challenging once you started shooting simultaneously with your opponent, but the Sorry! Sliders became dull very quickly as the gameplay did not seem to alter much from game to game.  Finally, Bop-It Boptagon was an experience that I did not repeat twice, and the memories of my abject failure are too painful to translate into the written word.

Connect 4

Mr. Potato-Head is the host of the game, and though he is not annoying like the bizarre host of the Family Feud Xbox game (the memory of whom has scarred me for life), he also doesn’t add anything to the gameplay.  The animations of the avatars are a bit silly, and not dismissed immediately with a button-click, which makes them a little irritating.  The play-by-play voice was a constant, “go get ‘em, tiger” kind of happy, which lost its charm over time.  Note to developers: if you want to see how a host can be engaging, perhaps even annoying, and yet bring you back for more, check out the You Don’t Know Jack series of games.

Bob it

A quick note: although the game features Kinect compatibility, as I am one of the last Xbox 360 owners in North America without a Kinect accessory, I did not test it with anything besides a standard wireless controller.

Family Game Night 4

Overall I would still recommend this game to anyone with either a passion for board or family gaming.  It has its shortcomings, but they are not fatal, and there’s enough that’s right about Family Game Night 4: The Game Show to override that which is deficient.  Give this game some playtime when you have a hankering for some simple, clean, and non-violent fun!

Thanks to the Classic Game Room for the awesome video review.

Bodycount

Developer/Publisher Codemaster has released their next first person shooter. Does it equal their last generation title Black, or should it be taken out back and tossed in the dirt? Read our review to find out.

Bodycount-

First person shooters are a dime a dozen at this point, and all do basically the same thing. Here’s a selection of firearms, the world is in trouble, pick your weapon loadout and go save it. It’s a recipe that has worked for Call of Duty, Battlefield, and countless others. Most games give those with patience an edge over their AI opponents. Sneaking around corners, lying low, or crawling all have their benefits. Bodycount tries the same recipe but with no bonus for patience.

Bodycount-

Bodycount is a FPS for those that want to run-n-gun Rambo style, through as many bad guys as your console or PC can handle. You are given a silenced pistol at one point, but once you find your weapons cache you will want to say to hell with that pea shooter. Give me my G36 assault rifle and/or Super 90 shotgun. This game wants you to be a killing machine, and does a good job of creating that experience.

Bodycount-

The story for the game is fairly generic. You play as Jackson. A former US soldier who is now an agent for an organization called The Network. It is your job to find solutions to problems that governments can’t handle. Genocide in Africa? No problem. Grab a few weapons and grenades and wipe out the genocidal horde. Want to end a civil war? Take out the leaders and their forces. While on these missions, you’ll run across some enemies that don’t belong, and it’s up to you to find out who is really behind the civil unrest in both Africa and Asia. The story isn’t exactly gripping, but it’s not thrown in as an afterthought either. There was some thought put into it, but the bottom line for Bodycount is the gameplay.

Bodycount-

Gameplay for Bodycount is simple. Here’s your objective. Here are your weapons. Complete the objective. Sounds simple. Now add a huge number of bad guys, with a largely destructible environment, and you get the big picture. This is an arcade style, in your face shooter, where killing is always your main objective. The name of the game is Bodycount, and that’s what you want to rack up. Leave a trail of lifeless, limp bodies in your wake, along with shredded walls, doors, and windows. If it’s not made out of tin, you can blast through it. There are few places to hide in this game, and most of those places will disintegrate when high amounts of lead are applied. Concrete barriers, plywood walls, even wood doors are no match for the bullets. You can shred through a wall in a matter of seconds, and anyone hiding behind that wall is dead meat.

Bodycount-

Each mission level gives you multiple paths to choose from. You aren’t locked into a linear path and this is a double edged sword. Not only are you not locked into one set path, the AI isn’t either. While they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box, their thought process can still be tricky enough to outflank you, and drop a grenade in your lap. If you are on a mission that requires you to defend your position, be sure to take note of all paths around you.

Bodycount-

At the end of each story mission you are given a grade based upon how well you did on that mission. During your firefights, you can achieve Skill Kills with headshots, backstabs, and shred kills (killing through walls is soooo fun). String these together and you’ll keep a combo going that will affect your overall grade at the end of each mission. Rack up as many kills as you can, but remember that well placed shots will net you a better overall grade than just running and gunning through each level. We found this to be a little counter productive for an arcade style shoot-em-up, but it does add replayability to each mission. More than one run through for each mission isn’t a bad thing.

Bodycount-

The firearms at your disposal are basic at first, with a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and knife to start out with. This expands to include ten overall weapons to choose from, plus your knife. The weapons are highly detailed, and vary in power and rate of fire just like they should in real life. You can’t access your weapons cache until you are in a mission, but most missions have them near the beginning. Use your mini-map in the lower right corner to locate it. Grenades have three ways to be thrown. You can do the standard one button press that has a short timed explosion, you can cook your grenades by holding the button for a few seconds, or (our favorite) you can double tap the grenade button and it will explode on contact. Why cook when you can have instant gratification? See a large group of bad guys congregating in one spot? Double tap that frag for a fun little skill kill that will grow to whatever number was in that group. You also have mines at your disposal, and occasionally a defense position is needed and mines become a priceless, albeit limited, commodity.

Bodycount-

As you take out bad guys, they’ll drop ammo and intel energy. This energy is gathered and fills up your intel meter. As you progress through the story, you unlock four different enhancers that show up on the bottom left of your screen. The Adrenaline boost makes you invincible (as long as your meter is full) and is very effective against a large group of enemies that you want to run through. They can’t hurt you, but you can definitely blast them all to hell. There is also an Exploding bullet enhancer that is very effective against the heavies with mini-guns. The Artillery enhancer can be used to take out emplacements or groups of bad guys. The Target Pulse Wave starts out as a way to better see the AI, but once upgraded becomes a way to disable some of the bad guys.

Bodycount-

Online Multiplayer is also available. You can have a free-for-all deathmatch, team deathmatch, or you can buddy up with another player and play some co-op. Co-op will have you facing wave after wave of bad guys and it’s a fun way to rack up your online kills.

If you are looking for a game where you can sneak around, leave this alone and pick up Deus Ex. If you are looking for a game that allows you to blast through bad guys, walls, and doors with no worries about noise or alerts, this is a title you might enjoy.

Bodycount provides the guns, glory and bad guys. You provide the balls.

Bodycount: Rambo Welcome.

7

Half Life 2: Episode Two

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Half Life 2: Episode Two begins right where Episode 1 left off. The Citadel has come crashing to the ground, City 17 is in ruins, and your train out of dodge has derailed. You awake to find Alyx outside, thankful you’re alive. She helps you out using the Gravity Gun, and thus begins your mission.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Host to a data card that the Combine desperately wants and needs, Alyx and Gordon must rush to White Forest, the resistance’s new base in the wake of City 17’s destruction. The game follows Gordon and Alyx as they make their way across the countryside that surrounds City 17 and to White Forest, where Doctor’s Vance, Kleiner, and Magnusson  are waiting for their arrival with the data, which is needed to launch a missile that will close the Combine portal, leaving the Combine trapped on earth without reinforcements.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The story is fantastic. The characters are well known by now, as is the struggle, and never does that struggle seem more important than in the final hours of the game, when the portal can be seen looming in the dark sky and striders are flooding the forest towards the resistance base and the missile silos.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The story is excellent, but, the journey to get to White Forest begins a little too slowly. After leaving the train we are treated to a stunning view of City 17 and the outdoor environment of Episode 2. However, the game quickly leads you underground, into Antlion nests where you feel confined and frankly, a bit bored. Antlions just aren’t fun. And tight spaces aren’t a whole lot of fun either when there beckons an entire world of forest and mountains above.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Nonetheless, Episode 2 throws you into the outdoors after about an hour and a half of crawling in Antlion tunnels, and you rarely venture back in. The huge difference in this game is the size of the environment. You are surrounded by wilderness, small towns, farmhouses and lone radio towers. There are rivers and stunning mountains rising in the distance. It’s liberating and it creates a feeling that the Half Life world is truly real. While playing, I was left with a very certain impression that the world had been abandoned with the Combine invasion fifteen years earlier. Everything was falling apart, buildings left to rot, and it was overwhelmingly awe-inspiring to see the world as a place where humans had been shepherded into ghettos and where the Combine used the earth as a mine, taking natural resources over time.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

One of the main questions surrounding the game was the introduction of a new enemy: the hunter, which is a difficult foe in the different gaming environment. Episode 2, however, also introduces three more enemies as well: an acid-spitting Antlion, an Antlion guardian, and the Combine Advisor. While serviceable enemies, the Hunter steals the show. A vicious, fast-moving, and deadly adversary that stands about eight feet tall; the Hunter seems to travel in packs and it shoots electrical bolts that stick to surfaces and explode, zapping health and energy. It is a welcome addition the Half Life story, and I expect that we’ll see more of it in Episode 3.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The lighting and other graphical qualities are fantastic, and even though better graphics can be found across current-gen consoles, Valve enlisted such incredible art direction that the Source Engine’s age is barely showing. The environments look wonderful, the spaces feel appropriately vast, and the character models still look amazingly realistic. They display emotions on a level I’ve never seen before in a game, and I still don’t think any graphical engines model human characters so well.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Sound use is excellent in Episode 2. The music kicks in at the right moments and serves to inspire fear, excitement, or manic abandon. The weapons sound appropriately tuned, and the voice acting is fantastic as usual. And of course, the screaming of headcrab zombies is utterly terrifying and spine-tingle inducing.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

There was some criticism of the length of Episode 1, and that has been rectified in Episode 2. Episode 2 offers a range of diversity that is unrivaled in gaming and is quite long. From the driving segments to the use of the Gravity Gun, to physics puzzles to shotgun diplomacy to huge battles from underground lairs to shaking valleys full of striders, Episode 2 is amazing. It is roughly six hours long, and it is well worth the journey (and the price).

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Episode 2 isn’t perfect. Though the opening sections of the game make the eventual arrival in the forest seem incredibly liberating, they are a bit of a slog and they make it tough to begin the adventure. And though the story is enthralling, I still want to know more about the G Man and the seven hour war. Looking beyond those minor faults, Episode 2 is at least every bit as strong a Half Life experience as the game’s that came before it and has me excited for the final episode. No other game offers such a diverse, fantastic, and entertaining variety of puzzles, strategy, excitement, and story. Episode 2 is well worth adding to your game collection.

Final Score: 93%

+ Great gameplay                                                   – Opening section of game is a bit slow

+ Wonderful art direction                                    – Story could still use some insight

+ Pulse poundingly exciting

Demon’s Souls

Demon Souls

Demon’s Souls has been out for awhile now in the US, but only recently has gotten released in some other locations. I put off picking this up because while it looked and sounded good, I tend to wait until games are a bit cheaper to acquire them. Additionally, the game is always being touted as insanely hard, and in my ‘old age’ I’ve grown to enjoy slightly less taxing games. Sure, as a kid I walloped on Ghosts & Goblins, the Ninja Gaiden games, Contra without the 30 lives code and plenty of others. However, I’ve gotten to a point where getting my butt handed to me by lines of code does sometimes get frustrating and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take this particular plunge.

Demon Souls

However, I can say after giving this game a good long play, it was a lot of fun – despite some frustrating moments along the way. That said, I feel like the game can be had at an incredible value, if you are someone who can enjoy a challenging game without getting too frustrated with it.

Graphics – 8.5:

Demon Souls
The animations sometimes feel just a shade off, but the magic and fire effects are nice, and the world is imaginatively presented. I’ve also seen some slowdown at odd times; and a world of lag and slowdown when one of my matches got invaded. That might fall under something other than graphics, but it was graphics that seemed the most affected (I was blocking but taking huge damage from a guy who also appeared to be blocking. Things were just not lining up at all). That said, the rest of the game looked really good, with some very impressive scenes – some of which really stood out (like the dragon sweeping the bridge to burn everyone on it).

Music and sound – 9.0:

Demon Souls
All in all, it sounds good. Narration is solid, sound effects are somewhat varied with voice acting at most interactions. The voice acting is not always great, and I wish I could just skip through the repetitive people sitting in the Nexus. I have surround sound however, and it should be noted that it has been a lifesaver for me at times in this game; on par with the zings of Modern Warfare’s bullets. The music is also very impressive. It fits the theme of the game wonderfully.

Gameplay – 8.5:
Demon Souls
This is a tough one for me. The game responds pretty well most of the time, though the lock-on mechanism can get you in trouble early on until you master it. As I’ve mentioned, the game can be hard. Now, I don’t think it’s quite as hard as some people make it out to be, but there are some cheap deaths in there (a pit you see that it looks like you should be able to descend but actually leads to death, any time something knocks you back when you’re on stairs/a ledge, or a ridiculously hard enemy you have no business fighting but might not have any idea of).

Intangibles – 9.5:

Demon Souls

New game plus is cool, if brutal. Tons of customization. A deep game that makes you feel like you’re genuinely learning as you play. I mentioned above that there were cheap deaths, but most of the time it’s just your own fault for not handling the situation properly. Also, the online aspects really deserve to be mentioned. There’s a unique, almost beautiful in my mind, system of online play where you can see bloodstains on the ground and see the final moments of a player’s life. There’s been several times I touched it and watched someone barrel ahead only to get dropped from an attack they never saw coming – but I did thanks to that experience. Also you can leave messages that you can rate as useful as well. There was one part with a bridge and a dragon swooping down where the advice saved my arse. The PVP aspects I’m kind of down on. It’s creatively handled when you can invade someone else’s realm, or they can invade yours, but almost every time it’s happened my game stuttered and broke up pretty badly. I’ve seen others complain about the same thing and the general response from others is: play offline. In my opinion, you’re doing yourself an overall disservice if you do so. It adds a tremendous sense of ‘life’ to your world when you see ghosted images of other players, bloodstains and messages on the ground.

Overall – 8.75:

Demon Souls

Demon’s Souls is hard. It’s meant to be hard. There is no easy mode. It doesn’t hold your hand or give you easy replays like Final Fantasy 13 does. It does however create a challenging, atmospheric adventure that if you can play without getting too frustrated, will provide you with a good deal of accomplishment as you conquer new tasks. The online features are pretty unique and for the most part they’re enjoyable, if not perfect. Adding to the game’s value in my mind is how much cheaper it has gotten of late. Gamestop had new copies for $40 and used for $26. Not bad for a game that many people thought of as Game of the Year for the PS3. I’m not sure I’d give it that particular title this year or last, but it is a solid action-RPG game that gives you a lot to do on your adventures.

Hector: Badge of Carnage: Episode 1

Hector Badge of Carnage
I’m not a particularly cynical gnome. No, not really. I’m just a realist who -admittedly- spends the odd day firmly believing that cynicism and the subsequent nihilism are nasty things, while trying to figure out ways to make this poor planet a better place. Then again, I just can’t help but enjoy the more cynical side of satire, and definitely can’t help but enjoy those rare cynical games. They seem so refreshing in the dire landscape of tired fantasy cliches, gun-ho militarism and vacuous cuteness that mainstream gaming seems to have created, and the first episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage is (probably) as cynically satirical as it gets.
Hector Badge of Carnage
It also is a rather traditional point-and-click adventure, which is always nice and despite coming from Telltale it’s both cynical and -shockingly- actually challenging. Now, don’t get me wrong,Telltale have done some wonderful things for adventure gaming. I can’t deny that, but it seems that after the excellent Tales of Monkey Island and the refreshingly odd Puzzle Agent they have become more, well, formulaic. And pop-centered. And, really, who cares for Jurassic Park games? I for one don’t. I definitely care about Hector though (to cunningly and subtly change the subject).
Hector Badge of Carnage

Hector, you see, the eponymous Badge of Carnage protagonist is a (shockingly and spontaneously anti-authoritarian) cop in what can only be described as Britain’s most run-down town. His moral compass is all over the place, his remarks biting, his humour dark and his pants struggling. He’s also more than willing to negotiate with terrorists, as this game’s full title is none other than Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 1: We Negotiate With Terrorist, in which Hector seems hell-bent on fulfilling the ultra-conservative, yet at times rather sensible, demands of a deeply frustrated and particularly murderous terrorist.

Hector Badge of Carnage

What’s more, Hector does this in the most unconventional way imaginable, while inhabiting a beautifully illustrated 2D world and remaining true to the best of point-and-click traditions. He’ll have to combine inventory items, engage in brilliantly penned discussions, use everything on everything, explore the seedier parts of the urban fabric and even use a heroin-addict as a sex doll (oops, spoiler, sorry about that), while sounding both brilliant and very British. The voice-overs are after all excellent, as are the games graphics, music and most of the puzzles.
Hector Badge of Carnage

The only thing that’s not quite so excellent is the control method (click to look, double-click to interact), that simply doesn’t feel that intuitive, especially if you are a seasoned adventurer. Then again, this episode’s hefty size, challenging puzzles and overall quality more than make up for this minor hick-up. Oh, and yes, the humour does actually work.

Verdict: A humorous and gritty breath of fresh, episodic, adventure gaming air. Adventurers should apply here and Hector will definitely amuse them.

Deadlight

Released for Xbox live arcade on August 1st 2012, Deadlight is a 2d side-scrolling survival horror cinematic platformer for Xbox Live Arcade developed by Tequila Works.

deadlight

(..takes deep breath…)
Plot:
Virus outbreak reanimates the dead, decimation of society, Randall Wayne (you) searches for his family.  Walking Dead meets Limbo.

deadlight
Positive critic reviews focused on the horrific and compelling story-line and challenging puzzle game play.  Negatives include issues around game controls, brevity and voice acting.  Opinion is polarized as to the game environment, impressive vs. bland and the plot, compelling vs pointless.  The game managed to score a decidedly average 69% from 52 critic reviews on Metacritic.

deadlightMy 2 cents
In fairness to the developers, I’ve only managed to invest an hour in the game since launch day, which probably says more about the game than I’d like to admit.  I found the voice over script contrived, the game atmospherics failing to impress and then there is that overly familiar nod to the walking dead, the “shadows” responding to loud noises…please!!.

deadlight
Alf The Helper: Yeah I noticed that too, they could have mixed it up, like the zombies responding to smell!
Elderly: Smell?
Alf The Helper: Yeah, like the zombies can pick up your smell if you’ve been sweating and stuff.
Elderly: What?
Alf The Helper: Yeah, like you’ve got to shower and brush your teeth, find cans of Lynx to put the Zombies of your trail..
Elderly: 8( …..oh sweet divine!!….where was I?

…..getting pummeled by “shadows” before I knew how to fight back, didn’t help either.  I do however intend to return and finish the game, at which stage I’ll update this little section…  without Alf!

deadlight
Quote of the Bunch:
Deadlight draws you in with its rich, pervasive atmosphere, but doesn’t give you much to do once you’re there. -Gamespot

deadlight

Reviews Summary:
The quality of content is amazing, psychotic storyline with fluid gameplay.
The full product is a disappointment to say the absolute least.
Probably the best downloadable title on the market right now.
Weirdly inconsistent 2D survival horror.
A breathtaking adventure, though the main campaign lasts only five or six hours.
It’s as mindless as the zombies it features.
All the style, substance, and gameplay you could want, with none of the originality you need
Without satisfying mechanics or narrative, there’s nothing pushing you forward towards Deadlight’s conclusion.
An incredibly slight experience, a single play-through comes in at under two hours.
Ruined by the lacking storyline and extremely short campaign.

Official Website