Two Worlds II

Polish developer Reality Pump and publisher Southpeak games teamed up to bring us the sequel to an Role Playing Game that was less than stellar. Did they build a better game, or just send out more trash? Read our review to find out.

Two Worlds II

Two Worlds II released last month, and with over 50 hours of play time just to get through the story mode, it is easy to say the game is lengthy. The story picks up 5 years after the end of Two Worlds. Your character, the hero, is a prisoner in the dark dungeons of Gandohar’s castle and any hopes he has of saving his sister, whom Gandahor has taken captive, seem to have vanished along with his freedom. In spite of a self-sacrificing battle against evil, the twins were separated and Kyra is now under the influence of a powerful magic spell from which there is no escape. Evil influences are attempting to awake the slumbering powers of an old generation in order to dominate all of Antaloor, and the hero is powerless to do anything about it.

Two Worlds II

However, just as his despair has reached its lowest ebb, a faint ray of hope appears from a completely unexpected direction. The hated Orcs have put together a rescue squad and the hero is amazed when they free him from the chains of his tormentors.  Still skeptical about this newfound truce between two races which have always been deadly enemies, the hero once again finds himself confronted by a completely new situation. He has to find out why the Orcs helped him – and learn as much as he can about their mysterious leader, the legendary Prophet Cassara. She is both beautiful and mysterious – but the hero must trust her if he has to have his long-planned revenge. So he starts out on a dangerous journey through a land desecrated by evil – a journey he hopes will shed some light on Gandohar’s dark past and help him find a weak point in the defenses of this powerful Mage. Only then can he finally rescue his sister, Kyra.

Two Worlds II

The story is long and the map of the world is huge. Voice acting is good, but not cinematically great. The hero’s voice can pass as Christian Bale’s Batman, even though the hero looks about 5′ 8″ and not exactly buff. A lot of detail has been put into the story, and each sub-quest has its own sub-story. The writers must have spent a lot of time to come up with a story that is not only long, but also entertaining. The characters fit well together and most are well thought out.

Two Worlds II

As expected with a good RPG, there are plenty of side quests to complete that are mini-stories in themselves. They usually pay well and are worth the extra time they take. Some quests you can complete as you progress along with the story, so be sure to speak to people everywhere. You have a map that you can use and each point of interest has a colored pin that represents what that point means. Active Quest Givers have a Sky Blue pin, so keep an eye out for them. Each quest you unlock is added to your quest log, and once open, you can activate a quest and track it on your map. This is handy in showing where you need to go for each quest. The quest log is divided into three categories. Pending, completed, and failed and each quest has a description, and sometimes hints.

Two Worlds II

Gameplay is along the lines of a good hack-n-slash. Where TW II sets itself apart from other games is in the weapons upgrading system and looting system. As you travel around killing, maiming, and destroying, you’ll find items that you can pick up and take with you. There are chests you can loot from, and some of these require a lockpick. Most of the items can be broken down into their elemental parts and these parts, in turn, can then be used to upgrade your weapons and armor. You are limited as to how many items you can carry, but you aren’t limited as to how many elemental parts you have. Dropping items becomes unnecessary since you can reduce the items to basic parts and carry as much of that as you want. You can have three different weapon sets configured and you need to make sure to not disassemble items you have selected for an inactive weapon set, since no warning is ever given.

Two Worlds II

Having three separate weapon sets is another design that sets TW II apart from other games. You can have one set up as an archer, one set up as a Mage, and another set up as a warrior. This comes in handy when traveling through areas with more than one type of enemy. Different enemies require different weapons to defeat them so pay attention to the enemies on-screen health meter. The meter will indicate their weaknesses, so act accordingly.

Two Worlds II

As you progress along, you’ll earn Skill Points and Attribute Points. These are then applied to different skills and attributes depending on how you want your Hero to evolve. The attributes are basic but the skills system is very detailed. With six different skills categories, and each category with its own subset, you can have your hero evolve in many different ways. If you want to be able fully upgrade weapons, you need to build up your metallurgy skills from the Crafting Skills category.

Two Worlds II

The C.R.A.F.T. (Complete Reshaping And Forging Technology) system is what is used to upgrade weapons. Special crystals can be found in the game and these can be attached to weapons and armor to increase the damage or protection of that item. A fully upgraded weapon can go along way to helping you defeat any foe you come across, so it’s best not to ignore this system.

The menu has an Alchemy tab, and learning this system is key to creating useful health and mana potions. The P.A.P.A.K. (Portable Alchemy and Potions Assembly Kit) allows you to create useful potions from herbs and organic material found throughout Antaloor. Resistance potions are also useful for resisting fire attacks from foes. Killing animals along the way seems pointless until you find out that a baboon heart is perfect for restoring health and a hairball from a cheetah can make potions stronger.

Two Worlds II

The last tab is the Magic Tab. This tab provides access to the D.E.M.O.N.S. (Dynamic Enchantment, Magic, Occultism & Necromancy System). This system governs the creation and use of spells according to the five schools of magic. These schools are Air, Earth, Wind, Fire, and the mysterious fifth element Verita. DEMONS is used to customize spells created by arranging spell cards in a balanced manner. There are carrier cards, which determine a spells core functionality. Effect cards which determine the elemental magic that gives the spell power. Last, but not least, Modifier cards which influence the nature and effects of a spell based on the spell’s core.

Two Worlds II

The story has a depth and character list that goes well beyond most RPG’s, and you could easily spend weeks playing through the entire game. Lockpicking, pick pocketing, sword fighting, quests, and so on, lead you in to a world that is well designed and though out. The overall map of Antaloor is huge, but portals can be found that help you to quickly navigate between the areas of the map. There’s also a portal stone that will allow you travel to any given portal and a personal portal stone which can be dropped in a spot and become a temporary portal so as to be able to move between your current location and another portal. This is very helpful if you need to pick a lock but are out of picks. Drop your stone, teleport to a town and buy some lock picks, then teleport back to your personal stone. Be sure to pick it back up though.

Two Worlds II

The graphics for the game could be better. They are a step up from PS2 games, but don’t quite measure up to top of the line games like God of War III and Uncharted 2. This is the one area where improvements needed to be made. The enemies are well designed, but graphically aren’t as sharp as we had hoped they would be. The game had a tendency to slow down when a lot was going on graphically, and screen blur was often seen. This doesn’t make the game unplayable at all, but does take away from the overall experience.

The music for the game was enjoyable to listen to and well placed. Tempo is used quite often to help create the overall experience of a scene or battle, and it fit nicely. The music goes from soothing and delightful, to haunting and rough.

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There is also a multiplayer element that allows you to play either with, or against online opponents. A seven chapter adventure mode is a fun co-op game. Village mode is a RTTS mode that pits you against an opponent and you race to build villages and keep them happy. Deathmatch, where you’ll team up against another group of online players. Crystal capture which is basically capture the flag. And Duel, where you’ll face off with an equal opponent and fight to the death.

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The original Two Worlds was an utter mess that probably should have been scrapped altogether. Two Worlds II, on the other hand, is what any great RPG should be. Depth in every direction, a story worth having, characters worth remembering, and a game worth playing.

Biggest piece of advice for this game: Read the Manual before playing

8

Grand Theft Auto 5

Grand Theft Auto 5

This is the hardest review I’ve ever had to write.  Unabashed love for all things Rockstar produces aside, I just don’t want to type any of this right now.  I’m at roughly forty hours logged between story and multiplayer, and all I want to do is play more Grand Theft Auto 5.

Grand Theft Auto 5

To call this the most anticipated title of the year would be a gross understatement.  Rockstar is known for releasing some of the best games of the past two console generations; this entry takes the bar that they always set so high and throws it directly over the sun.  The game has been in development for five years, after you sit down with it you’ll understand that not a second of that time was wasted.  Every aspect of the franchise has been improved, each frame absolutely drips with the highest attention to detail we’ve ever seen in a video game.  All of the signature trappings GTA is known for are thankfully included: the radio stations, the commercials, the fake movies and television, epic stunt jumps, hidden items, random pedestrian banter, political / social commentary, and the shameless parody of American life.  Everything in the title is presented with an impeccable and unprecedented level of care to even the minutest detail, the game is a brilliant masterpiece that will be imitated but certainly never equaled.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Let’s start with the feature I wasn’t excited about at all: the three unique protagonists.  My first thought when this addition was touted was “So what?  That’s exactly like GTA4 with two other people.”  Shame on me for being a doubter, character switching practically makes the game for me.  The other playable characters function completely separately in the world, and rotating between them on the fly is absolutely encouraged.  Just finished skydiving with Franklin and stuck with a long drive back from Mount Chiliad?  Time to catch up with Michael, you might find him mid argument with his adulterous wife.  Tired of catering to Michael’s spoiled rotten children?  Switch over to Trevor who you’ll find passed out in his underwear straddling a balcony overlooking the city.  You can also swap seamlessly to your multiplayer character at any time, and throughout the many times transitioning I never found any of the characters in the same situation.

Grand Theft Auto 5

The world of Los Santos is so gorgeously detailed I found myself following random pedestrians on the street just to hear their side of hilarious cell phone conversations.  A couple of the radio commercials and conversations made me laugh so hard I paused mid-mission just to hear the end of them.  Other games have shown similar levels in depth of world, but none of them have made me feel like the city existed without me playing the game.  You’ll lose yourself in Los Santos for hours on end, even if the game was only single player it would take awhile to get bored with everything you can explore and interact with.  I’m still hearing songs and hilarious commercials on the radio I’ve never heard, seeing signs and references I didn’t notice, and coming up with new ways to stymie the police.  Honestly, I don’t even feel like I’ve scratched the surface, I’m sure there are thousands of details, jokes, and allusions I haven’t even noticed yet.

Grand Theft Auto 5

The online world is also an absolute treat that adds exponentially to the gameplay.  Unfortunately not all of the bugs have been worked out yet, I did get to play a lengthy session with a few buddies this past weekend and we all had an unadulterated blast.  I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out after all of the issues are fixed; the multiplayer is essentially a celebration of everything that makes the single player so incredible.  The day one bugs were displeasing, but only if you were completely bored with the single player game.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Rockstar didn’t invent the sandbox style game but they have proven multiple times over that they are undoubtedly the pioneers of the genre.  Grand Theft Auto 5 is a fitting goodbye to this generation of consoles, one that truly shows the untapped potential our hobby still has still yet to uncover.  I can’t recommend this game enough, but odds are you are already playing it.  Enjoy every second of the experience; it might be another five years before we get to see something this prodigious and wonderful.

Frogger’s Adventures: The Rescue

 Frogger adventures
This was the last batch of games my girlfriend had left over beside one other game I already had played on GameCube. From here on I must obtain PS2 games on my own. Which shouldn’t be too hard since they’re so cheap. So yeah this is the first Frogger game I’ve played since the first game.
Frogger
Obviously I mean the arcade original. I didn’t exactly play it in the arcade. I did play it on some arcade collection disc for some system. I also had a bad version of it on Atari 2600. For such an old arcade game it holds up decently. I don’t mind a game or two of Frogger.
Frogger adventures
Frogger has had many re-releases, remakes, and reboots over the years. This is a more modern take, and it’s very kid friendly. Well at least graphically and story wise. The game-play is a bit old-schooled, and pretty challenging. I also had some problems with the controls, Frogger died many times because I accidentally jumped too far or turned the wrong way.
Frogger adventures
I did get the hang of it after awhile, and mastered the game a bit more. It’s still pretty tough for the demographic they were targeting. It’s got decent levels, colorful graphics, and an ample amount of content. It’s not the greatest game in the world, but I had a lot more fun with the game than I expected.

Score: 7 out of 10

Torchlight

Torchlight is An Affordable, Engaging Dungeon Crawler

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Torchlight’s art style is a fresh perspective. There is virtually no gray to be seen, unlike in games such as Fallout 3 and Gears of War. Instead, the visual style is bright and almost cartoony, which adds to the charm of Torchlight. The graphics are nowhere near being equal to Uncharted 2 but they serve well to fit the game style. In fact, in the options menu there is an option to turn on netbook mode. This helps scale the look of Torchlight so that your netbook and older laptops are able to play this game. I have not seen an option like this in all of my pc gaming life. When I saw that, I had to try it on my netbook and sure enough, it worked flawlessly. As you venture forth into the dungeons, the creatures you encounter are diverse; you will be killing skeletons, rats, zombies, imps, as well as giant boss monsters.
torchlight
While crawling through these dungeons you are welcomed with a beautiful score. This is no surprise because the lead on music is none other than Matt Uelman the composer for both Diablo and Diablo II. The soundtrack of Torchlight has a gentile quality about it. The music does not get in the way of the game but brings out a mystical feeling. When eerie music is playing, there are enemies nearby, building up what little suspense there is because soon you are in a fight. While fighting, the music does not get loud and obnoxious. It still plays gently in the background waiting for you to finish.
torchlight

You start the game by choosing which class you want to play. The three classes you can pick from are Destroyer, Alchemist, and Vanquisher. The Destroyer is the tank that bashes his way through the enemies. The Alchemist is the mage who can cast magic or summon minions to do his bidding. Lastly, the Vanquisher has a vast array of ranged attacks and weapons that he may use, such as bows, guns, and throwing knives.

torchlight

Each character has their own motives behind voyaging to the town of Torchlight. While you are there, the corruption of the emerald crystals resonates in the mines and you are asked to stop the evil from spreading, putting aside your own motives. If you want to fall off the beaten path of the story there are opportunities to do this as well. There is always something to do in Torchlight. The residents of the town will assign you side quests which are either “go kill so and so” or “go collect X object.”

torchlight

Alongside your hero are two pets that can accompany you on your missions. You can pick from a mountain lion or a wolf. Your pet acts as storage space as well as aids you in battle. The most effective way to have your pet help you vanquish foes is by feeding it magic fish you can catch. These fish transform your pet into a ferocious beast. These beast transformations include spiders, goblins and other monsters. Each beast your pet transforms into has his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

torchlight

Torchlight is not a flawless gem, however. There are some issues such as a lack of multiplayer. That said, I have heard that there is a massive multiplayer online version of Torchlight under development. One thing that consistently bugged me was that the storage space you have while in the dungeon is small. Nonetheless, the developers gave you a pet so that you can give it items and you can send your pet to the store to sell those items, prolonging your need to return to town.

torchlight

The Final Word

Overall, Torchlight is a fun little game with lots of replay value. Despite its minor flaws, Torchlight does a lot of things right. If you are a student like myself and are waiting for class to start or if you are someone looking for a relaxing dungeon crawling game there is no need to look further than Torchlight.

The Scorecard

8

Limbo

limbo

First of all I’d like to say that for a puzzle platformer, Limbo is a solid game. It’s easy to pick up and play, the controls are simple, the physics are great, and it’s not terribly frustrating. It’s selling point however is supposedly the atmosphere that the game brings and the mystery behind the meaning of it all. It’s decent, not the best, but great for what it is. . .unless you’ve played other games like it.

limbo

There was a video on Youtube where in the comments people were talking about theories for the ending/non existing story for the game. The only thing i had to say was this;

limbo

My theory: he found his sister, the end. The only clues given about this game is the title and that this kid has to find his sister. That’s about it. sure there are things throughout the various levels that you can speculate about, but games of this style have been done before & better (another world, braid, etc). As much as I would love to pull theories out of thin air, I don’t feel there’s any reason with this game. it’s not THAT engrossing as a whole, & seems kind of lazy comparatively speaking. *end comment*
limbo
I guess the reason why I’m NOT ABSOLUTELY LOVING THIS GAME is because games like Another world and Braid were great simply because they were something different (and if you wanted a game shrouded in obscurity and dripping with existentialism, there’s always Passage and Yume Nikki) They were stand alone games. This whole “guessing game” within games buried in silent mystery and artsy-ness seems to be a new genre emerging.

limbo

I’m not sure that I like that idea of that so much. It’s not that I don’t like these types of games, in fact I love these games and games that make the player think and feel a sense of immersion, but I feel that it would give new developers an excuse to make a poorer product. This game seems to be an example of that. Don’t get me wrong, it’ still a decent game, and a lot of fun to play, but I feel they could have done more with it. It just doesn’t have the same charm as the other games.

Of course, if you haven’t played those other games that I mentioned, then yes, this game will be one of the most amazing things you’ll ever experience. It’s short, worth a play through, and definitely worth checking out.

Lost Planet 2

Lost-Planet-2-

Everyone knows that it’s more fun to read a bad review than it is to read a good one. One thing you learn quickly in journalism school is that it’s also more fun to write a bad review. This simple fact has led me to always let myself cool off before writing a piece on something that has gotten under my skin. Even with this cool down period, I still find myself cursing Lost Planet 2.

The original Lost Planet was released in early 2007 for the Xbox 360 and later for the PC and Playstation 3. The third-person shooter showcased battles against massive bugs called the Akrid and impressive snow-covered environments. The story focused on Wayne, a young man who joins up with a group of Snow Pirates to combat the nefarious plans of NEVEC, your typical evil corporation.

The unmemorable story was given a pass because of how fun it was to jump in mechs known as Vital Suits (VS) and blast away soldiers and Akrid alike.

Lost Planet 2 receives no such pass. Now, in addition to an even more forgettable story, gamers must slog through a fundamentally broken game.

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Set a decade after the original, Lost Planet 2 features six episodes, each told from a different perspective. The snow-covered world of EDN III has been thawing for 10 years, causing an increase in Akrid activity. Many rival factions are fighting for the precious thermal energy (T-ENG) that is harvested from the big bugs. The plots of each individual episode intertwine in various ways but the ties are not strong enough to form a decent narrative. Characters in each episode are interchangeable thanks to Capcom’s decision to mask every character in the game. Your armor clad heroes are so indistinguishable that in one cutscene I believed my character had been killed, when in reality it was just a teammate that looked identical to the protagonist.

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The few times the plot gains momentum it fails due to the game’s pace-killing mission structure. Each episode is divided into chapters and each chapter is divided into several missions. The missions last at most 15 minutes, so any action packed sections end just as they really get going. Some of the shorter missions barely last five minutes making the front and back-end loading and statistics reports jarring and disruptive. Breaking up the chapters in this manner seems even more pointless when you consider the fact that you can’t save your game between missions.

The episode environments are varied but you’ll end up doing basically the same thing in every one. While the game tells you that the objective is to take control of a train or cause a mining drill to spin out of control it always comes down the same thing: taking control points. The T-ENG data-posts from the original game seem to be the most important thing on EDN III. These points are apparently the only control scheme on the planet so every mission has you capturing all of the posts on the map while shooting waves of faceless goons.

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While gaining control of the precious posts various small forms of Akrid will harass your squad and every so often a massive Category-G beast will show up. The battles against these colossal Akrid should be the thrilling highlights of the game. In reality they’re just as tedious as the standard objectives. Everyone weapon in the game, including those attached to the various Vital Suits, slowly chip away at the Cat-Gs’ life bars. The battles start out thrilling but a few minutes in it devolves into shooting the glowing weak point with your pea-shooters until the bug drops.

The Cat-G fights showcase just how little thought was put into Lost Planet 2′s design. In the very first encounter you’ll be forced to spend 15 minutes slowly killing the Akrid with the default machine gun. As the beast rises out of a lake you get a great view of Vital Suits and rocket launchers. The problem is, they’re on the other side of a door that doesn’t open until after thebattle. All the wonderful toys are for mopping up leftover Akrid while activating, you guessed it, data-posts.

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The design missteps drive the fun from Lost Planet 2. The clear focus on co-op makes playing solo an exercise in futility. The mini-map doesn’t indicate the altitude of objectives making finding data-posts in cluttered levels more tedious than normal. There are quicktime events peppered throughout the cutscenes but they’re so infrequent that it’s easy to put the controller down and forget they even exist. When one does pop up you have to fumble to find it and input a single button press. I know just about everyone complains about QTE-heavy games but putting just a random few into a title doesn’t solve anything. Unlocks provided by a slot machine more likely to give you nick-names than weapons, the fact that when hit you can’t fire back, being knocked-back by every attack (often sending you off a level), atrocious AI; the list of poor ideas grows more and more as you play the game.

Then there’s the unnecessarily convoluted controls. Buttons are given four or five uses causing you to often do the exact opposite of what you meant to. Want to transfer T-ENG to teammates so they can heal themselves? Press triangle and L1. Press triangle a split-second too soon and you’ll switch weapons instead. Press L1 a split-second too soon and you’ll throw a grenade at your pals. To activate a data-post you repeatedly tap circle. That also happens to be the button for melee attacks. I often found myself smacking data-posts with the butt of my rifle instead of activating them. It’s also sprint so you could very well just run past the posts.

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Capcom also expects you to read the game’s manual. While this is something I frequently do, major features should also get a mention in the in-game tutorial. The dodge roll, an very important maneuver, isn’t even referenced in the control page of the options menu. By the way, it’s executed by pressing X and L3 at the same time. Yes, dodge rolling forces you to either use the uncomfortable claw method of holding the controller or take your thumb off the right stick, causing you to lose the ability to stay focused on what you’re escaping from.

Also omitted from the game’s tutorial are the T-ENG powered weapon caches. The glowing boxes require an infusion of the precious energy to open up. The weapons inside are almost always worth the sacrifice but if you don’t read the manual there’s no clue about how to open them.

I desperately wanted to like Lost Planet 2. Capcom’s MT Framework engine does a stellar job making the massive Akrid and environments look great. The music conveys an epic feeling and the front-end menus are well-crafted. The game isn’t completely devoid of fun. Playing with friends greatly improves the experience but in the end it’s still a prime example of wasted potential. For every thing the game does right there are three or four truly awful design choices. Lost Planet 2 is easily the biggest disappointment, so far, of 2010.

Lost Planet 2 was developed and published by Capcom. It was released on May 11, 2010 for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. A PC version will be released on May 18, 2010. A copy was purchased by this author for review on the Playstation 3.

Saints Row IV

Saints Row 4 cover

Saints Row started out as a GTA parody (which in itself is supposed to be a parody of real life) but has grown into something beyond that… way beyond that! Although I haven’t played the first Saints Row game (which I believe only came out on the consoles) I have played every game from Saints Row 2 and up. In Saints Row 2 you are the leader of a street gang and are fighting all the other gangs for control of the city. In SR3 you are fighting an evil megacorp for control of the city (again). Well in 4 you skip the scale of trying to take over a state or a country by saving the world from nuclear Armageddon and becoming the president of the United States of America. That’s not all but very quickly after the game starts Aliens attack Earth, the humans lose, you and your friends get abducted and placed in a virtual jail.

So, right from the start the game skips being a GTA clone and quickly becomes something like the game Prototype, and that’s a VERY good thing. Imagine the movie Chronicle meets the Matrix except that instead of being a pussy like Neo you go around trying to break the rules of reality and morality by doing a bunch of crazy shit! You gain super powers that completely change the game around the more powers you gain, as well as upgrade them to be even more metapowerful. Effectively you are the comic book character The Flash mixed with the main character from Prototype as well as a mage… basically you are a God. 😀

Now think of how awesome it would be to be a God in a universe with little or no consequence as well as being inside of Saints Row a game with some of the best humor ever found in video games. This is a winning combination!

You will find all sorts of references in this game to TRON, the Matrix, Dark City, Chronicle, most super hero comics you ever read, something like Highlander and Buffy, text adventure games, 90s side scroller games, 80s-90s arcade games, every previous Saints Row game, the Commodore 64, space operas, Mass Effect, Inception, pop culture, Pleasantville, Shadowrun, Warhammer 40k, Keith David, They Live, Roddy Piper, and so on.

Graphics: 10 out of 10
The Havok engine is simply beautiful and is efficient!

Music: 9 out of 10
Holy shit they put real songs in this game such as music from Aerosmith and Paula Abdul and others. Some of the game’s score is a remix of SR3 music and that’s amazing!

Fun Factor: 10 out of 10
It’s fun telepathically picking up a flaming garbage truck and flinging it into a stack of aliens. Most of the game involves going around doing mini games which often results in a lot of explosions. It took me a long time to get bored of it.

Difficulty: 5 out of 10
I found the game easy even on hard. Yes, there are a few parts that are freaking hard on hard but it doesn’t take many retries to finally beat them. Since you can summon allies the more you hack the simulation it becomes easy (at least for me).

Value: 10 out of 10
I would say buy it at any price, especially if you have a friend that has it, you can play the co-op campaign.

Overall score: 10 out of 10
Stop reading this and go play it. The universe needs you to save it from an evil alien overlord.

Payday 2: The Heist

Payday2_Tittle

As an avid player of first person shooters I believe the genre that unfortunately dominates gaming has grown mighty stale.  It would be challenging to muster up the enthusiasm for another cookie-cutter war-based storyline even if Activision programmed an unlockable Christina Hendricks sex tape into this fall’s Call of Duty: Every Single November.  Payday 2 intrigued the hell out of me however because its themes are mostly untapped in the realm of first person shooters, and honestly, who hasn’t dreamt about robbing a bank Point Break style?  Unfortunately what Overkill studios have given us is half a game here, which is a real shame because with a little more care this could have been an absolute masterpiece.

Payday 2

If you don’t plan on playing Payday 2 online with friends don’t even bother, the AI is so glaringly bad it’s a wonder that the title ever made it out of production.  Most of the missions inevitably involve your crew transporting some sort of cargo to an awaiting van, and your computer partners aren’t even able to accomplish the simple task of picking up an object and dropping it off in the correct location.  On a positive note the AI won’t completely muff up your perfectly planned stealth attempts on purpose, something I certainly can’t say for the majority of random players I encountered online.

Payday 2

The most enjoyable way to play Payday 2 is with three of your friends who actually use microphones.  When the missions are pulled off flawlessly you will feel extremely satiated as a player, but communication and precise planning are necessary, even on some of the easier and shorter selections.  One stupid mistake can cost you an entire run, and this will happen 99.9 percent of the time you even attempt, making robberies that don’t end up turning into the last act of Dog Day Afternoon both extremely rare and immensely rewarding.

Payday 2

There are only ten main missions, but the locations of goods, cameras, guards, and safes are always generated randomly.  This is the much-needed adrenaline shot of replay value that the game desperately needs, it would be far too easy to complete the levels if everything remained the same during every play through.  Picking missions can actually be a chore however, there’s no menu per say, just a map with jobs of varying difficulty appearing at random.  I understand what the developers were going for here, but after searching for a specific mission without success numerous times I was really longing for a traditional level selection system.

Payday 2

The character leveling is very addictive but also nothing original.  Four separate skill trees are selectable, and mixing and matching perks from each is encouraged, you’ll have plenty of flexibility by level 50, and that’s only the halfway point: Payday 2 is a long grind to 100.  Supposedly six DLC packs are on the way, this should alleviate the main ten missions growing stale even with the randomness factor figured in.

Despite its many egregious flaws I got tons of enjoyment out of Payday 2: The Heist when I was playing with a few of my buddies, alone however it was an absolute chore that frustrated me consistently.  If you have a steady crew you can recruit this is a must have game to scratch that criminal urge until Grand Theft Auto releases next month.

R-Type Dimensions

r-type-dimensions

If there was one thing I would not expect to do on a next-gen console, is to play games from the older generation. Boy was I wrong! Even though I do own a SNES and a Master System 2, I still happily play old and new titles on my Xbox Classic, the 360 and the Wii. The 360 and the Wii offer access to their exclusive online stores, and amongst the titles on there are a lot of old games from the older consoles. With that said, a lot of companies lately are remaking classics (and doing quite a faithful job of it as well!) Enter R-Type Dimensions.

r-type-dimensions

My past experiences with the R-Type games weren’t overly immense. A brief stint at a Timezone in Sydney back in the 80’s , the rental-to-almost-purchase on the Master System 2 in the early 90’s, and a sequel on the SNES (R-type 3). A frustratingly hard game? Some could say that, but I’ll go with exuberantly challenging. For those who don’t know what R-Type is, it is a side-scrolling shooter, think 1942 but with a side-on perspective. The storyline is that there’s the evil Bydo empire invading the universe, you are a pilot of a small ship sent to stop this evil.

r-type-dimensions

Okay, not much to it really, but this is the kind of game, where the storyline doesn’t mean a thing, and gameplay is where it matters. R-Type Dimensions is a faithful remake to the original game on the arcade. The graphics have been enhanced to a more modern (3D) feel, and I’ll be honest, they (IREM who were the original creators of R-Type, Tozai, and SouthEnd) did an amazing job of keeping the remake faithful to the classic, also by including an option to swap between HD and Classic graphic mode flawlessly, as the High-def visuals were rolled over onto the originals (Plural, yes, it includes R-Type I & II).

r-type-dimensions

The game was, and still is very challenging, getting to the point that many levels can not be passed easily unless you have 1-3 seconds of invincibility after you die, and a new ship appears. You have multiple power-ups, one of them infamously is your satellite, which is mounted to the front or rear of the ship, and can be jettisoned at will and returned back to the front or the rear of the ship. With the usual speed-ups and missile power-ups, you will find interesting methods on attacking the hordes of enemies, and figuring out how to defeat each end-level boss without losing 50 or so lives.

r-type-dimensions

Speaking about the lives, there is also an infinite mode, meaning you have unlimited lives to plow through the game with. The challenge there I suppose is to see who can finish the game with the least lives. There is also a co-op mode which would be beneficial for plowing through such a hard game.

On the XBLA for 1200 Microsoft Points, some would argue that the price for title like this is questionable. R-Type Dimensions is definitely a title for those who appreciated the original on just about any platform since it’s release.

4.5 out of 5

Pros:
– extremely loyal remake to the original
– ability to swap between new and old graphics
– challenging

Cons:
– Price may be questionable
– Plenty of moments where you could lob your controller across the lounge room from frustration

Oracle of Seasons

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The great thing about playing on the 3DS is that you can save anywhere and load back instantly. This will help you in some instances where you have to perform a few tasks to get an item or power-up. ~J.A. Laraque

Oracle of Seasons

As someone who loved the top down versions of the Zelda world getting a chance to play Oracle of Seasons on my 3DS was a real treat since I never got to play the Gameboy Color version. Now Oracle of Ages, which I will discuss in a follow-up article deals more so with the puzzle elements of classic Zelda games you would find on the NES, SNES and Gameboy. Seasons deals with the action element and much like, A Link to the Past, the game tosses you right into it. In fact, I would say that if you never played any of the top down Zelda adventures before it may seem a bit tough at first, but the learning curve is not hard at all and soon you are slashing down enemies and defeating dungeons.

Oracle of Seasons

Now as far as the story you kind of have to think of this as Link’s Adventures as it is not about saving Zelda or the Triforce except for the fact that it is the Triforce the directs you to the town of Holodrum. Once you arrive you meet Din and soon she is kidnapped by the evil Onox because she is the Oracle of Seasons. Because of this the lands weather is thrown into chaos which does add a cool element to the game since the weather changes periodically and that can decide where you can and cannot go and what items you will need to advance.

Oracle of Seasons

Most of what you need to do is told to you by the Maku Tree, but if you are used to the top down Zelda games the point is to get specific items that allow you to advance to even more places and defeat enemies in and out of dungeons. The great thing about playing on the 3DS is that you can save anywhere and load back instantly. This will help you in some instances where you have to perform a few tasks to get an item or power-up. For instance, in one area you have to dance to get an item. Now the dance is not hard, but if you are struggling then you can do a move correctly, save and then continue and if you mess up you can start from where you saved not having to begin the dance all over.

Oracle of Seasons

Now let’s pause for a moment to say that you should get both Oracle of Ages and Seasons as you can link them and when you beat one game you get a code that can be entered in the other game. I played Seasons first, but went back and played Ages and then Season and when you do you change the story a bit. I won’t spoil anything, but some of the changes are small and others are huge like a different final boss fight.

Oracle of Seasons

Now the zones in the game are pretty interesting. Remember going to the dark world in Link to the Past, well, while the changes are not that drastic there are four different versions of every screen you are on when in the outside world. This is because of the four seasons. As I said, the seasons changing can help you get somewhere you could not normally. For instance, a lake in the summer is frozen so you can walk over it in the winter.

Oracle of Seasons

In the game you will receive the Rod of Seasons which you will need to power up in the underground town of Subrosia. With the rod you can change the weather on command which is key to get to certain places. You will not get all the seasons at once, you start off with winter and eventually get them all.

Oracle of Seasons

Besides the rod you get many of the normal items you would expect including the boomerang, torch and bombs. You can select one of the items and assign it to your secondary button with your primary being your sword attack. You can also collect rings which add different abilities or augments existing ones. It is important to upgrade your items and weapons as the boss fights are harder than you might remember from previous Zelda games. The final fight with Onox is especially hard if you do not upgrade. Now if you are a Zelda vet you can do it, but then again if you are a Zelda vet then you want to explore, collect and upgrade via side quests.

Overall, Oracle of Seasons is a great addition to the portable Zelda series. The game is more action oriented than some of the other Zelda games, but that is not a bad thing.  The story is good enough and the graphics and changing seasons are a nice touch. I would recommend however, getting Oracle of Ages to go along with Seasons and if you do play Ages first.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
When I originally previewed Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale I was pretty excited about it, what with it being the first DnD 4th edition CRPG to hit PCs and consoles; an interesting choice supported by its advertised modular system and episodic, thus manageable, lenght. Then the first reviews came -hitting sites a few days before the review copy hit my door- and they were less than stellar. Everyone complained about something and I decided to stop reading before actually playing the game, though the damage was done.
 Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
I installed the PC version of Daggerdale with the lowest of expectations, only to have them sink further when I was asked to either join or log into gamespy. Now, I’m not a multiplayer fanatic, but I have come to expect to enjoy such overtly social modes of gaming without having to sign up with any service. Always thought that Steam was more than capable and more than enough for this sort of things, and seeing Daggerdale run via Steam yet still requiring me to remember one more password, well, I simply couldn’t be bothered. Then again, in CRPGs it’s the solo experience that counts, isn’t it? Of course it is dear.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

On to the single-player campaign it was then and I went on to choose among the four available characters (a Halfling wizard, a Dwarven cleric, an Elven rogue and a Human fighter), customize him/her and go on and travel to the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. There I would get to explore the catacombs of Tethyamar under the Desrtmouth Mountains (I’m not making those names up you know; and, yes, I haven’t played any proper DnD for years now), where a dwarven community is having troubles with goblins, undead things, an assortment of nasties and the malicious deity Bane. So far, so generic, I know, but playing through this story felt oddly refreshing and reminiscent of the things a seasoned DM would come up with.

Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale

 The game itself is a pure hack-and-slash affair sporting some great combat mechanics, deeper character customization than one would expect and -impressively- some lovely and pretty varied graphics. What’s more, the thing is properly entertaining and really addictive, meaning that, yes, Daggerdale did manage to endear itself. At heart it’s a great action-RPG with some good ideas and an apparently powerful engine behind it. Even the lack of a proper save function doesn’t completely destroy the experience, despite it being incredibly frustrating.
Dungeons & Dragons - Daggerdale
The varied bugs, visual glitches, lack of overall polish and shoddy camera, on the other hand, do border on infuriating and keep Daggerdale from becoming the game it could be, which is frankly a shame, especially considering it gets so many things right. Then again, there’s always hope that the first patch will fix things up considerably… Oh, and the game’s length is longer than I expected, without it ever becoming boring.


Verdict: A traditional hack-and-slash CRPG that’s too buggy for its own good. Definitely worth a try if you are into this sort of thing and don’t mind the generic plot.

Halo 2

 

halo 2

I never really played Halo 1 that much since I didn’t have a good PC at the time it came out for that version (really bad trust me), and never had the friends at home locally to enjoy the first game.

halo 2

Halo 2 was a big jump up in graphics from the first game, and they did add a lot of new stuff like dual wielding and energy swords now. The single player was enjoyable but kinda left you half empty. I liked playing as Master Chief, I thought Arbiter’s bad guy turned good story-line was uninteresting and stupid. If I’m going to play as a alien you killed a ton of in the last game, then I want to kill humans not other aliens.
halo 2
The multiplayer is why I was hooked on Halo 2 for so long. So many maps by the time I got to it, and so much fun. Slayer, CTF, all kinds of modes, and some of the best maps in Halo history. I really sucked at the game at first, but it eventually made me a decent Halo player and I can hold my own in Halo 3 and Reach.

Alien Crush Returns

Alien Crush Returns

It’s scary to think that it’s now 23 years since Naxat dreamed up the genesis of the Crush series. There have since been several sequels, both official and otherwise, the last of which was the little-known Jaki Crush, itself now almost 20 years old, but that was it. Until now! Yes, in a move of special magnificence, Tamsoft have resurrected this great series and what better way of doing so than to remake the original? Alien Crush Returns is more of a sequel than a remake really though and they’ve even managed to tack on a backstory this time!

Alien Crush Returns

Apparently “an elite squad of space marines sets off to investigate an alien spaceship trapped in Jupiter’s gravity” or some such nonsense. Sound familiar? How they’ve managed to facilitate a pinball game with that story I don’t know, but the game includes a story mode, arcade mode, ranking mode and versus mode (1-4 player), and as well as multiple tables, including bonus tables as always, and lots of other sweet features like multi ball, reverse ball, etc.

Alien Crush Returns

The biggest change between this game and the original is of course the graphics which are lovely and suitably grotesque, including pulsating sacs, toothy mouths, slimy tubes, scuttling insects, and all manner of horrifying beasts. There’s even huge bosses this time too! There are initially three tables to play in arcade mode (although more can be downloaded) and the ball pings around them at quite a speed, probably the fastest of any Crush game so far, and as usual they are packed with secrets and bonuses galore.

Alien Crush Returns

I haven’t yet spent any time playing this game as I don’t own a Wii but the prospect of playing it sure makes buying one a tempting prospect, and the possibility of a Devil’s Crush Returns in the future is even more exciting! So, Alien Crush has indeed returned but is it better than the original? Well, that remains to be seen, but I can’t wait to find out!

RKS Score: 4/5

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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The 2000’s were a disappointing decade for Star Wars fans. The old movies were just getting more old, the books were doing a little good, but the prequel movies failed to impress many fans of the older movies. However there was one shining light that might have been as good as the first time you got to see Empire Strikes Back. That game was Knights of the Old Republic.
knights-of-the-old-republic

The combat was probably the weakest thing about KOTOR, which isn’t probably a bad thing when the quest was so long, the characters so memorable, and a story that dragged on you for the ride. Republic solider Carth, Jedi Bastila, alien teenager Mission, her wookie Zaalbar, weird cat lady Juhani, and the evil droid HK-47 all have their deep but interesting back-stories, and provide memorable parts to the main plot. The Sith Lord Dark Malak made the first really great Star Wars villain since Darth Vader.

Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic - xbox - gameplay screenshot - 2
You’re looking at a game they could easily give you 30-50 hours of gameplay without boredom or parts that you have to stomach so you can get to the goodness. That alone warrants itself a place on my list. However not only that, it helped revive the quality in the Star Wars franchise, put Bioware in the spotlight, and was so good that we couldn’t stand much of the 2nd game developed by Obsidian Entertainment even though it was a good game in itself but not compared to the original.

Ninja Gaiden

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I never cared for Devil May Cry nor God of War, so I wasn’t exactly sure how well I was going to love Ninja Gaiden which rebooted the NES series on Xbox. After about ten minutes I was hooked, and I have loved the series ever since and I even went back and enjoyed the first two NES games.
ninja-gaiden
I think my main deal with GoW or DMC is really just the combat. I think they are a bit too slow and sluggish and the enemies seem to take too much of a punch for no reason. With Ninja Gaiden, enemies take long to defeat only when you’re not skilled enough to take them out effienctly. The bosses were excellent, the combat smooth, and their was a little RPG-ish shop system that made the game a little easier after the game gets much harder.


Though Tecmo gave us this weird monster lady boss, and even though it was a good fight, Tecmo is pathetically trying to put a thong on anything female. Works with Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden… not so much. Joking aside, I think this is the best game in the series, and even though Ninja Gaiden II sucked monkey balls. I think Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword on the DS was fantastic and a much truer sequel than the 360 train-wreck.

Star Trek

Star_Trek_Game

I am a die-hard unapologetic lover of all things Star Trek related.  The source material however has never led to great achievements in the realm of gaming where the Star Wars franchise seems to perpetually excel.  The last Trek game on current gen hardware was Star Trek: Legacy, an extremely glitchy and muddled mess; the only redeeming factor was including real voice acting from all 5 captains.  When I picked up the new game, I never imagined in a million light years that I would be desperately missing Legacy.

Star_Trek_Game

Let’s start with Star Trek’s most blatant problem: it’s a shoddily executed cover based shooter.  The pacing of the episodes certainly lends itself better to any other genre of gaming, and this repetitive slog had me wishing I were playing the RTS space battles of Legacy (or anything else) again.  I never thought I’d see Kirk and Spock trudging through generic levels like a poor man’s Marcus and Dom, much less interspersed with arduous platforming sections that make Damnation look like Tomb Raider in comparison.  The jumping mechanic is so poorly realized that I often got lost on the lengthy journey by not attempting leaps that seemed impossible to make at first glance.

Star_Trek_Game

The main characters are also completely interchangeable.  Besides Kirk brandishing a “Captain’s Phaser” and Spock wielding a “Vulcan Repeater” there is absolutely no difference between the playable trekkers sans aesthetics.  If you are going to give us a choice of two characters at least make them perform a little differently, especially since the relationship between Kirk and Spock is one of the driving plotlines of all of the films and the original series.

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Star Trek was always about helping your fellow man (or alien); the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, ect.  Apparently, the many all need to be repeatedly shot point blank in the face because other then a few random tricorder readings that’s basically all you accomplish.  Sure, you are encouraged to set phasers to stun and then knock out your enemies, but when you can just dispatch them safely from behind cover with zero penalty then what is exactly the point besides painfully shoehorning some of the familiar trappings of the series?

Star_Trek_Game

Fortunately the current cast members perform all the voice acting, unfortunately this is actually a negative because the actors seem like they could care less about the actual acting.  To say that Zoe Saldana’s performance was laborious could be misconstrued as a complement.  Pine and Quinto are barely above average, and (big surprise) Simon Pegg is the only one who seems to even care about being there at all.  How often do you get an entire original cast to perform in a video game?  Like everything else on display the voice acting is truly a squandered and sloppy opportunity.

Star_Trek_Game

The Gorn play the generic bad guys here, you’ll remember them as the lizard like creatures Kirk rolled a boulder onto at Vasquez Rocks, the same location featured in numerous other Hollywood productions like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and Paul.  If you can’t tell how bored I was with the game please refer to my previous sentence where I write about a famous rock formation instead of explaining in more detail how disappointing the experience actually was.

Unfortunately for fans it seems the Star Trek franchise is still waiting patiently to get the Batman: Arkham Asylum treatment.  I’m confident that a developer who truly understands Star Trek could make an excellent game that is both exciting to play and faithful to the canon.  Currently what we are left with is this stinking pile of half assed ideas that are executed with the grace of a wet fart in a windowless room.  I tried, but even my extreme fandom couldn’t find a way to reprogram the simulator to make the game bearable.  Kobiashi Maru indeed.

Jade Empire

jadeempire

Bioware had a lot to live up to after they quit the KOTOR series. They said they were going to make a more original game cause apparently stupid shit like making sure every stupid alien having the right eye color is very important to George Lucas and fanboys. The result was a similar yet different game based on the old days of China.

I say that the move was a good choice, though you kinda do wished they stayed and made another KOTOR game. But the plot choices in the KOTOR games are almost the same as they are in Jade Empire, and the story is enjoyable even though I didn’t like the plot twist near the end.
 jadeempire
The combat is much different than KOTOR giving it more an action kind of feel. It’s good, but it had it’s flaws, though if they did make a sequel I think they could of fixed and tweaked all their mistakes. The quest is also quite a bit shorter than the KOTOR games, but nevertheless, this is one of Bioware’s finest games and if you’re a fan you need to play this.

Fable

 Fable
Fable was released with some of the biggest hype any game has ever received. It was apparently the deepest and longest game on the Xbox from what people were hoping. Then they found out it could easily be beat in 10 hours or so.
Fable
Despite falling from the near-perfect tier of first party games, Fable is still one of my favorite games on the Xbox. Not too overly complicated, and the choice system was impressive for the time. I was kinda good from what I remember but didn’t look like gandalf or satan by the end. The combat had a few problems, but this was probably the closest thing the Xbox had to the Zelda series, which had almost no puzzles, but more action and lots of little side-quests.
Fable
I know this game gets a lot of hate, but I personally thought the story and setting were charming, and despite unworthy bragging rights, it still was a good game. I just wish Peter Molyneux would just move on from the Fable series and start fresh, since I doubt he’s going to perfect it like he wants to.

Half-Life 2

 Half-life-2
Half-Life 2 was a smash hit on the PC, however you needed a pretty good graphics card back in the day to run the damn thing good. So many were hoping for a watered down port for the consoles, and even though it took a bit of time, Valve delivered that on Xbox like they did for the first game on PS2.
Half-life-2
I did play 1 on PS2 (I don’t play PC games), and really thought it was one of the worst shooters that I put my hands on. Most of that might of been aging, and the crumminess of the PS2 port (from what I hear), so I decided to give 2 a try and the Xbox version does the series justice. The graphical framerate can be a problem for nickpicky people, but the load-times are defiantly the thorn in this game’s paw. Long and frequent, get used to it.
Half-life-2
Half-life 2 is a fun and impressive game, with such variety and diversity in the enemies and levels. I think my favorite level was Ravenholm since it had that perfect Halloween spooky feel to it, and was really the only spot I really thought the gravity gun got it’s full use. I do wish I kinda waited until I bought the Orange Box though since the port on that one is much much better than this version. However even a crappy port of great game, can sometimes be a great game if you can tolerate imperfections.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

 Oddworld - Stranger's Wrath
I never got into the Oddworld series on PS1 (friend had one of them and I thought it was awful), and the first Xbox game looked kinda dumb, so Stranger’s Wrath was actually the first and only entry I truly gave a shot. You play some kind of weird monster bounty hunter who can run like a leopard, and shoot like a marine.
 Oddworld - Stranger's Wrath

Except marines never had weapons as cool as this game’s arsenal. Each ammo type providing a different way to kill an enemy. Some worked better on others, some were traps, etc. You had plenty to play with so you never felt bored when it came right down to it.

Oddworld - Stranger's Wrath

I think one of my favorite things is the different approaches to defeating a level or boss. This level right here I believe is from the earlier parts of the game where you have to sneak past guards near this fort, so you can sneak up on your bounty kill. Took me many tries, but finally found a strategy that worked for me.
Oddworld - Stranger's Wrath
I think the game’s only big fault is that the difficulty is a bit bi-polar. It doesn’t gradually goes up, one moment its okay, and then bam you get hit with an almost impossible challenge. I would probably rank OSW higher, but I got stuck on a boss that you couldn’t hurt unless you knocked him off a platform, and you had a whole bunch of shit thrown at you before you could capture him or kill him. A bit of a fuck up I think on their part. Heard it’s coming to PSN though, which gives PS3 owners a chance to play one of the best Xbox games ever crafted.

Star Wars: Battlefront II

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As a fan of Star Wars, there was no way I couldn’t get this game. It was like that Battlefield1942 game I heard about but with light-sabers and shit.  Basically that was the concept and it worked well. You could play as low level storm troopers, Jedi, Sith, even Wookies were fair play. Some more balanced than others, but lots of fan service especially the Jedi and Sith characters to play as. The single player mode was a decent affair. Lots of action, good variety in missions, and probably the better of the two modes when it came to ship combat.
The multi-player had it’s problems, but it was a blast. Being a Jedi, or Sith made you feel over-powered, but you had to earn it, and it was a real challenge to beat one of the juggernauts.  The connection speeds could’ve been a bit faster, and even after the game was super-old you still had to pay for a map pack that would kick you out of certain matchmaking’s  I’m sad to see that they haven’t made a real sequel yet I don’t believe, it could defiantly use some HD returning  tweaks, and improvements.

Runner 2: Legend of Rhythm Alien

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Platform games will probably always be my favorite genre of gaming.  This is certainly due to cutting my proverbial teeth during the heyday of the NES, the era where every other title had some sort of influence from the brothers Mario and their army of copycats.  Before I picked up Runner 2: Legend of Rhythm Alien I had never played a Bit.Trip title before, and I was only familiar with the main character Commander Video from his cameo appearance in Super Meat Boy, arguably one of the greatest games of the past decade.  Now I’m certainly going back to explore the titles I missed, because Runner 2 is unfiltered platforming bliss.

runner2

Runner 2 might as well be a checklist of how to do everything correctly in a video game.  The gameplay is extremely accessible and enjoyable, coupled with eye pleasing, unique graphics and an amazing soundtrack.  Difficulty in the game gradually scales but is unbelievably fair; you start off with a simple selection of moves and then slowly learn all of the combinations required to be successful.  There’s also some great humor (the hardest thing to pull off in gaming) and some phenomenal references mixed in to the package that I wouldn’t dare spoil here.  Gaijin Games even added hidden retro levels (unlocked by finding golden cartridges) that are extremely challenging and pay homage to those glorious days of the NES and Sega Master System.

runner2

Originality comes with how your character interacts with the soundtrack.  Every jump, slide, dodge, block, and kick corresponds with an intended beat or noise that complements the music.  You can miss these beats with little consequence besides failing a scoring opportunity (thankfully you don’t get a grinding Guitar Hero-esque interruption noise) but the soundtrack simply swells with a crescendo of awesomeness when you hit them on time.  In most modern games (especially first person shooters) I almost never experience what Billy Hoyle and Sidney Dean remarkably refer to as “the zone,” where the entirety of the room ceases to matter and you aren’t even thinking about what buttons you are pushing while conquering every single obstacle on pure muscle memory.  Playing flawlessly causes everything to click into place and you achieve an almost Zen like experience.  Runner 2 just has a magically fluid feel I’ve rarely seen replicated anywhere else, especially in other titles that also employ auto running and rhythm based play.

runner2

I did get frustrated often while playing, but it was the type of frustration that made me want to persevere to perfect the level, not the type that makes you want to place your controller under a rusty jackhammer.  When you make a mistake it’s never the game, it’s simply your lack of skill.  It’s certainly not as difficult as the aforementioned Super Meat Boy, but it still takes impeccable timing and precision to get through some of the harder sections, exactly what you should want in a quality platformer.

If you like platformers, pick this up immediately.  For fifteen bucks on the marketplace it’s an absolute steal, especially when there are sixty-dollar titles (Aliens: Colonial Marines for example) that won’t give you a fraction of the enjoyment contained here.  I realize that it’s barely March, but this is unquestionably the best title I’ve played this year.

Call of Duty: Finest Hour

 call of duty-finest-hour
Though it may be overshadowed by it’s Modern Warfare and Black Ops big brothers, I still regard it as one of the better WWII shooters out there and fine addition to the Call of Duty series.
 call of duty-finest-hour
I think my favorite catch to this game, is that it goes to all major sides to the Eastern front. You take control of Soviet, American, and British troops. All them have their memorable moments, weapons, and areas such as Germany, Stalingrad, and North Africa. I think my favorite mission is the one with the Russian sniper lady with all the Nazis coming to attack the building she was in.
call of duty-finest-hour
I suppose it might get a little lost in the WWII crowd, and wasn’t greatly reviewed, but it was one of the first enjoyable WWII shooters for me. Though I do have to say the multi-player was crap, though only available through the PS2 and Xbox version which I’m sure have been shut-down.

Dead Space 3

Dead-Space-3When I first saw the promotional materials for Dead Space 3 I was extremely worried.  The first game was such a sleeper gem that new copies still sell for sixty dollars online, the second took the “survival horror in space” formula established in the first and ramped up the creepiness factor, essentially turning it into the series I always imagined Resident Evil was destined to become. (Unfortunately Resident Evil became Resident Evil 6, the series no one wanted it to become) I knew they would eventually make a third game but why is it taking place in a snow-filled environment similar to Lost Planet and not in a creaky spaceship infested by necromorphs?  The environment and brilliant use of sound design is what made the previous titles so exceptional in the first place!  Wait, it’s also going to include a co-op campaign in a game series that has literally made me jump out of my seat on multiple occasions because it is intended to be played in the dark by yourself?  Won’t these changes ruin this beloved franchise?

Dead-Space-3

Fortunately no.  There are a few issues with the game, but none of them stem from changing the setting or pacing of the series.  This is definitely a more action-oriented title however, whereas in previous games I was always struggling with ammo and health management, that was never a worry this time around.  You don’t even actually get to the ice planet Tau Volantis until roughly 9 hours into the game, so there’s still plenty of tight corridor and zero gravity outer space action to sink your plasma cutter into.  The graphics and especially the lighting are still stunningly gorgeous, and the sound design exudes the same ambient dread that you would expect from the series.

Dead-Space-3

One phenomenal addition is the ability to craft your own weapons from salvageable parts found in the environment.  Any weapon you find can be deconstructed into pieces that can be used to craft other and ostensibly better armaments.  Want a flamethrower / plasma cutter combo?  No problem.  Or how about my favorite creation thus far: a shotgun / line gun amalgamation that also stuns necromorphs with electricity?  You could literally spend dozens of hours perfecting your ultimate weapon hybrid, and it’s always fun to test them out against puke spewing necromorphs.

Dead-Space-3

The major issue I had with the game is one I didn’t anticipate: the writing.  The game starts off strong but during the midpoint I almost started cringing at some of the dialogue and directions the characters are taken in.  Without entering into spoiler territory, essentially Ellie, the girl who you risked your ass (and sanity) to save in Dead Space 2 has moved on to another mate who is basically the equivalent of the douchey blonde villain in so many eighties movies. (And unfortunately not voiced by James Spader or William Zabka)  When the story turned into Tau Volantis 90210 I mentally checked out, and while I don’t remember the narratives in the previous two titles being anything special, I also don’t remember them being absolutely grating either.  Sure, when you can lop off the head of a space marine with an electrified rotating ripper blade it’s easy to forget the story, but like so many Hollywood movies I’ll never understand why the writing is the hardest thing to nail.

Dead-Space-3

The co-op play however is thankfully awesome.  While it does wring much of the suspense out of the game it’s still immense fun ravaging aliens with a buddy, sharing blueprints of uniquely crafted weaponry, and saving each other’s asses from obligatory surprise attacks.  There are also optional missions that can only be tackled in co-op, giving the game some excellent replay value.  Co-op play is also of the drop in, drop out variety, so you can recruit a partner at any time to help you tackle some of the game’s tougher challenges.  You can also play through the story in Classic mode (similar to Dead Space 1 with only original weapons and no crafting) or Pure Survival mode, where everything, even health packs and ammo, must be painstakingly assembled.  These variations will provide a much-needed challenge when compared to the regular campaign, especially when conquered with a partner.

Overall Dead Space 3 doesn’t disappoint.  It does sacrifice sheer horror for guns blazing action, but the addition of weapon building and co-op actually helps move the series forward instead of treading some of the same roads.  The environment is definitely more John Carpenter’s The Thing than Ridley Scott’s Alien, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.  Annoying issues with the narrative aside, the game is completely worth the purchase if you are a fan of the series or a well-crafted third person adventure.

Panzer Dragoon Orta

 Panzer Dragoon Orta
After giving Sega fans the few bones they could get with the Saturn, Panzer Dragoon stayed dead during the Dreamcast days. However the long awaited sequel did hit the Xbox, and although it didn’t become a RPG like Saga might have left fans thinking where the series might head, it was arguably the best in the series.
Panzer Dragoon Orta
With little question or doubt either. It was easily the best looking PD so far, and it expanded the gameplay with 3 wing forms which could make you faster, or stronger, better shots, etc. The bosses were rather lamely designed visually, but were unique in a Japanese version of Tim Burton on crack kind of way. Despite my criticism, the boss fights were pretty fun, and the levels were like going on a visual roller coaster ride that used your mind and reflexes.
 Panzer Dragoon Orta
Granted it is a bit short, and I really couldn’t care less for the story or characters. Something about a girl and her dragon, blah blah, evil empire, blah blah. Kinda left me with melancholic feeling honestly. I guess the story doesn’t matter, but it did rub me the wrong way.
Panzer Dragoon Orta
A nice bonus in Orta, is that it came with a free version of the original Panzer Dragoon, just in-case you were one of billions of people who didn’t own a Sega Saturn. It holds up rather decently, though the graphics do show their age. Starfox 64 defiantly whoops the original Panzer Dragoon in all aspects.
 Panzer Dragoon Orta
It might be a tiny gem in a great pile of Xbox games, but you can find it rather easily and quite cheap. If you like Starfox, Panzer Dragoon, rail shooters, or good games in general and you have an Xbox (I guess the 360 plays it too) then you are truly missing out of one of Sega’s best efforts in recent memory which is pretty sad since the game came out in December of 2002.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning - gameplay - screenshot -1

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an expansive action RPG. It was released as the first of a trilogy by the now-defunct Big Huge Games studio, and feels like a Fable/Elder Scrolls lovechild. KoA sports excellent game-feel, seemingly endless side quests… and a terribly generic and un-inspiring main story-line.

Kingdoms of Amalur

If this had been a JRPG or a turn-based  game, I would not have played it solely for the story. There are plenty of other games to choose from if that is what you’re looking for. Though glitchy in minor areas, KoA is an excellent choice for lovers of action RPGs who have a difficult time finding games that don’t have wonky combat controls. You begin by choosing one of 5 races, each with a couple of unique bonuses. Character models are very customizable, so long as you are only concerned about the face. The beginning features a good tutorial that gets you familiar with the basics, but make sure to manually turn tutorials off in the main menu once you get out into the main game. Amalur is pretty damn easy on Normal mode, so unless you really just want to enjoy the landscape and make a 10 hour speed-run through the main quest, play on Hard.

Kingdoms of Amalur

Primary and secondary weapon slots do not have any requirements. This means you can equip two axes, a scepter and longbow, or any possible combination of the several weapon classes to tailor to your play style. A unique “Fate” system allows you to personalize your skills even further. You are allotted points at each level-up  to apply towards any of 3 ability trees; Might, Sorcery, and Finesse. After a certain amount of points have been invested in the trees, new fates open up which grant special bonuses that correlate with your most buffed abilities.

Kingdoms of Amalur

You can gain some pretty sweet gear through various quests. You can also invest in Blacksmithing and Sagecraft abilities to forge your own unique weapons, armor, and augments. The vibrant landscape is full of herbs and plants you can harvest for Alchemical use, though I preferred just buying potions from vendors.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to friends who were fans of the original Fable, though Elder Scrolls players might find it a bit too  simplistic. If you’re looking to kill 20-60 hours, pick this up used somewhere and really enjoy the smooth controls and pretty atmosphere. 

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

High Moon studios returns with a follow-up to their well received take on the Transformers franchise, the 2010 sleeper hit War for Cybertron.  All of the resources on Cybertron are now practically tapped out, and Optimus Prime (fortunately still voiced by Peter Cullen) rallies his Autobots to escape the planet and find a new home in Shia LeBouf’s backyard.  Megatron is of course not very supportive of this decision and attempts to defeat the Autobots by preventing their exodus.  High Moon doesn’t stray very far from the formula that made the first game successful, and aside from one major omission the game delivers everything you would normally expect from a quality sequel.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

The weapons system has been revamped from the previous game; each gun is now upgradable with multiple attachments that are purchased with credits earned in the campaign.  You can also acquire “perks” that carry over through multiple campaign playthroughs, these make the game much more manageable on the harder difficulties.  This addition is a very pleasant improvement on the first title, adding an RPG element to an already exceedingly polished experience.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

Fan service is also prevalent here; many more characters are featured this time around, including the Dinobots, the Combaticons, Metroplex, and the Insecticons.  I actually felt like I had been sucked into an eighties toy commercial every time a new character appeared.  Hardcore Transformer fans should really find a lot to enjoy here, before I played the game I couldn’t distinguish Swindle from Onslaught, so fans of the source material will really enjoy all of the love taken with the character choices.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron-gameplay-screenshot-1

The glaring omission is the absence of online co-op play that was so well received in the first game.  In War for Cybertron you had the option of three different Autobots or Decepticons per level to tackle each mission with, and your online friends (preferably) or the extremely competent AI would fill the other two slots.  This gave each mission the sense you were part of a team, something that is integral to the Transformers franchise by nature.  This time the legend takes a grander scope but the co-op element was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor.  This doesn’t necessarily hurt the game overall, but it is something I sorely missed because I had grown accustomed to it.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

If you decide to try the game based solely on the narrative you won’t be disappointed.  I’m not even a huge Transformers fan and I enjoyed playing through the campaign multiple times, the set pieces are much bigger this time around, the annoying boss battles from the first game are thankfully expunged, and the game maintains a truly epic feeling throughout.   The final level might be one of the best campaign levels I’ve ever played in any game, it switches between both warring factions and individual characters multiple times, putting you right in the center of the final battle of Cybertron.  I know too much of a good thing can sometimes lead to overkill, but I left the experience feeling that if every level would have taken cues from the final one the game could have really been something truly special.  I’m not saying the overall gameplay or story is lackluster in any way; it’s just the final level is really that damn quality.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

Thankfully the horde mode inspired escalation is still included, as well as an excellent multiplayer component that is actually better (although much easier) than the previous game.  The first time I jumped into an online game one of the other participants hilariously greeted me with a throaty rendition of “You’ve Got The Touch”, the seminal cheese ball anthem featured in the eighties movie and also over the end credits in this game.  Options for customizing your online Transformer are also much more substantial, you can really create some truly unique characters.

If you are a Transformers fan this one is the proverbial no-brainer, comparing the sub-par movie game adaptations you’ve probably slogged through to the overachieving fanboy love that High Moon injects into their adaptations isn’t even fair.  Fans of third person action will also find a highly engaging title that doesn’t skimp on the action and couples a well-crafted yarn with thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.

Skylanders: Giants

Skylanders-Giants

Whoever came up with the concept for Skylanders is a marketing genius.  The recipe is so pitch perfect it’s hard to believe it took this long for someone to execute:  Take the elemental centered and “gotta buy them all” appeal of Pokemon, mix it with the addictive RPG leveling and character progression that almost every game utilizes today, and then pair it up with a plethora of collectable figures that you can transport both between and across consoles.  The results are a franchise that has already grossed upwards of 500 million dollars between two releases with zero signs of slowing down.  But is the game any good or just a flagrant cash grab aimed specifically at children?

Skylanders-Giants

Actually it isn’t half bad.  I spent the majority of this past Saturday playing this with my nephew Jacob (he’s 8) and really enjoyed myself.  The game is akin to many dungeon crawlers like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate except it takes place in the uber-colorful and child friendly world of Skylands.   The interface is very simple and easy to understand; almost anybody could pick it up and play with little instruction.  Character leveling is extremely balanced and it has the familiar “just one more level” appeal as you constantly unlock better powers and upgrades for each of your individual Skylanders.   Jacob spent the better part of our lengthy session saving up hard fought treasure for a battle-axe made entirely out of bees for his favorite giant Swarm, and his joy upon finally earning the weapon was completely palpable.

Skylanders-Giants

Each Skylander represents one of eight different “elements” like fire, wind, technology, or undead.  The levels are divided with multiple gates and hidden areas that can only be accessed by certain elements, meaning in order to fully unlock everything the game has to offer you must own at least one character from every element.  If you are defeated, the only way to continue the level is by swapping out figures on the fly, making the game near impossible with only the starter set, but very manageable with a stable of Skylanders figures at your disposal.  (Defeated characters can be used again on the next level but not before)  The aforementioned starter set only comes with three characters, the game disc, and the necessary Portal of Power; so more characters must be purchased (Hey Mom!) in order to fully experience and enjoy what the game has to offer.  Some Skylanders are also much rarer than others (especially some of the newer Giants) making collecting these things highly addictive.  Again, sheer marketing brilliance.

Skylanders-Giants

Skylanders: Giants is also compatible with all of the toys released for the original game, and the level cap is increased from 10 to 15 for all of your previously purchased characters.  There are also new Series 2 versions of the original Skylanders that have more effective powers and different poses than their original counterparts, a very wise move by the developers to keep fans of the original excited about the sequel.   I’d be absolutely shocked if a third game wasn’t released this holiday season, right now the game has legs, something that Activision is notorious for exploiting on a yearly basis with all of their other major franchises.

Skylanders-Giants

It is also interesting to mention that the first game was titled Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, featuring popular gaming icon Spyro the Dragon who has appeared in almost twenty other titles.  Spyro never speaks in either game however, and doesn’t give you any sort of advantage over any of the other characters.  It almost seems like the developers were hedging their bets to get the game off the ground with a mascot familiar to the intended demographic.

If you are looking to enjoy some gaming with one of the younger people in your life you could a lot worse than Skylanders: Giants.   The title is certainly geared towards children but contains many of the familiar trappings of an addictive video adventure; I certainly didn’t grow bored playing it as I have with many other games.  Just plan to shell out a lot more than the initial seventy-dollar investment if you want to see everything in the game or actually get through it successfully at all.

The Walking Dead: Episodes 1-5

The Walking Dead

I’ve never been a big fan of Telltale Games.  While I certainly enjoyed their official Back to the Future sequel, I never felt the need to actually finish it.  I only made it through about ten minutes of Jurassic Park before I decided I just couldn’t get into their point and click adventure titles.  (I had a similar experience with Escape From Monkey Island, which is a LucasArts,so it’s probably my aversion to the genre, not the quality of the games themselves).  I’d made peace with this realization.

The Walking Dead

Then, something unexpected happened.  I started to hear people proclaiming The Walking Dead as not only a phenomenal title, but to some credible sources (and also Spike TV) it’s been named a contender for . . .  (trumpet fanfare) Game of the Year.  A point and click adventure title beating out such powerhouses as Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, and Dishonored?  Could it really be that good?

The Walking Dead

Yes it could.  For one thing, it’s very difficult to bring genuine emotional resonance into the world of a video game, but The Walking Dead succeeds at doing just that.  I’ll bypass all spoilers but provide a little exposition to explain how. From the outset of the story, you are partnered with an eight-year-old girl named Clementine.  How you decide to protect her is entirely up to you, but I promise you will have an immense emotional attachment to her before the final episode one credits roll. Clementine provides but one example of the care and consideration taken with all the characters; none of them feel generic or written simply to serve as plot devices.  Each other character you encounter has unique motivations besides survival—some you will love, and some you will loathe, but they all feel like real people and not typical video game characters.  Choosing who lives or dies is never an easy task, and there are always looming ramifications for each difficult decision you make.  You’ll feel empathy for the characters far more than you might in a typical game, a true testament to the amazing storytelling and attention to detail that absolutely gushes from the well-polished narrative.

The Walking Dead

Lee Everett, the main protagonist, is one of the most developed characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. His journey is not some obligatory quest to bash some zombie skulls with a wrench.  Lee casts a real shadow on the player; I genuinely cared about him.  If there is an award given for voice acting, David Fennoy deserves to win it hands down, as he delivers each line of dialogue perfectly.

The Walking Dead

Finally, as a former native of Georgia, each of the locations represented was recreated perfectly, from the opening scene on Interstate 85 to the eventual journey to River Street in Savannah, I actually felt like I was back home in the peach state.

The Walking Dead

Much like previous Telltale Games, you use a four tied conversation tree that corresponds with each direction of your control pad.  Unlike previous titles, however, in The Walking Dead all of your choices are timed (and some you only have mere seconds to make).  There is absolutely zero backtracking to see different options or outcomes.  This gives each of the choices a weight that just didn’t exist in similar point and click adventure games; once you make a decision, you are stuck with it unless you restart the entire chapter.  On top of that, your choices directly affect how other characters react to you and behave in the narrative overall.  This minor tweak to the familiar formula makes all of the difference; it turns what some might describe as an interactive movie into one of the best titles I’ve played in a long time.  This is a game you are going to enjoy multiple times just so you can see the outcome of different choices.

Even if you’ve never enjoyed a point and click adventure before, I’m certain this will be the exception.

Hitman: Absolution

Hitman_Absolution_gameplay-screenshot-1

After an unheard of six-year console hiatus, Agent 47 triumphantly returns in Hitman: Absolution.  This title is certain to please fans of the Hitman series.  Actually, any fan of a thoughtfully composed stealth action game should definitely enjoy what the  designers at IO Interactive offer here.  The familiar mechanics of the series remain polished and fluid, the classic kills are plentiful, and the level design is top notch.

hitman_absolution_crowd-chinatown

This adventure is set five years after Blood Money, the only Hitman game offered on current gen consoles, until now.  In the world of the game, your handler and best bud Diana has sold you down the proverbial river.  After you assault her in the shower with your trademark Silverballers, she reveals a bit of information that sends the tightly scripted narrative flowing through multiple varying locations.   One thing you will notice right off the bat is how gorgeous the crowd scenes look. I paused the game multiple times in the Chinatown level to marvel at how many different NPC’s were milling about the marketplace.   The abundance of careful detail gives all of the levels an extremely realistic feel.

Hitman-Absolution

One of the signature features of the Hitman franchise is freedom of player choice. There are always multiple ways to dispatch your targets, ranging from the extremely silent and stealthy to downright straightforward and brutal.  You truly have the option to go completely guns blazing, more so than you might in other entry in the series. Yet, this approach is not without consequence, as it increases the difficulty exponentially.   The silent and creative approach is often the ideal method (especially if you are going for a high score) and is certainly the way the game was intended to be experienced.

Hitman-Absolution

 

For instance, the game welcomes the player to arrange creative ways to pull off the hits. The first level alone features at least ten different ways to take down the target, and each kill method is coupled to a challenge that will increase the score on repeat playthroughs.  Playing the levels multiple times is downright encouraged, especially if you want to best the scores of your friends. The incentive for the best score is heightened by constant displays of rankings, friendly reminders that you (or one of your friends) could have done a little better.  This certainly adds value to an already chunky package. With so many choices and encouragement to replay, the campaign took me roughly 18 hours to complete.

hitman-absolution-multiplayer

Multiplayer (a first for the series) also feels very adaptable.  Campaign levels are opened up sandbox style; any NPC on the map can be chosen as a target and then sent to your respective friends list.  Gamers can place restrictions on the assassinations; you can compete with your friends to see who can complete the hits most efficiently based on the parameters dictated by another player.  This adds an even greater level of replay to the game, and it also welcomes the creative contributions of gamers.  Hundreds of thousands of player-made challenges have already been uploaded, giving play time a durability that previous entries in the series failed to achieve.

If you are a fan of the Hitman series then you likely picked this up on launch day and have already relished in brutally murdering your targets with well-timed sniper shots, convenient natural gas leak explosions, “accidental” chandelier mishaps, and of course Agent 47’s signature fiber wire.  Hitman  neophytes will enjoy this title as well, as it is a suitable springboard into the series.  In Hitman: Absolution, the series has never been more polished and the level design is impeccable. I certainly enjoyed the stealth mechanics of the game much more than in any other assassin title released this holiday season.  Hitman: Absolution is therefore highly recommended; it has certainly provided one of my favorite gaming experiences this year.

The Book of Unwritten Tales

The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
It’s been quite some time since I last played an adventure game that took me over 15 hours to finish, and, admittedly, that was an (apparently undisclosed) offering released over 10 years ago. Seems that expansive point and clickers are so passé these days… Shockingly and quite unexpectedly then, The Book of Unwritten Tales entertained me for quite a bit more than that, while remaining a brand new game. A rare kind of brand new adventure game actually: the epic kind!
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot -
Then again, everything epic isn’t by definition a great idea. Epic can easily turn into dull, though that definitely is not the case with The Book of Unwritten Tales. I already mentioned it entertained me, didn’t I? It is after all such a varied, engaging, wisely paced and well-crafted game that it never feels padded, tedious or boring and will, as soon as you finish it, leave a big gaping, err, gap in your psyche in a way only, well, epic, fantasy novels and a rare few games manage. Thankfully, said gap is easy to heal, but you get the point.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
 We are not talking Tolkien, Martin and Moorcock here, we are talking Terry Pratchett. We are talking light-hearted fantasy with more than a few humorous touches, that is neither satire nor farce. The Book of Unwritten Tales, you see, is set in a more or less proper fantasy world. There are mages, there are trolls, there are gnomes (yay!), there are knights and castles, there are undead, there are hidden artifacts, there are heroes, there are elves, there are dragons and there’s a battle between good and evil going on. On the other hand, everything feels like it’s taking place in some sort of tongue-in-cheek version of a standard MMORPG setting. The gnomes’ machines never seem to properly work, the orcs are organizing battles in order to support their weapons industry, mystical rings are trusted to little creatures, dragons get fearsome with the help of manuals and Death himself is despairing over the genre’s lack of dead bodies.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot - 1
Intrigued? Well, you really should be, as King Art (the game’s developers) have nailed both the setting and the writing. Even better, they have nailed the humour and have created an atmosphere not wholly dissimilar to the one prevalent in Monkey Island 2The Book of Unwritten Tales (hence BoUT; sorry, can’t be bothered otherwise) can be both (moderately) dark and hilariously funny. And that scene with the forgotten mummy has easily squeezed itself into my funniest gaming moments ever; it’s that good, it is, but not as funny as a certain later segment in the game where a gibberish-talking yet oddly playable character tries to provide with descriptions using only noises and gestures.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
BoUT, as you may have already guessed, does provide with more than one playable characters; it provides with four. There’s a young gnome that craves for magic, a slightly under-dressed elf, a Han Solo inspired rogue and his blobby sidekick. Each one has different abilities and is utilized for solving different kinds of puzzles.
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot
Speaking of puzzles, they are generally easy, brilliantly integrated in the plot and quite varied, as they do let gamers mix potions, talk their way out of situations, combine items, solve mechanical problems and even navigate maps based on vague and ancient writings. Admittedly a few of them (only a couple I believe) are not particularly well designed, but I do suppose that coming up with dozens of puzzles and expecting each and every one to be brilliant is simply impossible. Even Gabriel Knight 3 and Grim Fandango had their moments of pointless frustration…
The Book of Unwritten Tales - pc game - gameplay screenshot - 1
Then again, for every minor flaw one might discover, there’s at least one beautiful (and very dynamic) background, one brilliantly voiced character, one original puzzle or, at least, one smart joke to set things right. BoUT is, tiny problems aside, destined to become classic.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpv9L64PsdU[/youtube]
Verdict: A fantastic, stunning, humorous, fantasy adventure for people that can appreciate humour. Grab it now (here) or -at the very least- try its demo.

Weird Games: Naughty Bear

Naughty Bear - Gameplay Screenshot

Sometimes you have a bad day and it appears Bears are no different. In this game from 505 Games, we meet a Naughty Bear that does not like being cute and cuddly like the rest of the bears and as a result is shunned and made fun of. Because of being ostracized by the community Naught Bear seeks revenge on his fellow Teddy Bears and you have thousands of different ways to scare, punish and disrupt bear society.

Naughty Bear - Gameplay Screenshot

In Naughty Bear you have an entire island to explore and cause mayhem on. The island itself is divided into four parts with some sections and areas needing to be unlocked. There are a total of 28 levels on the island and tons of different objects to use and obstacles to overcome. Your job is not only to get revenge on the bears who tormented you, but also to avoid the law abiding bears who will try and stop your mischievous ways.

Naughty Bear - Gameplay Screenshot

Now the game is not just about beating up bears. There is a “Mischief Points” system where the more you scared the bears and the different ways you scare them earns you more points. Not all bears will be frightened by the same thing so you have to mix it up. This combination along with the open world model keeps the game from getting stale as you come up with new ways to cause havoc.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfznS5Rw_UQ[/youtube]

You can find Naughty Bear for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Long before the movie “Ted” this bear was naughty and the game is definitely weird.

Weird Games: Super Pii Pii Brothers

super_piipii_brothers

When I pitched this series I had this game in mind. I thought the spanking game was weird, but this one takes the cake. Seriously, this was the kind of game that if it was released anytime near April you would think it was an April Fool’s joke, but no, it is a real game for a real (kind of) gaming system.

Super Pii Pii brothers was a $35 import for the Nintendo Wii (fitting name) and the gameplay was simple. Your mission was to put on a harness and “strap” the Wii remote to your crotch area and then pee into and onto a series of places and animals. I mean just look at the picture, if you saw your girlfriend walk in wearing that would you run or be happy? (Seriously, I’m asking here.)

super_piipii_brothers-main

In the game you start off with a series of toilets and as they open you need to aim yourself and tilt up to pee into the toilet. Also, you seem to have some serious bladder problems because the stream of pee is endless. So the key is to get most of the pee in the toilet and as little as possible on the floor. (This sounds like a game at any bar in America.)

Now when the toilets open sometimes a stray cat or other toilet critter may pop up and you actually get bonus points for peeing on them. (P.I.T.A. be damned). The game is said to have over 100 different bathrooms from all around the world. Check out what the Japanese had in mind for the main reason for playing this game from the translation on the box.

super_piipii_brothers-control

“Super Pii Pii Brothers promotes good bathroom skills and allows women to experience for the first time the pleasure of urinating while standing.”

So I guess this game is just for women who want to strap on a… you know what, let’s just end the article here on a high note.

Check out the game on Think Geek.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQNKRDFanQE[/youtube]

Ok, ok, the game isn’t real, but hey it still counts as a weird game.

Weird Games: Katamari Damacy

katamari_damacy-ps2-gameplay-screenshot

Forget the big bang theory or intelligent design, the world was made by rolling a big ball of junk together and creating stars. Well, at least that is how the cosmos is recreated after it is destroyed. Katamari Damacy is a mix between a puzzle game and an action game as you play a prince who has to collect various fallen parts to recreate the cosmos your father, King of All Cosmos destroyed.

katamari_damacy-ps2-gameplay-screenshot

How did the moons and stars get destroyed? By binge drinking of course. After this event you have to roll around a magical ball called a Katamari that collection objects that will allow you to create a star once it becomes large enough. The game was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004 and was created as a result of a school project affiliated with Namco.

katamari_damacy-ps2-gameplay-screenshot

Along with the main story there is a side story about a family whose father is an astronaut and as a result of the drunken destruction of the King is unable to go to the moon. Meanwhile his daughter can sense that the prince is trying to recreate the cosmos, but in the end they all get rolled up in the Katamari to make the moon. What a twist!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciKPiw6Sc50[/youtube]

The gameplay is simple, but can get frustrating. The idea is to collect items smaller than the ball, but there are larger objects that can hit the ball knocking off your collected items and slowing your progress. The goal is to collect enough items to grow your ball large enough and turn it into a star. There are secrets to be found in the game as well as a two player mode that has you fighting to see who can collect enough objects first. The game also features a great soundtrack, so as weird as it might be it is worth checking out.

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries Atlas

In the spirit of Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries came out Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries. If you’ve never played Battletech or any of the Mechwarrior games, this is a great place to start other than Mechwarrior 2. This game should hold you out until Mechwarrior Online comes out! 😀

Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries Atlas

Mechs are customizable based on what they look like. Some mechs will only use missiles or cannons or energy weapons if that is what they used in the original tabletop Battletech game. Only Omnimechs have no such restriction.

The Good:
– Addicting and fun fun fun!
– A large variety of mechs and all sorts of updated weapons from both the Inner Sphere and Clan factions.
– Whore yourself out to the highest bidder and get paid well.
– As difficult as needed without it becoming impossible to beat.
– Nice music made in the spirit of the music from Mechwarrior 2 but not as good.
– Fun even though it’s old and feels dated. Since Battletech games are nowadays rare, we’ll take it!
– You can play the game free if you download it at MekTek.
– Some people still play this online together.

The Bad:
– The controls are really dated. The mouse control is horrible. It is designed to be used with a joystick which not that many people use anymore for PC gaming other than mainly flight sim people.
– The graphics are really dated.
– The game has an ending.
– Sometimes when you repair a Mech if you don’t have enough parts in your stockpile, it will repair the Mech but some of the weapons will be missing. The requires you to micromanage your configurations after a nasty mission every single time!
– Some missions are pretty frustrating.
– Damage engine does not show realistic depiction of damage on units.
– The Mechlab might be a little intimidating to new Battletech players especially with the variety of configurations available.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

From Russia With Love

Most of the Bond-related games over the past 20+ years have been either 1st or 3rd-person shooters, with a couple of 80′s text-based computer games being the exceptions. But, one game jumped out at me, and it’s something I was looking forward to firing up.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
In 2005, EA put out a game called From Russia, With Love, based on the 1963 movie. This is a spoiler-heavy walkthrough/review of a magical day for me:

Opening mission has Bond, who looks exactly like Sean Connery, and is VOICED by him, looking cool at a party. A Prime Minister’s daughter gets kidnapped by OCTOPUS (no SPECTRE license). Fight my way to the roof, where they’re escaping via helicopter.

Many ways to dispatch the thugs. There are a lot of weapons and gadgets that I accumulate throughout the game, even if I just have a Walther PPK to start the game. When I’m too close to shoot, I automatically perform some Bond-ish hand-to-hand move to take them out. Looks cool, and saves ammo. I found a lot of ammo/armor throughout the game, but there are multiple difficulties if you’re looking for a higher challenge.

When I reach the roof, I beat a guy up for his jet-pack, now I’m flying around shooting missiles at the helicopter. After destroying it, a cool cut-scene has me flying through it, saving the girl. I tell her, “My name’s Bond…James Bond”, then fly away.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Opening ‘movie’ credits start, with actual scenes from the film! This was just 20 minutes or so into the game, and I’m hooked!
Next, I fight more OCTOPUS thugs through a hedge-maze, then I’m KILLED by Red Grant, played by the awesome Robert Shaw in the film. A cut-scene shows “Bond” to be an OCTOPUS training exercise for Red (the game’s main bad guy, working for Rosa Klebb) to practice killing Bond. I also find out that their mission is to trick Bond into stealing something called Lektor (some decoding device), then stealing it from Bond after killing him, which is payback for Bond killing Dr. No. Ridiculously convuluted, but very Bondish.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
After flirting with Moneypenny and getting briefed by M (I’ll be off to Instanbul to meet Russian-hottie Tatiana), I have a training-session with Q and pick up gadgets like the Q-copter (spies through vents and self-destructs) and the rappel-device (you’ll use both a lot).
Kerim Bey is your contact in Istanbul, and brings you your Aston Martin. This chase level is action-packed with guns/missiles/tire spikes as weapons against the evil Russians. Bonus coolness for taking out a tank.
Next level has me rescuing hostages and disarming bombs, capping off with the first appearance of the bazooka, to destroy another helicopter. Time to spy on the Russians.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
More Aston Martin action, then cut through some Russians to steal a boat. I need to get under the Russian consulate to use a periscope to spy.
My eavesdropping learns the Lektor is in a vault, and that the Russians are going to kill people in a Gypsy camp. Karim heads to the camp to warn ‘his” people. After kicking more Russian ass, I escape through the underground tunnels via jetpack. Some awesome jetpack-on-jetpack action!

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
The gypsy-camp was more hostage-rescuing, and I get the sniper rifle for the first time.
Next mission has me saving Karim’s ass again with a lot of sniping. Feels good killing Russians.
I meet Tatiana for the first time. She’s in my bed, of course, and I show her my 007…she’s now in love with me.
We, along with Karim, have to break into the Russian Consulate to steal the Lektor. I think this was probably the longest level.
Another car chase on the way to the train, Orient Express, which is our escape.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Red is on the train, kills Karim, and tries to kill me. I fight him off, but he escapes with the Lektor while I’m occupied with some ‘roided Russian flunkie. I fight my way to Red, and kill him, his body taken away by a speeding train. I have to inform Karim’s son that his father is dead…now I’m pissed. Red’s assisstant, Eva Adara, has escaped with the Lektor.
I infiltrate an OCTOPUS complex looking for the Lektor. More jetpacks and car chases. Some robot tank comes after me, as well. I take back the Lektor. Blow the base for the fun of it.
Another Aston Martin chase on the way to the docks to steal a boat. have to get out of the country.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Long boat ride with Tatiana driving and me turretting people/boats/helicopters.
Rosa sneaks into my hotel room and tries to kill me with a huge-ass blade in her shoe. I keep her at bay, and Tatiana help me kill her…good girl.
Last mission is pretty long. OCTOPUS is pissed, so they’ve threatened to nuke. I break into their secret base, and kill a lot of henchmen. Eva tries to kill me with a jet, but I jetpack-missile her dead. After disarming the nuke and setting bombs to blow the base…….I run in to Red. I should have looked for the body.
He’s the final boss, as he’s taken residence inside a 4-tentaculed mechanical robot that shoots lasers, bullets, and grenades. After destroying the mech, I put a bullet in Red for my friend Karim.
Game ends with Bond in bed with Tatiana, of course. Well done, sir.
From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
This game is overwhelmingly awesome, but I’ll start with the few bad points:
It’s really easy, even with the hardest difficulty-setting. There’s not much need for duck-and-cover stealth fighting because it’s heavy on extra ammo/armor health. You can do a lot of run-and-gunning, but I found myself having more fun being sneaky.
Also, as a lot of these 3rd-person games can do, the camera can get “stuck” and get you turned around.
There’s probably 8-10 hours of gameplay, not counting multiplayer, which I never got into.
It looks beautiful. Character recreations are spot-on, and the backgrounds/locations/animations are great.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
A lot of cut-scenes. Well done, and a lot re-created from the original film.
The music is perfect. Again, taken from the Bond films and gets your blood pumping throughout the game.
Controls, especially with the auto-lock, are done well.
The fun-factor is off the charts, a Bond fan or just one of the action-adventure genre.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tl-FtpJ0fQ[/youtube]

The replayability is there, with multiplayer. But there is scoring in the campaign. A lot of secrets to find buy going back through it. Also, bonus story-levels to unlock.
A ton of gadgets, including sonic cufflinks to stun baddies, and the attache case that has auto-machine gun.
Different outfits for Bond. If you’d rather not get blood on your white tuxedo, go with the black stealth look.
There’s a crazy amount of fun to this game, so if you want to fire up the original Xbox, this is a fantastic game with which to start.

Weird Games: Sneak King

If you only saw the title, you would think this is some weird Japanese stalking game. Instead, what you have is a weird and creepy advertisement for Burger King that should have been a web game not an actual game for the Xbox 360.

Sneak King COVER

Sneak King was one of three different games that Burger King offered back in 2006. I think you could purchase then for $2.99 with a value meal or something like that. In this game, the objective is to sneak up on people and deliver Burger King Burgers to them. Personally, I rather sneak up and deliver sausages but that is just me.

Sneak King COVER

The gameplay works like this, you are in what they call a “sandbox”, which is a set area where you can walk around freely. You will see various people walking around and as they get hungry, a hunger icon will appear above their heads. Now I have no idea why you would need to sneak up on a hungry person to give them food, but that is exactly what you do.

Sneak King COVER

Now like in games like Metal Gear Solid the idea is to stay out of their cone of vision. You can sneak up from behind, but the King makes a lot of noise so you have to be careful of that as well. You can also hide in places like garbage cans, (seriously, would you accept food from a guy popping out of a garbage can, what is this Final Fight?) or other such places.

Sneak King COVER

So you can earn points for delivering fast or hiding versus sneaking. Also, the hunger meter starts blue and then turns red. If you wait too long to deliver the food the person passes out for a while. Now why are there hungry people walking around until they pass out, I dunno. Even stranger is if you time your food delivery just before they pass out you earn more points, way to care about humanity, Burger King.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OnPXrOTBWc[/youtube]

This game has 80 challenges and once you finish them call you get a, Stealth Suit Overall, if you get this game for free or a few bucks maybe the weirdness is good enough to warranty the purchase, but don’t expect great graphics or long lasting gameplay.

Need For Speed The Run Review

Need For Speed The Run Shelby Mustang

Need For Speed The Run Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Need For Speed, Michael Bay Edition”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10
Need-for-Speed-The-Run-gameplay-screenshot
The Good:

– Pure action
– Think of this game as Gumball Rally and Cannonball Run meet Ronin.
– Music keeps the action pumping.
– Most cars that you would drool over are in this game; the problem is that many of them require a little grinding to unlock them. I enjoyed my 2nd playthrough more as a result of this since I had unlocked just about everything.
– Super customizable difficulty that you can change on the fly per race. Hardest difficulty is even challenging.
– Pure will make your computer and eyes orgasm eye candy.
– It actually feels like you are racing across the United States.
– Every girl in the game looks like a slut.

Need-for-Speed-The-Run-gameplay-screenshot

The Bad:
– Not the most realistic racing game.
– Most of the driving in this game would get you killed in real life, like instantly.
– Damage engine? Never heard of it other than super wrecks where there wouldn’t even be a finger left from the crash.
– Many races don’t make any sense. Yes, a Nissan 240Z would NEVER beat an upgraded Nissan GTR Skyline (the newest one), no matter if you drop over a million dollars of parts into it, in an open road race. YES, an Audi R8 will always beat a piece of shit Nissan 370Z. The list goes on…
– Ridiculous Nitro system where the more dumb shit you do the more Nitro you regenerate from air.
– Storyline written by porno writers.
– Quicktime events don’t belong in games especially racing games. This isn’t Dragon’s Lair!

Need-for-Speed-The-Run-gameplay-screenshot

Conclusion:
Finally a Need For Speed game that’s as much fun as Need For Speed Underground (1).

Trials Evolution

The much anticipated Trials Evolution has finally been released on XBox Live.  The sequel to the very popular 2009 title Trials HD, fans had high expectations for this motorcycle stunt game and will be pleased to learn it is everything it needed it to be.

trials-evolution-box

Trials Evolution finds the perfect balance between rehashing the same formula from before and remaking the game to the point it loses the charm of the original.  The game instantly feels like the original in your hands but quickly stuns with amazing new graphic detail and personality.  Very few video games have ever successfully managed to make such a deep improvement while retaining everything that made the original popular as well as this one has.

Trials-Evolution_gameplay-screenshot

Perhaps drawing inspiration from some of the user-created levels of the original, Trials Evolution uses obstacles and environments in far more creative ways than the original.  Even the earliest tracks have a more “extreme” feel to them while later tracks add elevators, moving cars and over-the-top explosions like never before.

trials_evolution_gameplay

Those that missed the original Trials HD will find quick tutorials to help them pull off various moves.  The Single Player levels increase in difficulty in a balanced manner and should provide players of all skill levels a fair level of challenge throughout.

Trials-Evolution_gameplay-screenshot

The level editor mode has grown by leaps and bounds and comes in two flavors:  a basic mode and a more advanced editor.  Both versions allow for an exponential amount more than the original Trials HD editor did while somehow still managing to be easy to learn and use.  This feature alone makes the purchase price of 1200 Microsoft points a bargain.

Trials-Evolution_gameplay-screenshot

The multiplayer mode provides the only real issue thus far.  At the time of this review, online matchmaking was taking several minutes at a time and would fail altogether on many attempts.  Once in a game, however, it ran flawlessly and could easily become a serious competition for many XBox Live fans.  Be aware if you lag behind the rest of the pack the camera will turn toward you once the race has finished, putting all eyes on your efforts to complete the track.  Hopefully the matchmaking issues can be remedied quickly.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43tj8X7dQ2s[/youtube]

All in all, Trials Evolution is easily the best XBLA game released in quite some time.  Such a deep gaming experience is rarely seen in a downloadable title and should provide hundreds of hours of play.  A must-buy for all gamers.

Weird Games: Mister Mosquito

Mister_Mosquito_Coverart

Normally when someone says, “This game sucks,” It is a bad thing. In this case, it is the main goal of a weird PlayStation 2 game that came out in 2002. Mister Mosquito is one of those games that in Japan makes way more sense than in the U.S. In this game, you play as a mosquito that lives in the home of the Yamada family. Your job is to suck and store up blood for the winter by biting the family members on specific parts of their body.

mr-mosquito

Now this might sound easy, but only certain areas are bitable and you must watch your stress meter while sucking blood. If you suck to fast or too slow, you can stress your victim out and if that happens you are dead. (Seriously, I could go so lowbrow with the sucking too fast or too slow, but I will let it be just this once.) In addition, if you are flying around and are spotted you enter a battle mode where you need to avoid being killed while hitting pressure points on your attacker to calm them down. (I wish my mosquitos did this.)

mr-mosquito gameplay

A strange game indeed this is, but for you perverts out there, there is a level where you have to suck blood from a girl in the bathtub. (No, I’m not kidding.) How many of you are going to either go play this or look up Youtube footage right now?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwxwxjpkKkU[/youtube]

You know we got you covered.

Chaos Legion

General

Chaos Legion is a Gothic third-person action game that was released in 2003 by Capcom who both developed and published it. It could easily be attributed to Devil May Cry that was released just two years prior, in 2001. The gameplay and style is similar though Chaos Legion certainly seemed to have its own genre at the time it was released. The game is based on the novel by Tow Ubukata that has the same title. The concept of a gun-slinging, sword-swinging male hero in a world that combines the planes of demons and humans was still fairly new.

As a fair warning, if you play this game you need to have an open mind. I can guarantee it isn’t anything like what you have seen since 2003. In fact, it may not even be as good. I’m writing on it because this gamer in particular enjoyed it very much.

Design and Environment

The genre “gothic” in this sense is not the conventional “gothic” that has been taken way out of context with the last few generations. What I mean by gothic is the fact a lot of the game is in its medieval structures, environment, and clothing. It isn’t bloody and gruesome with black randomly splattered about and it does not have to be. The buildings are more like castles. They rise up high and almost look prison-like. There are also open fields and forests which give the player a breather from the concrete.

chaos legion boss fight
A good example of a boss fight and how summoning legions works.

The boss fights are admittedly the most thinking you need to do in Chaos Legion. Like in just about every action game both new and old, each one has a certain strategy that is based on how advanced you are considering abilities and skills. The creatures come in hordes and in order to progress you need to take them out round by round. This does get repetitive but it would be a lot worse if it weren’t for the “Legions” the lead character Seig Wahrheit possesses. They are fallen souls who the “Chaos Legion” allows the bearer of the gauntlet to use to do his bidding. There are 7 legions each of which have different abilities that can be advantages to a certain situation. Legions can be summoned as a group which impairs Seig’s movement, or as an extension of an attack which does not but is weaker. Both take from Seig’s soul gauge which comes back exponentially.

chaos legion gameplay
These legions are called “Arrogance”. They can be used as shields.

Story and Characters

chaos legion characters

The story seems to be a mesh of things that have been done before, but it works to create a surprisingly engaging story. The character personalities are extremely typical, however, with the soft-spoken, kind, dead, love interest and the spunky, quirky girl the main character meets later on with the same goals. The background of the story and all of the characters runs rather deep despite all of this including references from angelic lore and the like.

The Ending Theme Song

I thought this was worth a section all on its own. “Fly”, by the band LIV with Manabu Oshio as the vocalist is one of my favorite songs of all time. This song has stuck with me since I beat the game in 2007 because of how memorable and beautiful it is. Sure it’s in “Engrish” (English spoken or sung by someone who hardly knows or doesn’t know English) and even a little hard to understand sometimes, but one can get the idea and really pull from it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONLGIMIeghI[/youtube]

Wrap Up

-Chaos Legion is a decent game that a fan of the Devil May Cry series could get into.
-It’s old, keep that in mind. The graphics are not stellar and if you expect them to be stop playing video games and find another hobby.
-The concept of the “Legions” is great and quite engaging. I became attached to demonic and pained critters.
-The Gameplay and story have been done plenty of times but it’s worth a shot.
-The environment is pleasant though it has a dark twist to it.

Bastion

One Sentence Review:
“A modern remix of the original Zelda, Terranigma, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore… sort of.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Bastion

Overview & Gameplay & Fun Factor & Replayability:

The game is a mix of the original Zelda, Terranigma (a lost SNES gem), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Final Fantasy 6. Those are already all must-play games so imagine how great this game is. The gameplay is a lot like most of those games.

This is a hack and slash game that is a very special distinct style. The world just ended in a magical apocalypse and you’re one of the few survivors. Pretty much everybody you knew is dead and you’re trying to find a way to restore the world.

The game has a special style of its own. The world feels like an extreme fantasy world with the culture and civilization of the world looking like the old west. The music (see below) is a lot of folk, country, and electronic music and it reflects this. The game is original because there is a Narrator describing everything the main character The Kid does, feels, and thinks. This adds a lot of depth to what is otherwise a simple game (simple is NOT bad).

When I sat down to play this game, I figured I would do so and be done with it, not necessarily because I heard anything about this game other than seeing it came out, but rather because I bought a bunch of games on sale on Steam for Christmas. It was late on a Wednesday and I figured I’d play a quick game, beat it fast, and go to bed. By the time I thought it was 10:30 PM that maybe I should go eat something it was in reality 2:30 AM and my body was screaming at me that I was starving. This game is quite a lot of fun since action RPGs generally are that way. The narration keeps you engaged in the game. Not only that but since the game autosaves, you don’t pause to do that either. I give Fun Factor a score of 8 out of 10. Why that score? Well that’s because after a while the game does sort of become repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, the story is great and everything but when you replay the game the story is pretty much the same except when you get to the ending of the game and you have 4 different choices to make. I give Replayability a score of 6 out of 10. The game opens up different modes in which to play the game in after you beat it but I don’t feel like going through the story all over again, myself.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

You get to super customize how hard you want this game to be through the use of the Shrine building in the game. You can’t change it in real-time through the menu but you can go back to The Bastion and reconfigure which Gods to piss off, I mean pray for, determining how hard you want to make the enemies.

The default difficulty with no Shrine modifications was really easy for me. You can literally make this game NES-hard, and I’m talking about the original Megaman games level of difficulty. Since you can customize it so much, it’s up to you to make your own challenge. I give both the Difficulty and Difficulty Versatility scores of 10 out of 10. Don’t be a wimp!

Value:

I bought this game and the soundtrack on Steam for $10 during the holiday sale they have every year. I would say, I’d pay at most $15 for it (for the game alone), considering how good it is. It’s worth having played it at least once, sort of like Trine was to me.

Sound:

The sound effects are respectable and are often ques for whether you should dodge or shield yourself. The Narrator (Stranger) makes the game really engaging because he keeps the game flowing by describing what The Kid is thinking about as he continues on his quest, as well as tells you more about the history of the dead world. I give Sound a score of 10 out of 10. The narration really did it for me in making this game rise to a whole new level. This game could have easily have been made on DOS, Amiga CD32, Sega CD, or Playstation 1 but instead of using the CD technology of those systems to create something like this they tried to pack it with shitty video instead but I am getting sidetracked.

Music:

The music for this game is probably one of the best soundtracks for any game that came out in 2011. The music is a mix of folk, country, and electronic music. The general level music sounds a lot like the music from SNES action RPG games like the ones I mentioned before. There are specific folk and country songs that are so good that they are almost chilling to hear, especially with the way the action, the narration, and storyline mix along with their introduction.

The introduction of such music was perfectly made especially with the atmosphere of the game. You’re in a fantasy post-apocalypse world, so imagine getting to hear such beauty in the middle of death. Made me think of some of the best parts of Fallout or Final Fantasy 6.

Now most of the music in the game is the electronic SNES kind of music, I just wanted to post the best folk songs here especially since they’re sang so well and the lyrics are so relevant to this game.

The music kind of made me think of some of the music by Tom Waits, especially this song:

If you never heard of Tom Waits before, here is one of my favorite songs by him:

Anyways, the music for this game is TOP! I give the Music a score of 10 out of 10. The music makes you FEEL what’s going on. Rather than do some stupid cut scene that makes you have no interaction and makes it like a movie (the opposite of what a video game should be), you live the music as you play the game. A lot of BIG game developers have a lot to learn from this little game.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashed, not even while I alt-tabbed, running a bunch of stuff in the background. Stability/Reliability get a score of 10 out of 10. The music gets lower while in the menu and alt-tabbed but does not mute itself.

Controls:

You control The Kid with both keyboard and mouse (for the PC version). The controls are pretty self intuitive. You block with SHIFT and roll away from enemies with spacebar. The left mouse button does your melee attack (unless you change what weapon goes there) and right mouse controls your missile weapon (again unless you decided to have two melee weapons, which is not that smart). Q unleashes your super attack. The controls were great except that the game sometimes lags with some of the weapons kind of making them be useless to me (chaos launcher, sometimes the rifle) but you’ll identify them soon and I recommend you avoid those weapons. In fact, I recommend using the polearm, dual pistols, and pistol super skill all the time. I give Controls a score of 7 out of 10. Maybe it’s just the PC version that has that problem but I think they should have tested this game a little more in development and made sure all the weapons worked flawlessly.

Graphics & Performance:

Here is a game that’s so well put together it’s almost art-like. The character drawings will remind you of playing Terranigma, Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore on the SNES, only more polished sort of like having the same kind of graphics as games from the Warcraft 2 era or maybe like Revenant but having much higher resolution. The game has its own style of art, sort of like a Korean anime style. I liked the drawings of the characters and cutscene drawings. For a small game this was really great, blend all that with the narration and music and you have something that is superior to the original games that inspired its style. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10. A game doesn’t need to be 3D in order for it to be eye-candy.

Performance was nearly flawless, only having a few minor hickups that didn’t have too much of a penalty in gameplay. I give Performance an 8 out of 10. I do run a lot of stuff even while I game since I multitask work stuff a lot. You could see minor lag here and there but if you run with nothing in the background you should be fine.

Conclusion:

The game is nearly perfect except for the few flaws that I mentioned. It feels good to have a game that makes you feel something. Feeling good in a Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Final Fantasy 6, and Psychonauts way is something more games should have. Remember, technology “improving” is not always a good thing. Casablanca > Transformers 3, for example. Empire Strikes Back > everything else SW that came out after, except for KOTOR and Old Republic.

This game is worth playing, at least once. Live the experience that Bastion is!

El Shaddai: The Ascension of the Metatron

A Little Bit on El Shaddai’s Developer and Director

El_Shaddai_Game_Cover_Art

Ignition Tokyo, founded in 2007, is a branch within UTV Ignition Entertainment that developed El Shaddai and interestingly enough, El Shaddai is their first game according to the International Gaming Network. It certainly shows with the game’s originality and creativity which is its strongest feature. Ignition Entertainment has published well known titles like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and various other games for different consoles and handhelds.

Takeyasu Sawaki is the director of El Shaddai in Ignition who is known for being the lead character art designer for Okami and the first Devil May Cry. This was no surprise to me as I played it, seeing similarities that are only positive. In many cases this could be considered a bad case but I digress.

Story

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LKdmChm96A[/youtube]

This is a modern (jeans, cell phones and all), fictional, and somewhat biblical account derived from the the Book of Enoch. It tells of seven fallen angels corrupting mankind and a scribe named Enoch who is sent by God to purify or send them back to Heaven with Lucifel’s help. Grave consequences await man should our heroes fail, including the coming of the second Great Flood.

The story concept has a lot of potential, but I feel that the development of it was El Shaddai’s Achille’s heel. There is a lot of information they could have expanded on from the original tale or not, especially because the game is not very long as it is. I personally did not understand the ending, which created more questions than answers. I felt it was a very simple story even though so much was said and implied that seemed to be ignored. There was a problem, there were hiccups in the hero’s progress, and then it was solved(?). It sounds normal, but suppose I wanted to spoil the ending, I wouldn’t be able to describe it with any kind of sense. I’ll just say I have mixed feelings about a sequel. I want an explanation, but it could also only make things worse.

Characters

Enoch_and_Lucifel
Enoch and Lucifel

Lucifel, the Lucifel we all know but don’t exactly love, joins Enoch in his journey as a save point and is the narrator of the game. It’s interesting he is a Korean pretty boy who speaks to God on his cell phone every time you see him, simply because it’s the opposite of what you would expect from such an infamous figure. Lucifel looks like he’s a club goer and Enoch sports a pair of jeans with his armor which you don’t see in many games. The more damage he takes the less he has on. I found this amusing.

Gameplay and Graphics

In my opinion, they are what make the game. I could go on forever about color choice and creativity. The color black is innovated for use in contrasts with others throughout the game. It works with many other crafty, artistic strategies to create an intriguing and sometimes even abstract environment. The stages are never a disappointment and change almost constantly in color, shape, and structure. This could happen as Enoch is running, walking, or not even doing anything.

Another great aspect of the gameplay is the fact the plane changes back and forth from 2-D to 3-D while keeping Enoch in a third person view. I haven’t seen a game so innovative with its graphics in such a long time, so it was refreshing to experience. Overall it’s no less than visually stunning.

The Battle System and Its Difficulty

El Shaddai has a hack and slash battle system that is difficult at what seems to be random times. Some bosses throughout the game are easy, but the strategy to others can be difficult to find, especially before the discovery of the Veil. It’s a shield that doubles as gauntlets that are overpowered and that I rarely switched out for other weapons. The other two are the Arch, an arrow-like blade, and the Gale which shoots projectiles and is meant for long distance. The latter two weapons make jumping easier and Enoch run at a faster speed but unless you need them for those rare purposes, at least I didn’t find myself using them. Difficulty is important in a game and you’ll find it in El Shaddai, but expect it to come at awkward occurrences.

This video is a good example of the battle system and environment, at least for the start:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owk6VntXfNs&feature=relmfu[/youtube]

Replay Value

The game is a decent length for the type it played out to be and has decent extras like an art gallery and character voice clips you can unlock. From what I have heard so far, they are tidbits to add to the story and possibly elaborate on it. DLC isn’t likely but it certainly is possible. Like many games these days, the replay value is dependent on whether the player wants to collect the little extras and fulfill achievements.

The Audience

This is hard to tell but not everyone will like it, that’s for sure. I appreciate art, creativity, and innovation in the games I play and that seems to be what is emphasized the most. I love El Shaddai’s originality and I can bet money there is no game like it right now. There is no gore or apparent violence so if you’re looking for that, this isn’t where you’ll find it. It isn’t a children’s game either because of its complex storyline and that’s why I agree with the “Teen” rating it has.

The demo is SO important in deciding whether one is going to enjoy the game or not. I know I certainly did.

A Summing Up of the Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good
-Hack and slash battle system but it isn’t noticeably repetitive thanks to the brilliant environment and graphics.
-The environment and graphics. I see colors and images like those in my dreams.
-Original; there is no game like it.
-The art created for El Shaddai is outstanding. I’m waiting for my artbook to come in the mail.

The Bad
-If there is a sequel to be made and it ends up not straightening out the story, not even the graphics and gameplay could save it.
-Difficult at awkward times, but this could vary from player to player.
-Limited audience.

The Ugly
-It’s ending.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

General

Naughty Dog has come back with the third installment of the acclaimed Uncharted series and each game that has come out has been better than the last. As amazing as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves(2009) was, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception takes it to a new level yet again with utilizing the capabilites of the PS3 graphics engine and now having only a slight amount of noticeable glitches. There is no question why this is my choice for the 2011 game of the year even with Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Batman: Arkham City in the running.

Nathan Drake
The graphics are some of the best I’ve seen…ever.

Naughty Dog and the History of the Uncharted Series:

Naughty Dog is known for their older, not-as-serious series of Crash Bandicoot and Jak. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune(2007) took me by surprise with how impressive it was and reminded me Naughty Dog actually existed. It had the God of War properties of real time actions but still somehow ran fluidly like a movie with its unexpected twists, climbs and drops in drama, and action scenes. It had me on the edge of my seat like the other two that had yet to come. Uncharted 2 was the same concept but improved with better graphics and an even more engaging story. Now I need to mention something about the word “same” in the world of gaming. The word “same” is usually more attached to the negative than positive. If a sequel is the “same” it can mean it’s repetitive and who wants to pay $60 for a sequel when the prequel can simply be played again? Assassin’s Creed Revelations (review coming soon, hopefully) seems to be getting the heap by those who aren’t fans of the series for this reason. It plays exactly like the two others about Ezio before it. I don’t think so but I’m also an avid fan.

Anyway, Back to the Point…

Uncharted 3, considering controls and gameplay itself is not unlike is predecessors in any way, but Naughty Dog made that work. The Story is compelling and always moving forward. The lack of side quests could help make this possible but you will know if and when you play it that isn’t the only reason why it has such an amazing narrative.

Specifics on the Story Which Are Spoiler Free, I Promise

It shouldn’t be new, especially if you enjoyed the last two games, that Nathan Drake is our modern “Indiana Jones” type except with a realistic attitude and personality. The adventure our heroes progress through can be considered such as well with its historical legends, grave digging, and treasure hunting. “Nate” is only human which makes the story that much more agreeable. Naughty Dog has mastered the way of taking something no one has done research on or never seen and coming up with their own background with backup which is created or not.

Sounds Amazing. Why a 9 and Not 10?

The satisfaction the last two games brought you may not be there this time around. The game seemed rushed and too short, and the final boss seems to be the easiest part of the game. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful experience.

Could be played by:
New players to the series with a few things to be considered:
-All story with no sidequests
-Glitches though they are few and far between
-Difficulty randomly spikes
-These are hardly problems

Fans of the series:
-Go get it.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJuyv_ckh98[/youtube]

Notes:
I didn’t mention the multiplayer because I haven’t played it and I can’t considering my copy is rented from Gamefly.

It is rumored Naughty Dog is working on a third person shooting game for 2013.

The soundtrack is impressive but that isn’t a surprise.

Nolan North is the voice actor for Nathan Drake and interestingly enough, Desmond Miles in the Assassin’s Creed series.

 

Fable

Fable

I do love RPG’s, but when Fable was originally released I didn’t jump on it. First off, I’ve acknowledged that I’m a cheap gamer and I like the bargain bins, and secondly, I was getting geared up for Halo 2 (which would take most of my time). Third, I have a buddy who loves playing all 3 games and other similar RPG’s, like the Elder Scrolls run. Over the years, he would tell me of his gaming exploits, which were usually something like, “Yeah, this game is awesome! I have a bunch of wives, but they were coming after me for child support, so I had to take them out into the woods and kill them.” and “I played as a chick this time, and got VD and pregnant.”……This was enough to keep me away for a while. But, I knew I’d get around to it sooner or later.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

Before the game was released, there was enough hype surrounding the game to assure it would never live up to all the expectations. I don’t care about that. All I care about is having fun. It doesn’t matter to me if a game is delayed for years, or if it fails to deliver what it promised. After I insert the disc into my Xbox…”How does it look?” “How does it control?” “How much fun am I having?” These are the questions I ask myself. Having said all that, let me get into Peter Molyneux/Big Blue Box/Lionhead Studio’s Fable.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

All RPG’s have a story, some better than others. With Fable, the main story is pretty standard: Little boy’s village raided by bandits, father killed, mother and sister taken, strange man takes in boy so he can grow up and get revenge.
You play a short time as a boy, and then as a teenager, basically to get used to the controls. A little more than a tutorial, but that’s really what it is. When you reach manhood, the main quest starts. I know people who have put 40-50 hours (maybe more) into Fable, but I did 13. Here’s why: I’ve also never been a huge fan of “sandbox” games. I prefer linear. I understand I’m probably in the minority, but I like having a goal/quest/mission, then accomplishing it.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

In Fable, there is the main quest that will be fleshed out in increments by your mentor(s), but also a crapload of side quests. Most gamers want to get more for their money, and you’ll get this with Fable, because there is always something to do. But, nothing drives me crazier in a game than given my main quest with a “Time is of the essence! You must rescue ‘so-and-so’!”, then also having the option of romancing women, escorting traders, and stopping to smell the flowers, with no consequences after doing so.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

Sometimes, there’s so much going on that the main story is forgotten, and that should never be the case. I would have skipped the side quests completely, but for a couple of reasons: One, I wanted to see for myself so I could write about it, and two, I wanted to do just enough to level-up properly so I wouldn’t be under-powered against bosses when I finally reached them. But come on, there are just so many escort missions I can do before I was bored silly.
Having said all that, Albion itself is a beautiful place. From the water, to the woods, to the villages…..they spent a lot of time making everything look unique. Except for the people, who all look the same…. I think I married sisters. There is plenty of world to explore, and loading times aside, it was worth it to wander from section to section to see what the next part of the country looked like.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

The music was cute and very ‘fairy-tale’ like, the score was spot-on what I want to hear in the background when I’m playing a game like this. It was a very welcome addition to the game.
Combat is also an important part of an RPG, and this is done in real-time. You have your close-combat weapons (and there are plenty from which to choose), your long-range, and your spells. One of the cool things about your character is he doesn’t have a ‘class’ so to speak, meaning no fighter/wizard/whatever.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

He can do all of these things. As you kill enemies, you get experience and can take those XP to build up your character pretty much the way you want. You can make him extremely strong, very fast, or proficient with spell-casting. If you play the game long enough, you’ll eventually max out all. One of the really cool things I found was when I came across a huge sword that my character had a hard time carrying/using, but after I ‘strengthened’ my character, he was waving it around with no problem.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot
There are also the typical spells, with the fire/lightning strikes which I mostly used, along with a spell that gave me double attacks. Again, everything looked pretty cool, but the ‘lock-on’ targeting system was a major pain in the ass, with a lot of innocents getting fried on accident. And there were many times where it stayed on when I was trying to run for cover, which left me a bit defenseless. The enemies are many in number, but sparse in variety, and they look cool. Mainly bandits, huge wasps, some werewolf types, and a couple of others. There are some small bosses before the big ones at the end…. I just called Rock Monsters ‘small’, for some reason. The final bosses were way too easy, and I considered myself underpowered.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

Another huge aspect of the game is what I call the “The Sims”, which I didn’t really want to do. This is the interaction with the townsfolk. Now, every game has you talking to people for info, that’s pretty standard. Fable wants you to spend valuable questing time literally flexing my muscles, flirting, showing my trophy-kills, and giving gifts to impress people, as well as showing a scary face or giving the middle finger to people I don’t like. There’s a lot more of this than I just mentioned, and there are reasons for doing so, I just had zero interest in this. If I want to play The Sims, I will buy those games.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

I appreciate what they tried to do here, by making the game unique and ‘more real’ (I guess), but I think it takes away from the core gameplay. I did take a couple of wives, just so I could say that I did it, but it was empty gameplay…and oh yeah, my mother was being tortured during all this…sorry, ma. A man has needs.

I could go on, but by now you pretty much have my take:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXjXVRgT39o[/youtube]

Beautiful-looking, slow load times, wonky combat, good main quest story, unnecessary side quests, Sims stuff that doesn’t interest me, and easy bosses.
If I rate the game so just the main story, I recommend it. On the whole package…not so much. But, I know there are plenty of you out there that want to get that great hours to price ratio…and this game will do it for you.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

I was looking forward to Deus Ex mainly because I like the stealth style of gameplay, but with the option of going guns blazing if I wanted to. The game did give me what I wanted out of a sci-fi stealthy first person shooter, but there were some let downs for me personally as well.

First off, I write this review expecting people to know about the game and for those who already played it or wish too. Right off the bat I liked the visuals in the game though it still uses static backgrounds for its backdrops, meaning the city you are in is fully 3D, but perhaps the mountains in the far background is just a picture, which really isn’t a big deal.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

The gameplay itself can be either fast or slow depending on your style. However, cover from fire is very important because even though you are augmented you are far from invincible. The cover system is a lot like Gears of War where you can hide behind a structure and peek and shoot around it. This is how you will fight most of the time unless you are sniping someone from far away or my favorite sneaking up on someone from behind.

Now as said you can be more stealth based or more frontal assault and there are various weapons to go with each. I just have the feeling the game was made more for stealth so if you play that way it is a much better experience.  So when going stealth you spend most of your time crouch walking and hiding behind things and sneaking through air vents to sneak up on the enemy.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Now this is where I have to complain a bit. The AI is pretty stupid sometimes in Deus Ex. Here is an example. You sneak into a room via an air vent and sneak up on a guard and use your silent takedown move. Now if you are smart you hide the body and keep the other guards or the camera from seeing you, but even if they see you all you have to do is hide in that vent until they go away. I sat in one spot and shot guard after guard as they came to check the body and I was in no danger of them coming after me though the vent.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Let’s talk augments. Your character becomes pretty bionic and you can upgrade a variety of augments on your body for extra run speed, armor, aiming and so on. Now you earn points to upgrade either by gaining experience or by purchasing them at LIMB clinics. Now here is the thing. In my opinion hacking is the most important augment because it opens doors, gets you into computers where you can turn off cameras and turn turrets and robots on the enemy so honestly you want that first.

Another complaint, since they want you to upgrade and add to your augments they make it so certain things kill you that really shouldn’t. For instance, I jumped off a ledge a bit higher than a dumpster and died. A fall of that height should not kill anyone, but they want you to get the no falling damage augment so it does.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Back to hacking, so for some missions you need a higher hack rating to break into a door or computer so, again, it’s paramount to raise it first. However, many computers are completely useless and if you are like me who looks for everything you spend a lot of time just hacking computers, but it can be good to find codes or other information.

Stealing is also big in Deus Ex. If you want to have money, ammo and weapons then you need to steal everything and really you can even steal from your own company because they don’t seem to care and it can net you some good weapons. The same goes for hacking the doors and computers in your own company it nets you good loot so steal away.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

There is your main mission and side missions in each “City Hub” which is the way the game gives you an interactive city, but keeps you in a sand box. You start in Detroit and go on to places like China and Canada, but it is pretty much the same once you get there. Just remember, for the most part, once you leave a city hub you cannot do any of the side missions there so hit those up first it won’t affect any time table dealing with the main storyline. The side missions can net you experience, credits and sometimes a special weapon, but overall it made little difference on the ending of the game.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Yet another complaint, there are minor consequences to what you do in the game even though it makes you feel like there are big ones. For the most part you can skip all the side missions and not really miss anything, which I guess can be good for people who hate side missions. The same goes with choosing to knock out over killing, it makes no difference in the end and only applies to a very few mission parameters.

Searching, stealing and information gathering is mostly what you are doing in this game. There are action sequences and some decent fire fights, but honestly, between going the stealth route and hacking everything you see the game is pretty easy except for maybe the boss fights. The key is to search everything and if there are two other augments you should do after hacking it is to upgrade your inventory space and to get the social perk for additional conversation options.

Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-PC-Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, the game was fun. I wanted to keep playing and it kept me interested, but besides the lady pilot I did not really care about anyone else including the main character. I had the most fun trying not to kill people and instead sneaking up on them and knocking them out. With that said, the game is still worth a play through, but that is about it. I see no real reason to play it again considering you can save right at the end and see the alternate endings which I hate to say were disappointing.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA_-mhoksL8[/youtube]

Warhammer 40K Space Marine

Warhammer 40K Space Marine title screen

Warhammer 40K Space Marine review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Finally, a game as good as Halo or Gears of War for the Warhammer 40K universe.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview, Fun Factor, & Replayability:

From Relic/THQ, we see yet another great game for the Warhammer 40K franchise. This time instead of commanding your space marines in RTS style they bring us the gore and grittiness of fighting for the Imperium of Man in a 3rd person kind of FPS style. Think of the game kind of like a mix of Halo, Gears of War, and Dead Space as far as gameplay goes.

Warhammer 40K Space Marine orksThere’s two modes to play as of this writing: the single player human Space Marine campaign and the online multiplayer capture and deathmatch games. The single player campaign lets you take the role of one of the top heroes from the Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter and fight off an Ork and Chaos invasion from one of the sacred and rare Titan Manufactorum Forge Worlds. The campaign can take you 8 to 12 hours to play if you play it at a good pace. The online multiplayer is pretty straight forward, and is sort of like playing games like Team Fortress 2 or Unreal Tournament. The gameplay for the multiplayer actually feels a lot like the game Transformers: War for Cybertron. You can either play the mode where you capture and hold points with the first team that reaches 1000 points winning or you can play for whoever gets to 41 kills on their side first. In the online multiplayer, teams alternate playing Space Marines and Chaos Marines against each other.

Warhammer 40K space marine bloodyFrom what I heard there is a free DLC expansion coming out in October 2011 and it is supposed to make the campaign co-op multiplayer as well as they are supposed to be adding a Last Stand Mode for online multiplayer similar to The Last Stand mode from Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2. That should be great fun and that might make it more inviting for regular gamers to want to buy this game rather than mainly Warhammer 40K fans.

The game is pretty fun. You have to constantly be focusing on shooting enemies while knowing they will descend down on you at melee range and you’re going to have to start chopping everything down into a pile of meat as soon as possible. In the single player your character has access to a lot of special relics and wargear that makes him much more powerful than your multiplayer’s cookie cutter marine. Both are fun because even the single player is challenging enough that you will get killed even by a simple enemy (especially the squigs that have a pack of bombs attached to them… who ever knew that the orks were terrorists!). I give the Fun Factor overall a score of 7 out of 10.

I probably won’t be replaying the single player campaign unless I have nothing better to do. The meat and potatoes of the game mainly comes from the online multiplayer. I think it’ll add a lot with the upcoming update in October so that will add a lot of replayability to the game. The online multiplayer is pretty fun, especially when you are playing with friends online which is pretty easy because of the Steam integration that it has that’s almost as good as playing online games of Left 4 Dead. I give the current replayability a score of 7 out of 10. I’m just waiting for the expansion now to get excited about this game again.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

So far I’ve played the single player campaign once on the Normal Difficulty. There’s Easy, Normal, and Challenging, and even Normal was a little challenging for me. I wouldn’t say it was hard but it was hard enough that I had to pay attention all the time. If I were to play it again I would play it on the hardest difficulty but most likely I will wait to see how the campaign becomes after they add co-op and whether it will scale the difficulty based on the number of players. That’s all as far as single player goes.

As far as multiplayer goes, the matchmaking system is… well, not that good I think because I’ve had games where the high end players (your account rates on a scale of levels 1 to 41, which each level unlocks new wargear and perks for multiplayer in the style of COD:MW1 and COD:MW2) all got bunched together and beat the living shit out of the low level cannon fodder characters. I hope they’ll fix that!

chaos vs ork war bossValue:

The game is currently sold for around $50 US. I got it mainly because I’m a huge fan of the Warhammer 40K universe. I’d say pay that much if you really like that universe that much. I’d say for a normal person to pay around 20-30 tops for this game if you are just getting it as a game.

Sound:

Both the voices they chose for the Space Marines, Chaos, and Orks all sound as they should, again like in Dawn of War. All the weapon noises and the slashing and chopping sound great! You really feel the chaos of battle, especially when you play the game really loud.

My only complaint about the sounds in the game come from the multiplayer. If you have a microphone, it will automatically transmit sounds from your computer with your entire team. There is no push to talk as far as I know. So… you will get to hear people laughing or talking to other people. I even played a game where some guy was singing folk music over the mic. Yeah… WTF. FIX THIS SHIT!

I give the sound effects a score of 9 out of 10. Great shooting, great explosions, great voice acting!

Music:

The music is as good as I would say Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 1. You really feel inmersed in the Warhammer 40K universe with it. I give the music a score of 8 out of 10.

Hi! I'm a Chaos Lord... my mommy doesn't love me!
Hi! I’m a Chaos Lord… my mommy doesn’t love me!

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashes and I usually alt-tab a lot while playing. Stability and Reliability get a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls of this game are streamlined when compared to Darksiders. The movement is based on the WASD system plus mouse. I haven’t yet tested it with an Xbox 360 controller but it should be the same to play with that on a PC as on an actual Xbox 360 console. Controls get a score of 7 out of 10. They get the job done but they are not as streamlined as pure PC FPS games.

warhammer 40k space marine titanGraphics & Performance:

Finally, we have an FPS action game that lets us see the Warhammer 40K universe up close in good detail. Everything in the game looks great, for all factions. I would say the graphics look as good as any game based on the Unreal 3 engine, which this game doesn’t use; instead Relic wrote their own game engine, the Phoenix Engine. I give the Graphics a score of 9 out of 10.

Overall the performance is pretty great. The single player ran like a champ on my new gaming PC but I did run into problems with the multiplayer. It may just be me but I did hit a LOT of lag spiking in the multiplayer games and I’m using a 3 Mbps DSL connection with no activing on the connection other than just running the game. I think a lot of this problem comes with the stupid microphone always on problem that I mentioned above. Maybe the voice chat client is really inefficient. I suffered less of the problem when I played it on matches where almost nobody used it. I give the single player Performance a score of 9 out of 10. I give the multiplayer performance a score of 5 out of 10. I just always expect this to lag until they patch it. Sometimes it works but hey, I’m not too much of an optimist.

space marine inquisitorConclusion:

If you love Warhammer 40K then get it. If you love the Dawn of War series and want to play something a little different but in the same twisted universe then get it. For most people I would say, wait until the price goes down unless the upcoming DLC expansion is simply bloody amazing. I wish they would have let me play as the Orks too in multiplayer… Most people right now are still playing the new Deus Ex instead but I don’t regret buying this one. Dead Island on the other hand… THE END!

Youda Fisherman

Youda Fisherman menu

Youda Fisherman review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“A really fun RTS economy management flash game for people of all ages”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview & Fun Factor:

Youda’s Fisherman game is about you taking control of a failing fishing company and turning it around. The game is kind of silly as you have to control your fishing boats, while managing the selling and trading resources to keep your company afloat, while you battle pirates (Nigeria anyone?) and mother nature (sharks, whales, and storms). The game is a lot of fun because it requires so much micromanagement that it won’t even let you look away. There’s pretty much always something for you to activate or ship, while the computer attacks you. You have to complete different maps/levels which all have a time limit. You can either get a gold, silver, or bronze medal and the better the medal the more the rewards you’ll get from completing that map. You in turn use those rewards to research better fishing, manufacturing, and transportation technologies which you can use to complete missions faster and are eventually needed to complete all maps while getting all gold medals. You get both technologies and passive improvements which increase the amount of money you get for goods and other factors as you rebuild the corporate headquarters and infrastructure of the fishing company.

There are many different resources for you to manage in the game’s economy such as fuel, wood, gold (money), metal, as well as all the raw goods, which you turn into products. Some of those products require other raw goods that must be purchased only and cannot be produced by any of the buildings, such as olives, tomatoes, chili peppers, silver rings, etc. This game is all about resource and time management as well as reflexes.

I was surprised as to how hectic this game gets but in a good way. It will keep you on your toes because of the constant ticking of the clock that you are fighting against. Each map has its own strategy and the top concern is to keep your eye on the objectives. Sure, you might build up a super manufacture infrastructure but if you are already getting a bronze medal your rewards will be marginal.

I give this game a score of 8 out of 10 in Fun Factor because it kept me entertained for the 12-14 hours it took me to beat it and it can be fun enough that it can be addictive enough to make you want to keep progressing through the levels as fast as possible.

Difficulty, Difficulty Versatility, & Replayability:

For a casual gamer, this would be a challenging but beatable game. I play a lot of competitive RTS games so I found the game easy but then again this game targets the casual gamer audience. There is no way to make the game harder so that will affect replayability in the future. I will probably play this game in a year or so since the missions are always the same, rather than randomly generated. For casual gamers I’d give the game a difficulty a score of 8 out of 10. For more hardcore gamers I’d give the difficulty a score of 6 out of 10. Difficulty Versatility I give a score of 5 out of 10 because the difficulty stays just about the same throughout the game and rare gets harder, as well as you not being able to adjust it. The only difficulty really is trying to get gold medals on every map and even then eventually you will be able to do it if you go back and play old missions once you unlock everything in the research tree. Because of these factors I give the game a Replayability score of 5 out of 10. Not much of a challenge but I do like this game so I might play it even after I beat it over and over.

Value:

The game is usually sold directly by Youda Games through their website at this link for $9.95 US Dollars. I beat the game playing nonstop in about 12-14 hours. Considering that’s more gameplay hours that are actually fun versus me playing some much more popular games which only lasted me 4-5 hours (like Fallout 3) and were much more expensive, I think it’s a great value for ten dollars. If you have children and would like to enhance their micromanagement RTS skills, then this is a really great starter game for that. If you’re new to RTS games yourself, this is a great game to practice and learn with. I give the Value category a score of 9 out of 10.

Sound:

The sounds are well made and are an integral part of the gameplay. There is a lot going on in this game and audio ques are extremely important. You literally will be clicking on units and products constantly and it’s important to know when you are under attack, a unit needs maintenance, etc. All the sounds for every action are easily identified after a short amount of playing the game and they do their job right. The samples are quite good for such a small game. I give sound a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

The music fits the theme of the game really well. It’s not as memorable as say the music in Plants vs Zombies or Angry Birds but it does have nice calm tunes for a nice family game. I give the music a score of 8 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

No crashes or complaints here, not even when multitalking and doing alt tab a lot, on Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate edition. I give stability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

You only need a mouse to play this game. It’s really simple and that’s something that makes it great and easy for anybody to play. Simple controls are always a good thing. Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

This game can run on any PC. Even a netbook should be able to run it. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

The Graphics are nice and polished for a flash game. The boats look like real fishing boats and animals such as the shark and whale look cute and funny (especially when you smack them out of the water). I didn’t like the rendered non-animated cut scenes that would give you plot information that much. I thought they looked really cheesy and dated. Graphics get a score of 8 out of 10.

Conclusion:

If you want a fun RTS economy simulator that will run on any computer, get this game. If you are new or old to RTS games, you will most likely enjoy the level of micromanagement this game offers. I strongly recommend its purchase.

Virtua Tennis 4

virtua_tennis_4_pc-box

I first had my experience playing tennis games on console systems and I believed that was the best place to keep them, but after playing VT4 on my PC I have changed my mind. First, I have to report that I recently upgraded my system and use an Xbox controller which is auto-detected by the game and runs perfectly with it even using vibration.

This is a games for Windows game, so you log into your account and if you have a Xbox Live account it also sync’s with that. The game will detect your system settings and select what will work best before you launch the game.

The first think I liked about VT4 was the visuals. The look and feel of the menus to the courts and players are very well done. Also, for those use to a console experience, the game flows just like it would on a 360 or PS3 easily moving from screen to screen and match to match.

Virtua Tennis is more of an arcade style of tennis and while the mechanics are there it is meant more for the novice or new comer to tennis games. This does not mean you cannot up the difficulty setting for a challenge, but the great thing is anyone can pick up this game and enjoy it.

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The game has several modes including Practice, Exhibition, Arcade and World Tour. In arcade you can select from a number of tennis pros like Federer, Nadal, Williams, and Sharapova and compete in a best of three series match. Sadly, there is a lack of classic greats like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Steffi Graf, also only Venus Williams is in the game not her sister.

In the World Tour mode you can create your own tennis pro and work your way around the world competing in tournaments and improving your skills. The World Mode has a Game of Life board game feel where you need move cards and star currency to go to certain places. Unfortunately, there are some issues I have with this style including missing out on some tournaments because I did not have the right move card or enough star currency.

You can improve your skills in the World Tour by engaging in a series of mini games. These games are designed to not only improve your gameplay skills, but give you a break from the series matches. Some of the mini games include protecting baby chickens from a volley of tennis balls, playing with large fans blowing across the court and smashing clay signs. These may sound silly, but they are quite fun and Sega added a party mode just so you could enjoy them.

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There are also silly aspects to the World Mode including dressing up your character in various outfits. You can really create some strange combinations. Being a tennis pro is also about managing your celebrity so there are guest appearances you need to appear at to raise your star level which unlocks other match options. Finally there are rest areas because every pro needs a day off and if you do not rest you will be hurt and suffer in days lose and performance.

The gameplay is fun and not to frustrating to learn. Perhaps tennis game professionals would want a little more, but I as the novice tennis game player enjoyed the mix of easy to learn, harder to master.

When you play as a pro that pro has all his or her signature moves and is designed to play as the real star plays. Now while I do not know tennis enough to confirm how accurate this is, I did see difference between the characters and this allows you to find a play style that you feel comfortable with and enjoy.

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On the PC the visuals are stunning including support for 3D. The players look like their real life counterparts and the animation and environment design is extremely well done; there is even virtual sweat on the players if you are into that thing. On the sound side the music track is airy and upbeat and you can clearly hear all the grunts and yells from the players and roar of the crowd. IF there is a con here it is that sometimes when running down a ball there can be the ever so slight bit of slowdown, but I have only noticed this once or twice in several games.

Controls work well with the Xbox 360 controller. You have your shot selection on your main four buttons including a power shot that is activated during match play. As you go back an fourth you fill up a bar at the top of the screen, once the bar is full you hit the power shot button unleashing a powerful return that usually gets you the point. Since it takes time for this to occur it is not over powered and is a nice arcade touch to the game. However, fans to tennis simulators might feel the controls and gameplay could be more in depth.

The main points to the controls is having your character in the right place to return the ball and hitting the button at the right time. It may take new comers a bit to figure out exactly how long or when to hit the button for the perfect shot, but overall it is a simple fun system.

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Overall, Virtua Tennis four has improved greatly with graphics and gameplay. The fun factor and mini games are a nice touch while the World Tour mode could be a little more open and easy to navigate. There is also a multiplayer feature which allows matches online which is great for console fans used to live play.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APzgaSLrNT8[/youtube]

In the end I rate this as a buy even if you are not a tennis fan. The gameplay is fun enough for all and the visual are beautiful, a great all-around game.

Resident Evil 4


Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo GameCube is a uniquely sublime game, sporting some excellent eye-candy, an above average plot and moments of sheer horror followed by extended, yet relaxing, periods of violently shooting stuff. It also is an obvious, major even, evolution of the whole Resident Evil series and the first RE game to do away with zombies and go for the rather more nimble possessed peasantvariety of baddies. Oh, and it’s in glorious real-time 3D.

What’s more, RE 4 has also been made available for the mainstream PS2, which, despite the underpowered hardware, got a pretty impressive port, only slightly lacking in the looks department and more than making up for this drawback by offering a few extra gameplay hours. Kudos to Capcom for successfully pushing the PS2 hardware, then.

Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

So, what happens when Resident Evil 4, the same president’s daughter saving supernatural survival horror video game that amazed the console crowds, hits the PC? Tragedy, that’s what. Or to be more precise, what happens, is a tragedy of such epic proportions Sophocles might consider producing it, for Capcom has somehow ignored the hardware muscle of the PC, the fact that the mouse is now (for this deceivingly 10 year long decade, at least) considered a pretty standard piece of high-tech equipment, that contemporary gamers like to have a proper save (let alone quicksave) function and that PC gamers aren’t as game-starved as in the very early eighties, and went on to promptly produce the shoddiest Resi 4 port imaginable.

The game, cunningly avoiding to offer mouse control as an option, is virtually unplayable without a gamepad (even though being prompted to press buttons 1, 2, 3 or 4 can still be baffling) as the keyboard-only control method is frankly shocking (WASD to aim?). Even if, and this will be a very ill-conceived if, you do decide to give RE4 a try just to experience the story and visuals, think again.

Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

The thing not only plays but looks decidedly shite and doesn’t even bother to provide a way to exit the game without going for the ol’ ctrl-alt-del trick.The graphics themselves are a travesty, which could a) have been easily avoided b) really wouldn’t be so important if they hadn’t removed daylight, night and fog effects in a brilliant attempt to strip away any sense of atmosphere. Then again, instantly disappearing characters have been added, thus succesfuly adding to the hilarity of the whole affair. Obviously anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and modern soundcard technology have seemed to evade Capcom‘s attention all together. And still, the bloody thing will eat up almost 5 Gigas of your hard drive. For what? I really can’t imagine. Probably just to irritate you.

Warning, obvious conclusion: Avoid Resident Evil 4 PC like the plague. In fact, given a choice, go for the rotting away to death fetish, and if you really desperately need to play Resident Evil 4 -which you do- you’re better off buying a GameCube and the original version. Or a Wii and waiting a bit. Or, why not, a PS2. Heck, you’ll probably enjoy playing the offending Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man more. Oh, and to remind you… THERE’S NO MOUSE SUPPORT. Tsk, tsk.