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The leading corporation in incoherent thoughts, nonsensical babblings, and saucy puppet shows.

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Venom

I consider myself a reasonable(ish) person, one who“s usually slow to anger unless I“m navigating THOSE FREAKING MEDUSA HEADS in Castlevania. Whenever a company makes a business decision I don“t agree with, I try to look at it objectively and think of the many reasons why it could be a good thing, and why they thought they should go ahead with their plans. Not this time though, as Microsoft has gone and made a baffling decision involving PC gaming that makes me want to throw an Xbox off a balcony into a pile of other broken Xboxes and possibly even switch to Linux while I“m at it. That decision was leaving Steam and Windows 7/8 users in the dust for their upcoming PC game releases.

 

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Someone get me a sledgehammer.

 

Let“s start with a little background though – we all know and possibly love Steam, right? It“s a great service for buying digital PC games, since you can keep them all in one tidy library instead of having to remember where you bought what game if you need to retrieve a download link again. Sure, there are other services like Origin and GOG Galaxy, but the massive number of available games on Steam absolutely dwarfs the competition, from indies to AAA to everything in between, it“s almost all on Steam. Steam also has a large community that's usually willing to help resolve issues, so you don't have to wait for Valve to take your number. Isn“t it great to have such a wide variety of games new and old, and a thriving community supporting them, all in one easy place?

 

Apparently Microsoft doesn“t think so, at least, not anymore. Sure, if you have a look right now, you“ll see some Microsoft Studios published games such as Mark of the Ninja and Ori and the Blind Forest. But those are the last ones you“re likely to see with Microsoft“s new outlook, as part of their supposed commitment to delivering the same quality Xbox games to PC gamers. Why is that? Because Microsoft, in all their infinite wisdom, has decided that you had better be using Windows 10 and Windows 10 ONLY if you wanna play their newest games on PC, because they“ll only be available on the Windows 10 Store. Got Windows 7 and wanna play Quantum Break on PC? Tough cookies, sonny, you“d better upgrade that operating system or get yourself an Xbox One.

 

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You didn't want this anyway, right?

 

So what the hell are they thinking? Locking their PC games to Windows 10 is no different than locking a game to Xbox One specifically, because you still need a specific system just to play the game. They are taking the console-exclusive approach and applying it to what should be a “free system†of sorts, where any range of machines with varying operating systems and configurations have access to the same games. Who does this benefit besides Microsoft? Absolutely no one, that“s who. It gets their newest OS in more hands so they can make the numbers look good, and having the games exclusive to the Windows Store means more money for Microsoft and no sharing with the likes of Valve. If you“re waiting on me to try and find a way this helps the consumer, you“re gonna be waiting a while. It means not being able to shop around for a good price. It means only having one "official" source of support if something goes wrong. And if you already hate having to use Origin for EA games, it means splitting your PC library up across different services even more. It's not even so much that games aren't available on Steam, though that is annoying. It's that they can't be played if you don't have one specific operating system, despite how almost every developer and publisher besides Microsoft (remember Halo 2's Vista-only compatibility?) optimizes their games for various versions of Windows, and sometimes other OSes like Mac or Linux.

 

Now, I“ll be fair and note that Windows 10 is technically free to upgrade to, and you can upgrade from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, so there“s no real reason you can“t actually play the games that will come to Windows 10 Store if you“d like. Therein lies another problem, though – not everyone wants this “upgrade.†Some people are just fine and happy using an older version of Windows, and see no real reason to switch, even with the promise of being able to play stuff like Killer Instinct or Gears of War Ultimate Edition. Oh, and another problem? Since Windows 10 was developed and released after most currently available games came out and stopped being supported, there are a handful of games with compatibility issues ranging from save files disappearing to DRM not working (which you might notice means you can“t even play the game) to sound issues and more. How is that an upgrade if you“re already an avid PC gamer?

 

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Notice how the light is on the outside of the window. You'll find only darkness within.

 

I“m willing to admit I“ve always been biased against Microsoft, and this is just another in a long line of missteps that keeps me snuggled in the arms of Sony and Nintendo. It doesn“t help much that I“m quite comfortable using Windows 7 and have no desire to change it if I don“t have to. But I don“t think I“m alone when I say that this new approach to PC gaming is a huge step back from the tried and true method of, you know, distributing PC games across various digital stores and optimizing them for use on different operating systems. It“s a step that only goes one way – in Microsoft“s direction. In their sudden rush to bridge the gap between Xbox and PC gaming, they ended up making them basically the same thing. I suppose no amount of complaining is realistically going to change their new stance on PC gaming though, and that stance boils down to “get Windows 10 or get bent.â€

 


So anyway, there's my rant on how annoying it is that I won't be able to play Killer Instinct without an Xbox One or Windows 10. How do you feel about Microsoft's commitment to only releasing games on Windows 10? Maybe you don't care because you already upgraded to Win10, or maybe you don't care because you don't play PC games. Maybe you're just as annoyed as I am! Whatever the case, let me know how you feel in the comments!

Venom

It's that time of year again - a time for holiday happiness, heartfelt hospitality, and of course, hefty humbugs from the Scrooges among us. If that last one sounds like you, then you're in luck, because I've got a sure-fire way for you to give a little Christmas cheer this year while still being a complete jerk to all around! So before you head out for your last minute purchases of framed self-portraits, take a look at this handy guide for giving your enemies what they deserve most - a holly-jolly helping of games they're sure to hate!

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For the fighting game fan...Mortal Kombat: Special Forces

 

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Though difficult to pull off, The Worm isn't a useful special move in a fight.

 

It's probably safe to say any fighting game fan worth his or her salt knows about Mortal Kombat, if they're not a fan of it themselves. If they are, you can change that for good this year by dropping this hot lump of coal in their stocking and watching the Christmas tears roll! Rather than sticking to the one-on-one fighting he's good at, Jackson "Jax" Briggs takes on a third-person action shooter that tries to combine Mortal Kombat with Metal Gear and ends up an unrecognizable mess instead. The game is basically anti-fun, and you can feel yourself aging as you realize your own mortality with every moment spent playing this abomination. Perfect for letting your worst enemy know their time is running out!

 

In a pinch: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero will also do, as it is soul-crushingly terrible in every conceivable way.

For the platformer fan...Bubsy Two-Fur

 

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Bubsy: something to sneeze at.

 

Like a stray cat that you put out food for one time, Bubsy just keeps coming back. His infamy will always live on thanks to the so-terrible-it's-almost-art Bubsy 3D, but someone still thought it was a good idea to say "you know what people want right now? The first two Bubsy games on Steam." And lo, did the Greenlight Gods vomit out this unholy mess of pixels known as Bubsy Two-Fur, and yea, did the people graciously vote it onto Steam, because playing terrible games ironically is apparently a national pasttime. Now you and your hated ones can relive the glory days of horrible controls, cheap deaths, and annoying catchphrases long before Sonic the Hedgehog took up the mantle for all of those things. (ba-zing!)

 

In a pinch: Speaking of our pal Sonic, if your nemesis doesn't use Steam, you can always "treat" them with a copy of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric or Sonic the Hedgehog '06. These are two games that, had they been released in the same year, surely would have invoked some ancient ritual and caused the apocalypse.

For the adventure game fan...MacVenture Series

 

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Thanks for paying.

 

The MacVenture series consists of Shadowgate, Deja Vu, Deja Vu II, and Uninvited, and that last one basically sums up how each one feels about the player - it doesn't really want you playing it and enjoying it, and it's going to do everything it can to make the experience as miserable as possible. It doesn't matter which one you're playing; basically everything can kill you or otherwise cause you to lose even without much input on your part. They are the oldest of old-school adventure and each is a veritable exercise in frustration, which is great if you want to be really snarky about getting someone an "exercise machine."

 

In a pinch: the 2014 version of Shadowgate is basically the same thing but with better graphics, so if your enemy refuses to play "old-looking" games, give them this instead. It's just as sadistic and just as fun for you to watch when they fail a puzzle repeatedly!

For the action game fan...Ride to Hell: Retribution

 

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Drinking game: take a drink every time the player makes this face.

 

If you threw the terms "bikers" "the 60's" and "revenge" into a pot and stirred it, you'd probably come out with a pretty cool game or movie. If you threw those same terms in a trash compactor and turned it on, you'd get Ride to Hell: Retribution. This game had no idea what it wanted to be, so it tried to be everything and ended up as nothing. Stiff animations, disjointed story, unresponsive controls, and just a general sense that the game could collapse on itself at any given moment will have your enemies wrenching in disgust, but at the same time racing to complete the game before it implodes. You can probably find this game in every $1 bargain bin across America, so if you're trying to be evil on a budget, look no further.

 

In a pinch: If, however, you have so much money that you just need to rub it in, pick your enemy up a disc copy of Devil's Third. Due to limited release in the US, the game is already selling way over MSRP, despite the fact that it's probably about as much fun to play with as a broken bottle. At least the bottle can only scar you physically.

For the racing fan...Garfield Kart (non-mobile versions)

 

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Oh, that wacky Garfield. What will he get up to next?

 

Yeah, I could have just put Big Rigs here and called it a day, but I'm not taking the easy road, at least not for two more entries. Anyway, if you hate someone as much as Garfield hates Mondays, then you just know they'll "love" zipping around the track as one of their favorite comic strip characters. The best/worst part about this game is that there's absolutely no multiplayer at all - you know, the main reason people even play kart racers - so you can cackle maniacally as your new arch-rival races circles around the the AI, locked in an eternal struggle for dominance with a cold, unfeeling computer dictating the behavior of the only friends they'll ever be allowed to have again. Until they turn the game off, anyway.

 

In a pinch: Flatout 3: Chaos & Destruction is the lowest-rated racing game on Steam, and there are a lot of bad racing games on Steam. For a series that prides itself on hilariously over-the-top crashes, this one landed with an underwhelming thud before being towed back to the starting line, where it waits for someone to care. That someone could be your newly acquired adversary!

 

For the RPG fan...Hyperdimension Neptunia

 

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Which button do I press to skip the rest of the game?

 

To be clear, I mean the original release, not the Re;birth version. While that version is at least moderately entertaining, the first release of Hyperdimension Neptunia was more of a chore to play than a race to see who can sort the recycling the fastest. It certainly works as a parody of the game industry in one way, in that it proved "if you keep buying them, we'll keep pumping them out" and finally gave the series a chance at mediocrity. But, like the body pillows owned by fans of the series [citation needed], this first one should be shoved in the closet and hidden from from the eyes of decent society.

 

In a pinch: Unlimited SaGa is basically the anti-RPG - freedom of exploration now limited to board-game like movement, combat almost entirely determined by luck rather than proper planning and good tactics, and a story that doesn't care to involve you and instead jumps around as it pleases. In other words, it's a perfect way to make someone you think wastes too much time on RPGs waste too much time on an RPG.

For the FPS fan...Duke Nukem Forever

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In a pinch: Aliens: Colonial Marines (see above)

 

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So there you have it, the perfect gift guide for enemies, frenemies, or people you just plain don't like to show them that, despite your differences, you can still be a good sport and get in the giving spirit this Christmas, as long as you're only giving pure agony in digital form. So what do you think? What games would you give to someone you don't like? What games have you gotten as gifts that you wish had stayed on the shelf? Be merry and share your stories in the comments below! You might just give us all the best gift this year - the gift of laughing at other people's misfortunes.

Venom

With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain just coming out, a lot of people are likely going back and enjoying the first four Metal Gear Solid games for the second or third or twenty-sixth time, taking in the sights and sounds and over-the-top boss fights that have long set the series apart from its peers. While I haven't actually done that, I still thought it would be fun to do my own little thing involving the previous games, so what better than a quick look back at the moments that really stood out in each game? Reminisce with me as I take you on a fun-filled journey back through time involving Snakes, walking nuclear weapons, and storylines so tangled with intrigue that you'd need a PhD. in Kojimantics to understand any of it!

 

*** NOTE: THERE WILL BE CARELESS SPOILERS AHEAD. THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING! ***

 

Metal Gear Solid - You Like Castlevania, Don't You?

 

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"Stand right where he can see you...and tell him about Konami's exciting new games!"

 

C'mon, what did you expect? Even now, 17(!) years after the game released, the fight against Psycho Mantis is still one of the most unique and memorable boss fights in all of gaming. Every little trick and mind game, like having to swap controller ports, serves to keep you on your toes and challenge what you thought you knew about playing action games. Of course, the precursor to the fight is just as mind-blowing, when Mantis not only reveals that he knows you like Castlevania (or Super Mario Sunshine if you're playing the remake) but then moves your entire controller with a single thought. Okay, yeah, we all know how it was done...now. But back in 1998, we'd never seen anything like it, and I'd argue that we still haven't seen anything quite like it, at least outside of the Metal Gear series itself.

 

Honorable Mentions - You're a Real PAL, Snake

 

So you need three PAL keys to override Metal Gear REX's activation, but you only have one key. What do you do? Why, use it at room temperature, and then after exposing it to both extreme heat and extreme cold, of course! Now that you've figured out the puzzle behind the key, you insert it three times into the console that will deactivate REX. You did it! You saved the - what!? Metal Gear!? It's already active! Yes, finding out you've been duped into turning the ignition key to a walking, nuclear-equipped death machine is enough to put a damper on anyone's day, but just to add insult to injury, Liquid Snake also reveals how you were manipulated into helping him by posing as your old mentor, Master Miller. Now it's time to REALLY save the world the only way you can - by blowing Metal Gear REX to bits.

 

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - Infiltrating Core 1 of the Big Shell

 

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"Freeze...tag! We should play freeze tag!"

 

First, if you thought I was going to say "the Tanker chapter because you play as Snake" then kindly go sit in the corner. No, I'm not defending Raiden or anything of the sort, but the twists and turns you'll experience while playing the Plant chapter hit no less hard just because you're not Snake. Anyway, of all the places Raiden goes and the things he does, one part I always look forward to is when he's tasked with infiltrating the core of the Big Shell to rendezvous with an agent named Ames. What's so great about that? You do it disguised as one of the enemy soldiers! While, on its own, that's not anything special, what is really great is how you can mess around with the enemies. Punch them in the face, shoot them in the eye, do cartwheels in front of them, then run around the corner and they'll be none the wiser when they come looking for their comrade gone rogue, because you look just like any other soldier. Granted, it's not actually part of the game's objective for you to do any of that, but the fact that you can if you want makes what would otherwise be a short, fairly uneventful section that much more entertaining.

 

Honorable Mentions - Fission Mailed

 

Oh, sweet! Raiden's got that high frequency blade and he's ready to carve through some enemies! Why, here's some bad guys now! Time to get slicing and dicing and--what!? How did I die?? Wait, am I dead? I'm not? WHAT'S EVEN HAPPENING I CAN'T SEE!! Aside from the Colonel's crazy Codecs, one of the side effects of installing the GW virus into Arsenal Gear's AI causes the entire game to start wigging out and throwing up fake death screens, while you're up in the corner just trying to kill the bad guys you can barely even make out anymore. It's a crazy section in the craziest act of the game, but hey, you get to use a sword and pretend you're a ninja, so it's still pretty awesome. Or you can just use your guns and shoot the enemies, I guess, but why would you waste a good sword?

 

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - Sorrowful Recollections

 

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Arriving Naked to someone's pool party is generally considered indecent.

 

I could have easily just filled this entire article with boss fights from the games, because each one is unique and amazing in its own right, but the "battle" against The Sorrow is in an entirely different league. First of all, though you can see him and he can actually hurt you, you can't attack The Sorrow at all. Secondly, as you wade through the waist-deep water, you'll see ghostly apparitions of soldiers coming at you with what seems like a vengeance. That's because they are! The soldiers and other characters you see during this haunting journey are actually all of the enemies you've killed up to that point in the game. So if you've been a pacifist, you might find it to just be a leisurely stroll through an unpleasant looking river, but if you had an itchy trigger finger, watch out. The other thing that's unique about this fight is that the only way to win is to lose, or, more specifically, die. You can't actually DIE, though, because that just gets you a game over. If only there was some way you could fake it...

 

Honorable Mentions - I Like MGS2!

 

Before starting Snake Eater, the game asks you which of the first two Metal Gear Solid games is your favorite. If you choose Metal Gear Solid 2, you'll get a bit of a surprise upon seeing Naked Snake for the first time - he'll look less like the grizzled soldier you've seen in the previews and quite a bit more like the baby-faced, nasally voiced, perpetual whine machine Raiden from the previous game, sporting a firm, clean-shaven face and shoulder-length blonde hair. You find out shortly after the opening cutscenes that it's just a mask, and you'll actually need it later in the game, but starting out with it on is quite a bit more jarring - not to mention hilarious - than if you'd known about it and put it on yourself.

 

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - Shadows of the Past

 

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"Snake, I've disabled the use of weapons on this floor, even though there's no one here."

 

To say Metal Gear Solid 4 has a lot of (nigh incomprehensible) callbacks and allusions to previous Metal Gear games would be an understatement, but the one that stands out most is the one that manifests itself in the form of a playable level. I'm talking, of course, about the return trip to Shadow Moses Island. Retreading the dilapidated ruins of the original game while Snake recalls many of the game's stand-out moments is a much better way to revisit series history than long-winded monologues. The real icing on the cake though is the two boss battles that play out here - the first being more a more or less straight up recreation of the Sniper Wolf fight from the first game, and the second being a no-holds-barred brawl between Metal Gears REX and RAY, with you in REX's pilot seat. This was the first and only (in the console games, at least) time players were allowed to climb inside one of the titular Metal Gears and take it for a spin, and it was an absolute joy stomping about and shredding RAY to pieces with heavy artillery.

 

Honorable Mentions - What's Your Secret?

 

Call me shallow, but the section where Snake dons a mask that makes him look like his younger self stands out because we were finally (sort of) playing as the Snake we all know and love, and not what appears to be his grandfather. That's not the only good thing about this level, mind you - there's also the fact that the first part of the act is pure stealth, and the consequences of failure can be dire. Snake must tail a member of the Paradise Lost Army through the dimly lit streets of an unnamed European town, avoiding being seen not just by the resistance member he's following, but PMC units patrolling the streets as well. It's a tense section where going guns-blazing upon getting spotted isn't really an option, so you have to stretch your stealth legs and learn to become effectively invisible. Just like Snake would do it.

 

BONUS: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - Déjà Vu

 

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Wait, I only have an Options button...

 

Oh, hey, Metal Gear Solid V did sneak in! Kind of! While Ground Zeroes was a nice teaser of what's to come, the main mission didn't really offer much to keep you busy since, other than finding the XOF patches, there wasn't much reason to replay it. Thankfully, there were side missions that gave you more chances to play around with the new gameplay elements before The Phantom Pain arrived. One of these missions stands out more than others, that being the Déjà Vu side op, unlocked after you've tirelessly searched (or looked up online) and found all of the aforementioned XOF patches. In this op, your goal is to recreate scenes from the original Metal Gear Solid by following visual clues, while your radio contact throws out several memorable lines calling back to Snake's first 3D adventure. The mission can be pretty short if you know what you're looking for, but it's still an entertaining and often funny way to recall the series' history in a new setting.

 

Honorable Mentions - Reflexive

 

Ground Zeroes introduced a new feature to the Metal Gear games in the form of Reflex Mode, where, upon being discovered by an enemy, time slows down for a brief period and gives you a chance to put down the enemy (or enemies!) that spotted you before they can warn others. The first time it kicks in is a rush, especially if the enemy is a good distance away or was somewhere off screen, because you only have a few precious seconds to locate and silence them. Even after the 50th (if you're not very good, like me) time the mode kicks in, it still provides an intense adrenaline kick as you shoot down enemies and disappear back into the shadows without a trace.

 


So there's a fun little retrospective of just some of the amazing things the Metal Gear Solid series has offered players in the past. Now that you're in a proper nostalgic mood and sporting your rose-tinted glasses, what are some of your favorite moments from the series? Are you excited to play The Phantom Pain? Already playing it? Whatever you've got to say about Kojima's wonderful stealth-action series, say it loud and proud down in the comments!

Venom

So I did one of these last year, and...wait, has it really already been a year since E3 2014? Because it doesn't feel like it. But indeed it has, and this year was chock full of surprises and megaton announcements topped off with a helping of new IPs and twists on the familiar. With what we saw, most of us probably wanted a place to gush about the things that really jumped out at us. This is my place to do just that. :P

 


Doom

 

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Doom is an icon in the shooter world. THE icon, at that. It put first person shooters in the mainstream and covered the floor with demons and blood long before every other game started doing the same. The series was quiet after Doom 3, but it's coming back in a big, brutal way. Bucking the popular trends, Doom throws out cover, two-weapon inventories, and all the things that have limited us from just running up on some bad guys and shooting the crap out of them with a myriad of increasingly ridiculous weapons, and I'm absolutely stoked about that. FPS games have gotten far too sanitary and clingy to the player, and a game that throws you in with no regenerating health, no shields, and no mercy and expects you to circle-strafe your way to victory is the kick in the pants the genre needs right now.

 

StarFox Zero

 

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Yes, I know there are actual screenshots, and no, I don't care.

 

It's about time! While a new StarFox was mentioned at E3 2014, we didn't get any real info about it. Now that we've seen how the game looks and plays, I can't wait to get my paws on it. StarFox 64 has always been the high point of the series and one of my favorite games, and it's about time we get a new entry in the series that looks like it can match or even possibly outdo the high standards set by the N64 game. The fact that it's being at least partially developed by Platinum Games also has me excited, as Platinum has put together some quality action titles and I'll be happy to see them put those skills to work on bringing Fox and the crew to life on WiiU. The best part is that it's coming out this year, so it won't be long until we're doing barrel rolls and finding out what Wolf won't let us do this time.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

 

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While I'm not a huge fan of Guerrilla's Killzone games, they were competent shooters with a lot of polish, so I'm confident they could deliver a new experience with great mechanics and amazing visuals. That experience is coming in the form of Horizon: Zero Dawn, with its concept of advanced tech vs. ancient weaponry painting a vivid world of clashing architectures and pitting the savage against the sleek. And robot dinosaurs! Don't forget the robot dinosaurs. Even if the gameplay doesn't look like much beyond a fairly standard third-person action-shooter at this point, I still want to dive into Horizon and get lost in the world of the Old Ones.

Rare Replay

 

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Oh yes. I enjoy collections of past video games as much as anyone, but a collection of Rareware titles is one for the books. Bringing together some of their best games past and present, and also Grabbed by the Ghoulies (joke, I haven't played that game) Rare Replay is giving us some of the most treasured gaming experiences in one reasonably priced $30 package, along with some new features like challenges and achievements. I'm talking greats like RC Pro AM, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Perfect Dark, my personal favorite underrated gem Jet Force Gemini, Battletoads Arcade, Viva Pinata, and more. Really, the only problem here is that I don't have an Xbox One, but the minute I get one, this collection is absolutely coming home with it.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

 

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I love Mario & Luigi. I love Paper Mario. Would I love both of them together? You bet! This game looks to take the fun and frantic action-based combat and exploration of the Mario & Luigi series and fuse it with elements ripped straight out of Paper Mario in what's sure to be one of the most entertaining and satisfying Mario RPGs yet. While it may not be the Paper Mario sequel many were hoping for, it's still going to be a fantastic addition to the 3DS library and should be a huge treat for those who were less than impressed with Paper Mario: Sticker Star as the papercraft plumber gets back to the old ways of beating baddies.

Shenmue III

 

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Hoo boy. Did anyone see this coming? If you're raising your hand right now, bring it down hard on your face, because you are a liar. After years upon years of hoping, begging, pleading, and praying, fans finally got what they never expected in the announcement that Shenmue III is finally happening, and through Kickstarter, you can make it happen. Naturally, the game is already fully funded on Kickstarter, so as a huge fan of the original game, I'm thrilled to know that after all these years I'll be able to hang with Ryo Hazuki once again when the game releases...whenever. The "estimated delivery" is December 2017, but those can usually be taken with a grain of salt. At any rate, whatever year this comes out is gonna be a huge year for gaming.

Fallout 4

 

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Oh man. Ohhhhh man. Ohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohmanohman. FALLOUT 4. IS HAPPENING. THIS. FREAKING. YEAR!!!!!!!!! *deep breath* I'm okay. Yes, friends, loved ones, enemies, and people I don't have an opinion of one way or the other, the next trip to everyone's favorite Wasteland is coming much sooner than I could have anticipated. We saw the first reveal of Fallout 4 a bit before E3 started, and while that was exciting enough on its own, nothing, and I mean nothing could prepare me for the bombshell that Bethesda dropped during their first ever conference, when they announced that Fallout 4 is releasing on November 10, 2015. TWENTY FIFTEEN. THIS YEAR!!!!!!! THE HYPE IS SO REAL I CAN'T CONTAIN IT AHHHHHHHHHHHH

 

(disclaimer for those who will inevitably say the game will miss its release date and slip into next year: shut up)

 


Honorable Mentions:

 

Killer instinct on PC

 

Xbox boss Phil Spencer stopped by the PC Gaming Show to talk about Microsoft's plans for PC gaming, and casually mentioned that (former) Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct is headed to PC! No other info was given, but it's still exciting news for people like me who wanted to play it but don't have the system.

 

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

 

Not the biggest announcement from Nintendo's lineup, but as a fan of the Mario Tennis games I couldn't be happier about this. I skipped on the 3DS Mario Tennis game since I don't play my handhelds much, so I'm glad Mario and co. are bringing the racket to WiiU.

 

Just Cause 3

 

We've known about Just Cause 3 for a little while, which is why it just gets an honorable mention since it wasn't really revealed at E3 specifically. (yes, neither was Fallout 4, but that's Fallout 4) Anyway, I spent hours roaming around blowing stuff up in the lushly detailed world of Just Cause 2, and I'm looking forward to doing it again when Just Cause 3 comes out this year.

 

Xenoblade Chronicles X

 

This is another we've known about for a while, but the exciting news is that it was revealed to be coming out in December of this year. While I never played the original Xenoblade Chronicles, the footage I've seen of Xenoblade X still has me really excited to take this RPG for a spin.

 

No Man's Sky

 

I wrote about this last year, and, yep, I'm still super excited about it. Can we get a release date so I can whine about how far away it is?

 


While that's not nearly everything at E3 I thought was worth getting excited over, it's a take on some of the things that really made me happy to be a gamer and excited for what's in store over the course of this year and 2016. Now that you've read my babbling, it's time to share your thoughts in the comments! What excited you the most? What disappointed you? What did you hope to see that didn't show? Whatever thoughts you have about E3 2015, let's hear them!

Venom

So, a while back, I (and some others) wrote up some mini reviews for various Steam games, and the entries were such a rousing success [citation needed] that I decided to write a second one! So if you're in the market for some miniature Steam reviews without actually reading user reviews on Steam (and no one would blame you) come on in and have a quick look at my reviews, now 50% off!

 

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Double Dragon Neon

When Double Dragon Neon launched on PS3 and Xbox 360, it had a lot going for it: bright neon 80's drenched nostalgia, a rockin' soundtrack, and plenty of Williamses and Abobos to beat up, just like the old days. One thing it didn't have going for it was online play, meaning in order to take advantage of two-player mode - i.e., the main draw of the game and beat 'em up genre in general - you had to have someone sitting next to you. But then the Steam version came along and fixed that right up, so now you can play this fun and flashy game with anyone, anywhere! Well, as long as the game doesn't glitch or crash a bunch, as it's known to do in online mode. In any case, it's still good for people who missed it the first time around, or simply didn't have any offline friends interested in playing.

Score: 7/10

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The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is just The House of the Dead: Overkill except you kill zomb-err, sorry, "mutants" with words. We're done here, right? Okay, supposing you've never played the original game, it's a schlocky, foul-mouthed on-rails shooter in the vein of pretty much any other light-gun game, but it's got a lot of b-movie "charm" (depending on your opinion of b-movies) to keep things from getting too serious. You type words and phrases that appear on screen to kill enemies, but If typing words at things to kill them doesn't sound like a good time, first, get yourself checked, because there's something wrong with you. Second, good news! You can play the original version of Overkill with a mouse or gamepad as well. Whichever way you decide to play, just don't make Detective Isaac Washington mad. He'll rip your (expletive deleted) balls off.

Score: 8/10

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Assassin's Creed III

What can I really say about an Assassin's Creed game you don't already know at this point? The series is still trucking along its yearly path, even despite the ridiculously botched launch of Unity. Anyway, before Unity and some of the other ones, there was Assassin's Creed III, which takes place in the time frame preceding and during the American Revolution. The gameplay elements of the previous games were all there and expanded upon, along with some new features like captaining your own ship and leading ragtag American armies to victory in what can only be described as a Redcoat Shooting Gallery. While some of the elements set the framework for future entries in the series, the game's plodding plot, mostly unlikable characters, and inability to do anything really interesting with the Colonial setting really hold it back from being anything but mediocre. Unless you really care how main present-day character Desmond's story ends (you don't) you can probably skip this one.

Score: 5/10

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Metal Slug 3 and Metal Slug X

I'm lumping these together because they're pretty much the same, gameplay-wise, and which one is "better" comes down to personal preference. If you've never played a Metal Slug game, it's basically similar to Contra (and if you've never played that, I just can't help you) in that you do a lot of running and a lot of gunning. But the series has a good sense of humor about it and some ridiculous guns and vehicles to really set it apart. The great thing about the Steam versions of these games is, like Double Dragon Neon, both have had online co-op added so you can blow stuff up with friends and strangers all around the world. Although both games are fairly short, being arcade ports, they're still a lot of fun to play over and over. If your Steam library is in need of a quirky side-scrolling shooter, pick up one or both of these for some fun, frantic arcade-y action!

Score: 8/10 (each)

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Puzzler World

Puzzler World is a collection of different puzzle types including crosswords, Sudoku, wordsearch, and others. Honestly, there's not a whole lot left to say about it after that, but I will say this - it's easily one of the biggest time-wasters I have on Steam, and I mean that in a good way. If I'm not interested in action-oriented games, don't feel like saving princesses, or don't feel like figuring out where to use the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle, I can boot up Puzzler World and just have a relaxing bit of fun. If nothing else, it's worth having for when you need a "chill" game or just want to waste a few minutes that wouldn't get you much of anywhere in other types of games. There are hundreds of puzzles to complete, so this one alone can keep you busy for quite a while, and if you ever finish that, there's a sequel waiting for dedicated puzzlers.

Score: 7/10

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Scooby-Doo! and Looney Tunes Cartoon Universe: Adventure

"Scooby-Doo! AND Looney Tunes!? In one game!? Sign me up!" Your inner child may be screaming right now, unless you had a terrible upbringing, in which case, sorry. Incidentally, "sorry" is what developer Wayforward should have said when they sent this out the door and into the world. Let's get this out of the way - you don't play as any of the famous characters. Oh, they're there, but you simply get to observe their story (the characters barely even acknowledge your existence) as a generic character created from a handful of different body types and clothing styles. You run about from a top-down view and basically just attack enemies and collect items, which is fine, usually, but here's it's just boring and mind-numbing. The characters don't save the game either, as none of them really sound or act like they're supposed to, save Fred from Scooby-Doo! (apparently Frank Welker doesn't care how much he gets paid) and the story is so disjointed and unfunny you won't know or care what's happening. In short, don't listen to your inner child, don't listen to an actual child who claims to want this, and don't bother with this game.

Score: 3/10

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Cat Goes Fishing

Well, I just told you everything. You're a cat, and you go fishing. Essentially, this is one of those "zen" games where you just kinda sit back and relax while doing something that could marginally be classified as "gaming." However, in this case, everything is just so darn charming that it's hard not to enjoy the game and keep coming back. Add in the fact that you can purchase several upgrades that allow you to move further into the water and catch different fish, and you'll find yourself going fishing quite often to save up for that next boat or rod upgrade. You'll also find yourself fishing for hats that randomly appear in the water because, in addition to making your cat even more adorable, they offer up some sort of bonus to help you out. If you like cute cats, calming experiences, and catching fish, you'd do well to reel this one into your library.

Score: 8/10

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Life of Pixel

Life of Pixel is a pretty neat concept, though one you'll see a lot while browsing Steam - you basically play through the history of old-school video games, working up from the blocky, barely recognizable graphics of something like the Atari 2600 to levels that wouldn't look out of place in a SNES or Genesis game. And that's not just me talking - the game literally models each set of levels after a particular console or computer's graphical style, and also gives you a little bit of history on said console/computer. It's actually pretty fun for a while, but, unfortunately, as the game goes on, the level design starts to feel a bit tired. It's as if, by the time they got to the SNES stages, the developers couldn't think of any way to ramp up the challenge beyond "MORE SPIKES!" and, combined with not having any checkpoints, leads to a lot of cheap deaths and frustration late in the game. It's still a fun little platformer, but the jarring difficulty jump and over-reliance on nostalgia before creativity might turn off some players.

Score: 6/10

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The Fall

The Fall is an interesting beast - it's essentially a side-scrolling action-adventure game, but it also borrows elements from the point & click genre, with an inventory system that requires you to pick up and correctly use items about the environment, while occasionally engaging in firefights with enemies or stopping to have a chat with one of the few other characters in the game. It's a visually dark, atmospheric game where you play as an AI who has taken control of its unconscious owner's combat suit after crash landing, in hopes of finding medical assistance. The plot, of course, gets much thicker as you go, but I won't spoil any of it here - just know that you're in for a healthy mix of puzzle-solving and action if you dive into this tale. The only downside is this is the first part of an episodic adventure, leaving things on a cliffhanger, but the good news is Part 2 should be launching later this year.

 

Score: 8/10

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Murdered: Soul Suspect

The hardest murder to solve...is your own. At least, that seems to be the excuse to make this game last long enough to be, you know, a full game. You play as a detective in Salem, Massachusetts who has been murdered (obviously), and, in your new ghostly form, are the only one who can solve it! Because everyone else on the police force is terrible at their job, I guess. You'll visit various locations and learn about the town's history, what with the witch trials and all, as you search for the clues that will lead you to your killer. While you'd think it would be pretty hard to die when you're already dead, there are also some stealth sections where you have to sneak by or stealth kill demons, lest they drag you to the afterlife. The game is just long enough to be worth a rental (around 8 hours) and just short enough to not wear out its welcome, but there's pretty much zero replay value, so there's not much reason to purchase this digitally and have it forever.

 

Score: 6/10

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Gauntlet

The original Gauntlet was pretty simple - one to four heroes (depending on how many players you had) descend into a dungeon, destroy the enemies, then go to the next area to do it again. The new Gauntlet really isn't much different - one to four heroes descend into various and occasionally randomly generated (some levels are always the same no matter what, but not all of them) dungeons to destroy enemies and defeat evil once and for all. Or something. There's a story here, but there's so little focus on it that I'll be darned if I can remember anything about it. Anyway, this modern re-imagining does a nice job of setting each character apart, making them all good at something and giving each of them a unique role in a team. Of course, if you don't have a full team of four people, you can still go it alone - just don't expect a walk in the park, even with the newly-added runes that activate various powers, and the ability to upgrade your character's equipment. Regardless of how many players come along, you'll battle your way through hordes of enemies and a few bosses, find keys to unlock doors and hidden areas, and, probably, the food will be destroyed at least once by the oh so skillful Wizard.

Score: 7/10

 

So, what do you think? Did any of these persuade you to try out a game? To stay away from a game? Did you not care about any of these games to begin with? Already own them? Whatever you have to say, say it down there in the comments, and be sure to check back next time, when we run our 75% off special, making our reviews are only two sentences long!

Venom

Greetings again, one and all, and welcome to the madly misguided musings of me, the man of many misadventures, Venom! (I had to stop alliterating at SOME point.) As you probably don't know, I sometimes decide to rant about gaming-related things that bug me, and this is where I do it, so hold on tight and get ready for an all-out self-entitled assault of gamer rage at your eyeballs! Today's topic: Why does playing games that were designed for co-op in single player always have to suck?

 

Let's take a trip back to a mythical time of ripped jean shorts and grunge music, a time known as the 1990's. Back in those glorious Cheeto-dusted days, many a game came standard with the option to have a friend, or sibling, or random hobo who came in through your window sit down next to you and play a game in a co-operative mode. You didn't have to - the game would be exactly the same whether you were playing alone or with your brother who knew all the cheats but wouldn't tell you what they were. It was just a holdover from the arcades where you could stand next to another (or three more, or five more if you were playing X-Men) random stranger to make your way to the end of a game, and it certainly helped out those who had trouble playing the game alone. Fast-forward to today, and co-op is all the rage...only now, you're generally forced to experience the game with people you don't know over an internet connection, because that's obviously more fun.

 

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"are you even trying, or are you just as brain-dead as these zombies!?"

 

But what if you don't want to play with random strangers? That's why online gaming services let you have a friends list, keeping up with the people you like to associate with and (more or less) not forcing you to interact with Sk8erBoiTHPS6969 if you'd prefer not to. Playing only with those on your friends list may be preferable to some people, like me...but what do you do if your friends don't have a game you want to play? Suck it up and play with randoms? Avoid playing the game until someone else buys it? Plead with the gaming gods to bless your best bud with today's hot new titles? You could do those...or you could choose Option D - the D is for dumb - and forge through a game alone, despite the fact that it couldn't be more obviously made to play with others without the game simply refusing to play without a full party. Why is that dumb? Don't worry, it's not you, the player, that's dumb, it's the game that's dumb for forcing you to play the same experience that would be manageable for four people but a nightmare for one.

 

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Unless you're Batman. Batman can manage any situation alone.

 

A recent example would be the Gauntlet reboot that was released last year. It's actually a pretty good game, and each character is unique in their own way to make them all valuable as part of a team of monster slayers making their way through hordes of skeletons, zombies, and other assorted creeps. My point is, the game makes it pretty clear that you'll want to grab a full party before descending into the crypts...because if you don't, you're going to die. And die again. And die some more. And then you'll die one more time, thinking surely, you'd make it this time. This time, you wouldn't need food badly. This time, you'd take out the enemy spawn points before they overwhelm you. This time, you wouldn't shoot the food like a doofus. Yes, if you decide to enter The Gauntlet alone, you're going to be up against such overwhelming odds that the 300 Spartans would probably call you crazy for trying. You'll be drowned in a sea of enemies, struck down by traps, face bosses with ridiculous amounts of health, and sometimes just get straight up killed to death by Death himself, and all because you didn't bring some buddies along, dummy. Blue Valkyrie has never needed friends so badly.

 

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Then again, Blue Valkyrie does have a bit of an ego.

 

Another problematic game, indeed, the one that caused me to write this, is Fuse. Fuse is a third-person co-op shooter for up to four players, but if you're playing alone, the other characters are controlled by AI because the way the game and cutscenes are set up, all the characters need to be present. Granted, plenty of games have characters simply appear in and out of cutscenes if they're not being controlled by a player, but they couldn't do that because, shut up, Fuse is talking. Anyway, the problems with playing this one alone are pretty simple - there is way too much going on in every single drawn-out firefight and boss battle, and the AI is pretty much useless. On that first topic, pretty much every room is a new battle against waves upon waves of enemies, to the point where sometimes you might wonder if they'll ever stop coming. With a team of four players, you'd headshot them all in 5 seconds and move along, but with one human and a bunch of drooling babies in the same situation, the fights become an exercise in patience and frustration. Worse is the fact that the enemies tend to focus on human players, and if there's only one, well, you're going to go down a lot and just hope the AI bothers to revive you this time. When not completely ignoring you or objectives directly in front of them, the AI can most often be found standing in front of an enemy's gun as it goes off in their face, or occasionally directly in front of your gun just for a change of pace in the direction the bullets are coming from.

 

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The one actually using cover is the only human player here.

 

"But Venom," you say, knowing full well I can't hear you, "you're complaining about things that could easily be fixed by just not being an idiot and playing the game with other people!" Which is true, but not my main issue here, so you're probably now cursing me for taking this long to get to the point. The real problem is...why is the game set up to be the exact same experience regardless of the number of actual players? Look, I'm not a programmer, because programming is hard, y'all, so maybe I don't know enough about it to see why it can't be fixed. However, it can't be that difficult because there are some games, older games even, that scale the amount of enemies or even completely reconfigure sections of the levels (the Lara Croft and the Something Else series is a good example) to suit the number of players. Why doesn't every game do this? Why should I have to wade through 67 enemies that could easily be dispatched by four players when I'm playing by myself? Couldn't it be like, 37 enemies instead? And this isn't a difficulty modifier thing - most games these days, changing the difficulty only changes how easy it is for the player to die, not how many enemies show up or anything sensible like that. It's just baffling and, even more, annoying that developers look at their finished games and say "yes, no one will ever play this alone, because there will always be active players or all their friends will have it" and ship it off without checking to see if maybe they should tone it down for those who power through alone. If a game is made to be enjoyed with others, that's fine, but developers really need to find a way to, you know, make it enjoyable if you're by yourself as well. Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm the crazy one, but it's that constantly getting overwhelmed by enemies when playing these games that's made me that way.

 

Anyway, guess I'll go finish Fuse now.

 


 

So what do you guys think? If you're playing a game that's absolutely meant for co-op, do you just find someone to play with and have a ball, or do you not really care and take it on by yourself? When you play through certain games alone, do you wish you had a co-op partner, or wish the developers had made the game a little more kind to a lone wolf like yourself? However you feel about co-op gaming in general, sound off in the comments!

Venom

Video game box art. In this day and age, it's not something that people really pay much attention to anymore, mostly because the majority of boxes are populated by Generic Space Marine Guy #4112 or Scantily Clad Bikini Lady #894,722. Even so, its function remains as important as ever - to give someone taking their first look at the box a general idea of how much awesomeness to expect from the game. Most covers do a decent enough job telling you what you'll be doing and who will be doing it, but others opt for the less conventional tactic of not telling you anything, and also not giving you any ideas to figure it out for yourself. Sometimes, though, you'll find it's best not to judge a book by its cover.

 

Book, game, whatever. Let's get started.

Golden Axe

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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There's nothing immediately wrong with this boxart at first glance - you've got your three heroes seemingly ready for action, and two of them are holding axes, though neither appear to be golden, for whatever reason. It's not until you look longer and closer that the weird details start to show themselves. Tyris looks like she's modeling for a photo shoot, despite not being an actual person. Gilius appears to be having a conversation with his mount that may or may not involve the threat of an axe in the skull. And Ricardo Montalban on steroids at the front there has a look on his face that's less "let's go on an adventure!" and more "let's go change my loincloth, because I've just made a mess of it."

 

But on the inside...

 

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Pure hack 'n slash bliss. Golden Axe is the grandaddy of the weapon-based beat 'em up, which admittedly isn't a particularly broad genre even now, but even the more punch-y variety of games like Streets of Rage owe their success to Golden Axe to some degree. It wasn't the first beat 'em up, but it remains one of the most successful and fondly remembered of its time, with a number of ports and re-releases ensuring that gamers can continue to foil Death Adder's plans to this day.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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I'm lumping these together because they both have the same issue - there's nothing there besides the logo. Majora's Mask is at least courteous enough to include the titular mask, but beyond that, you'll just find yourself staring at the logo on either a nice gold background (a throwback to the NES and SNES games, but come on, box art had evolved a bit by this point) or a multicolored techno rave/LSD trip.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Two of the greatest N64 games ever made, or, depending on who you ask, two of the greatest games ever made, period. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask set the groundwork for future Zelda titles, and successfully combined compelling stories and fantastic gameplay to create two games that people are still talking about and gushing over today, no small feat for a couple of games from the early 3D era of gaming. The boxes may be boring, but the games inside are anything but. Still, at least the 3DS remake of Ocarina did the box a favor and added a little Link riding Epona down there to jazz the place up a bit.

Metal Gear Solid

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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This is the same problem as the Zelda games up there, multiplied by boring and raised to the power of meh. Even if you'd heard of the Metal Gear series at this point, and many Americans hadn't (or simply forgot about it), you'd still be hard pressed to get excited over this box. Beyond the promise of tactical espionage action, whatever that means, you'd literally have no idea what you're getting into. Unless, I guess, you read the back of the case, but we're talking about the fronts here, so shut up.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Turns out tactical espionage action is actually pretty sweet. Metal Gear Solid rewrote the rules on video game storytelling and use of cutscenes before either of those were really a priority for most developers. The sneaky, stealthy action, punctuated by some challenging and offbeat boss fights, drew gamers into a world of espionage that James Bond could only dream of. While the game may not have aged particularly well compared to its sequels (that's what The Twin Snakes is for, though) it still holds a place in many a gamer's heart and the series continues on just as strongly as ever with the upcoming release of The Phantom Pain.

 

 

Mega Man Anniversary Collection

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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What...WHAT IS THAT?? That is not MegaMan. And even if it is, what is he so happy about blasting? Wily's behind you, dude. Also, take a look at poor Rush: he's absolutely horrified by whatever's happening in front of him. Or maybe he's terrified by the prospect of any self-respecting Mega Man fan plunking this thing down on the counter and exchanging actual money for it. Either way, there's way too many disturbing elements to this box to count. Also, there's a Mettaur floating around for no real reason.

 

But on the inside...

 

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A collection of arguably MegaMan's best adventures for one low low price. You've got the first eight Mega Man titles, plus a couple of obscure arcade games that most people never got to play, available to them for the first time. While it's not perfect, it's still a great way to experience the classic Mega Man titles without buying each of them separately on the Virtual Console, or, even worse, tracking down the actual cartridges for a decent price.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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What's even happening here? Is it raining people? How many innocent civilians are going to get skewered on those weapons when the warriors eventually hit the ground? How is one of them going the opposite direction as everyone else? WHY is one of them going the opposite direction as everyone else? This box raises several questions, and none of them can possibly have a reasonable, non-terrifying answer.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Awakening takes everything Nintendo has learned over the 24 years they've been making Fire Emblem titles and rolls it into one amazing package. The gameplay is top-notch, and the story doesn't disappoint either. Awakening is probably Nintendo's most successful Fire Emblem game in the West, which is really saying something, because it overcame that boxart to become a fan-favorite 3DS title and a critical darling.

 

Batman: Arkham City GOTY Edition

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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Alright, this one has been beaten to near-death already (thankfully, Batman doesn't kill) but I'm here, and I'm doing it again. The first time you saw this thing sitting on the shelf, you'd be forgiven for assuming a troupe of drunken video game critics had swept through your local Gamestop and vomited on every copy of the game. It's also worth noting that the logo for the game is smaller than literally everything else, so, other than Batman's mopey mug, there's little to indicate what the hell you're even looking at. Is it an interactive Batman comic called "10 out of 10?" A scathing critique on games journalism by the artists at DC Comics? A real-world clue left by a real-world Riddler?

 

But on the inside...

 

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Anyone who somehow looked past all that text to find they were looking at an actual video game was rewarded with the ultimate version of an already fantastic game. Arkham City is the best of the three current Batman: Arkham games, and you can argue with that if you like, but you won't win, because it's Batman, and Batman always wins. Seriously, if you haven't played it, don't let the terrifying red text scare you away - be like Batman, master your fear, and take that box to the counter.

Just Cause 2

 

What you saw at the store:

 

 

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"Hello, 911? My right arm has just spontaneously exploded and is now bleeding an immensely detailed cityscape and half a helicopter, and-what? No, I haven't been doing drugs. Why do you ask?"

 

But on the inside...

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See, if they'd put a picture of Rico surfing an airplane on the boxart, that would tell everyone right there that they want this game. No, that they need this game. (Incidentally, they did put exactly that on the game's Steam page.) Anyway, Just Cause 2 is a ridiculously over-the-top action game with a penchant for destruction, very little of which comes across in the boxart. You'll have an absolute blast tearing through the city in any number of vehicles, bailing out with an infinitely reloading parachute, and grappling onto anything and everything with your trusty hook. You will not, however, stand in a blank room while someone paints a nice picture just behind you, so if that's your thing, go ahead and pass this one up.

Resident Evil 4

What you saw at the store:

 

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Leon?

 

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Uh, Leon...

 

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LEON THE ENEMIES ARE BEHIND YOU WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? Aside from Leon's horrid sense of direction, these boxes just seem so...boring. So typical, so cliche, like the boxes for straight to DVD B-movies. Leon kinda looks like he's just pasted in, which might actually explain why he's not looking at the enemies, because he was never really there in the first place.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Survival horror goodness oozing from every exploded Ganado head. Okay, sure, there was a lot more action than horror, I guess, and you do spend most of your time looking at Leon toting his gun around. Still, the game definitely had the creepy atmosphere and terrifying enemies to keep things nice and unsettling, and there's really none of that on the boxart. At any rate, RE4 is generally considered the kick in the pants the series needed to become relevant again, and, countless re-releases or not, it would still stand tall as the favorite Resident Evil game of many a fan and critic alike, so at this point I suppose it doesn't really matter what they put on the box. We're going to (re)play it anyway.

 


 

These are just a few of the numerous examples of good games hiding behind boring or just plain terrible boxart. Just as good things tend to come in small packages, or so we're told, sometimes great things can come in ugly packages. Or something. Anyway, what are some great games you've played that came in a terrible box? Sound off in the comments while I go write the opposite of this article, "Terrible Games Hiding Behind Great Boxes."

Venom

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is in a bit of an odd spot - it's a licensed game, which usually means trouble, but the show it's based on is itself based on an established gaming icon. Does it overcome the stigma of licensed games to earn a spot in the collection of every Pac-Maniac, or is this ghostly adventure haunted by its status as a tie-in product? Read on to find out!

 

Developer: Bandai Namco Games, Monkey Bar Games

Publisher: Bandai Namco Games

Platform(s): Wii U, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PC via Steam

Release Date: October 25, 2013

ESRB: E10+

 

Review is based on the PC/Steam version

 

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a 3D platformer based on the DisneyXD television show of the same name. In the game, Betrayus, whose name pretty much tells you everything you need to know, is up to his old tricks and aims to take over Pac-World and turn all its residents into ghosts! Only Pac-Man and his friends can stop him, but you already knew that. This time around, Pac-Man must traverse various dangerous worlds looking for stone tablets that, once deciphered, may hold the key to stopping Betrayus' villainy once and for all!

 

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Of course, if you're like me and have never seen an episode of the show, none of that will really matter. The characters (besides Pac-Man, Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde) were all new to me, and some references to events from the show went over my head. If you are a fan of the show, you'll certainly get a kick out of these, but if not, then you'll be left wondering what they're talking about - thankfully, other than the winks and nods, the story is self-contained enough that anyone could follow it regardless of prior knowledge. Story cutscenes are also generally few and far between and really only serve to fill in the gaps between levels, so the real focus will be on the hopping and chomping you'll be doing.

 

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Ghostly Adventures takes you through different worlds as you run, jump, chomp enemies, and gather collectibles as well as the ever-present pellets and fruit the series is known for. You'll also come across various power-ups ranging from the ability to throw fireballs to puffing up Pac-Man like a balloon to float through windy areas and reach new heights. The power-ups play into the levels by requiring you to use them to traverse certain areas or defeat certain enemies, and you'll often use more than one powerup in a single level (or even in a single area of a level) which keeps the gameplay from getting too stale over the rather short course of the campaign. You'll also need them for the majority of the boss fights, which pop up in different levels rather than always at the end of a world, so they'll keep you on your toes. When not partaking in perilous platforming and performing powered-up poundings on poltergeists (try saying that five times fast) there's a hub world to play around in the form of Pac-Man's school, where you can converse with characters and play a few arcade-style games that you'll unlock over time, none of which, for some reason, are the original Pac-Man.

 

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While the game works fine as a 3D platformer - which makes sense because it's not even new ground for Pac-Man - it also falls prey to some of the pitfalls of the genre, notably a finicky camera that sometimes struggles to show you where you're going. Thankfully, the controls work well enough that you can often recover before plummeting to your doom, and if not, the game is generous with extra lives, which can be picked up in the levels or obtained after defeating enough enemies. You won't really need them that much, though, because most of your deaths will come by accident rather than from the enemies, since, as a game based on a children's show, it doesn't offer up a whole lot of challenge. Some of the later levels can get a little hectic, but you'll never see anything on the same scale as, say, a late-game level in one of the 3D Super Mario games. Also, in comparison to Super Mario, the game's physics, level layouts, and general gameplay all have their own feel to set Ghostly Adventures apart from the competition, so fortunately you're not likely to suffer from déjà vu during your playtime. Aside from the campaign, there's also a multiplayer mode, but it's local-only so I was unable to try it out.

 

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From a visual standpoint, the game is generally bright and colorful, which is typical of 3D platformers but welcome nonetheless in today's gaming climate. Each area also has its own distinct look, and there's a good bit of set dressing to really give each world its own personality. While the game isn't a graphical powerhouse - and indeed, barely looks the part of a seventh-generation console game - it doesn't really need to be one, either, so it's not likely to bother even older players. SInce the show is done in CGI, the game is able to simply emulate the same three-dimensional look, which helps tie the game to its source material. On the audio side of things, the game features a fun, bouncy soundtrack that incorporates some tunes from Pac-Man's past as well as the show itself, a nice touch for fans of both. The sound effects in the game are mostly pulled from the arcade game as well, though there are a few new ones that work just fine too. The game also features full voice acting, though soundalikes were used in place of the show's original cast.

 

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Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a fun and colorful platformer with a laid-back attitude, with all the key elements of the genre coming together to form an enjoyable romp through Pac-World. However, a couple of things hold it back from true greatness - foremost is the game's length, which clocks in around 5 hours. The other is that, while the game is certainly distinct from other 3D platformers and stands on its own, it still doesn't do anything new or particularly interesting with the genre. Add to the fact that this game is mostly aimed at the younger crowd, and you've got a recipe for a good rental, but not necessarily a good purchase. There's certainly a lot of fun to be had, but there's just not enough to the game to really chomp into, leaving a ghostly trace that will haunt players with a hunger for more.

 

Score: 7/10

 

TL;DR version - Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a fun platformer that manages to stand apart from the likes of Mario, and also manages to escape from the general awfulness of licensed games. There's a lot to like for fans of the show and even those who haven't watched it may still find the game enjoyable, however, the game's short length and lack of true challenge for hardcore gamers keeps it from being a truly significant experience. It might be worth a rental if you're hankering for a 3D platformer that doesn't star a portly plumber, but I honestly can't recommend a purchase.

Venom

Review: Rock Zombie

Rock Zombie recently shambled onto the WiiU eShop, just in time for Halloween. But how does this rockin' undead beat 'em up compare with the games of old that it claims to take inspiration from? Grab your zombie survival kit and read along as I tell you the tale of...The Rock Zombie Review!

 

 

Developer: Quaternion Studio

Publisher: EnjoyUp Games

Platform: Wii U via eShop (version reviewed), Steam (coming in late 2014)

Release Date: October 30, 2014

ESRB: T for Teen

 

Rock Zombie tells you most of what you need to know right there in the title - there's gonna be rock, and there's gonna be zombies. The name of the game is also the name of its trio of stars, Zoe, Crystal, and Sasha, who have formed an all-girl band called Rock Zombie. While rocking out at one of their shows though, things go a bit south when a green mist seeps into the venue and turns their screaming fans into moaning zombies. Now the girls have to fight their way across the stage and across town in search of answers. What is this green mist? Where did it come from? Whose face do they have to melt to find out?

 

The game promises an intriguing story, which is told entirely through static comic pages between certain levels. While there is certainly more story than your average beat 'em up, it's also a bit of a moot point when most players aren't going into a brawler for the story in the first place. It also doesn't help that the writing in the comics isn't particularly engaging or even grammatically correct at some points. Thankfully, regardless of if you care about why you're doing it or not, the game delivers plenty of opportunity to bash in some undead brains.

 

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Rock Zombie is a pretty typical beat 'em up that doesn't try to change too much about the genre. You've got a regular attack, a strong attack, two magic attacks - because the characters are also witches, you see - and the ability to block and evade. The magic attacks are tied to a bar that fills as you take out enemies, and serve as great projectile attacks to keep enemies from getting too close. Your standard melee attacks do the job of killing zombies just as well though, so there's not a lot of incentive to mix things up. You can create combos out of certain moves, but they don't string together well enough to be any different than just performing each attack separately. As you might guess, you'll mostly be fending off zombies, which come in regular, flaming, and acid spewing varieties but there are a few non-zombie enemies in the game, like giant spiders. Naturally, you'll be seeing the zombies more often than anything, and you'll also face off against a few bosses over the course of your 4-5 hour journey, some of which provide more challenge than others.

 

And when I say "you" I unfortunately mean just you - the game lacks any multiplayer whatsoever. It's a baffling decision for a game that claims to have learned from the knee of its elders (like Golden Axe) to leave out one of the things that made those games so popular in the first place. The game was clearly designed with single-player in mind as well, as some of the areas would be too cramped for two players to move around easily, and there are a couple of atrocious vehicle segments that wouldn't work with two players. Most of the game isn't so challenging that you'd need an extra hand, but it would certainly make things more entertaining to bring a friend along. If you do soldier through the game alone, you'll find that there's lots of bonus goodies in the Zombie Museum to unlock with coins you gather through the game, as well as achievements to unlock that will require more than one playthrough to obtain them all.

 

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Beyond the gameplay, Rock Zombie doesn't really have much in the way of distinct visual or audio flair. While the environments look good and there's some variety between most of the levels, there's just not anything that really stands out either. You'll see sewers, city streets, warehouses, and other places that look exactly like your typical video game sewers, streets, warehouses, and so on. The character models for the enemies don't look too bad, though the player character models appear as if they're made out of plastic, like dolls with shiny hair and painted-on clothes. The audio, meanwhile should be one of the standout features - after all, it's right there in the name. While there's plenty of rocking and rolling, most of the music and sound effects are so generic that you'll hardly give them a second thought. It's a bit of a shame, since one would expect a game that lists the varied soundtrack as one of its features to make sure that the soundtrack is actually memorable.

 

Perhaps more pressing, there were some glitches on both ends. The graphical glitches weren't too bad, and mostly consisted of the camera sometimes getting confused during perspective shifts and switching rapidly between different views, and just some oddities with enemy corpses and the blood that forms around them being wonky. There was also a pretty severe audio glitch around halfway through the game that caused the music and most of the sound effects to cut out completely, and the only fix was to quit back to the WiiU menu and restart the game. Overall the game definitely lacks technical polish, but fortunately there weren't any game-breaking bugs - everything works, it just doesn't all work particularly well sometimes. Given that it's mostly the work of a single person though, that's pretty understandable.

 

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When it comes down to it, Rock Zombie is a schlocky B-game with a schlocky B-movie premise, and it makes no apologies or excuses for it. Even if you're into that sort of thing, though, it would be difficult to actually recommend this game. It's certainly possible that players might get some mindless fun out of it, and, at $6.99, it's pretty cheap - worse games have cost more money. Unfortunately, there's just no stand-out aspects of this game that make it something everyone should experience. If, however, reading this review has gotten you interested in playing it, go for it - just know that not everyone is going to enjoy rocking to this game's tune.

 

Score: 5.0/10

 

TL;DR version - Rock Zombie is a beat 'em up containing plenty of rock and plenty of zombies, with a storyline that delves into far more detail than most brawlers. While bashing in zombie heads over the course of the 5-ish hour campaign might offer some cathartic thrills, the lack of technical polish, of multiplayer, and of stand-out gameplay features means it's probably best to keep shambling past this title in search of something more engaging. Still, if you like B-movies, you might get a kick out of it, but you should probably still wait for a sale if you decide to try it.

Venom

Alright, I've been wanting to do another one of these for a while, but I wanted to write some other stuff to space these "Revised for Accuracy" entries apart. Now that that's out of the way, I figured "why not dip back into that same old well again?" "Why not see how much longer I can stretch out this joke before no one cares anymore?" "Why not ask the same questions I asked last time, but with quotation marks around them to make it look like someone else is asking them?"

 

"Why not indeed."

 

So anyway, here's part 2...or...3...or whatever.

 


Far Cry 3

 

Revised title: Cars Die 3

 

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This uh...just washed ashore like that.

 

Have you tried to drive a car in this game? Did you travel farther than 30 feet or so before you crashed into a tree, careened off a cliff, or tumbled down a steep incline and landed upside down? If you said yes, you are a liar. Your punishment is to write a full essay on why Blood Dragon is so awesome.

Grand Theft Auto IV

 

Revised title: Grand Theft Fun IV

 

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"Stop, or I'll *phone rings* oh, hang on, it's my cousin. I gotta take this or he'll get mad."

 

I know that's not very good, but this is titles revised for accuracy, not betterness. GTAIV was a notable game in a lot of ways, but, for me at least, it was notable in doing everything it possibly could to prevent you from having fun. The driving controls were awful, the missions were either boring or shootfests where you'd die every 5 seconds, and the cops, oh LORD THE COPS, they did everything in their power to prevent anything even remotely resembling fun. After a while, I gave up on GTAIV and waited for Saints Row 2 to come out, and that was the best decision I've ever made regarding anything. And hey, speaking of Saints Row...

Saints Row 2

 

Revised title: It Only Took Saints Row 2 Games to be Better than GTA

 

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Unlike GTA, you could easily survive this.

 

The first Saints Row was a fun game, sure, but it was still a pretty standard GTA clone. After GTAIV came out and everyone fawned over the realism, Saints Row developer Volition, Inc. took one look and said "let's do the exact opposite of that." The game is so ludicrously silly and over-the-top that it basically becomes more of a parody than a clone, and most importantly of all, every single second of it was an absolute blast. The Ballad of Gay Tony and GTAV may have eventually brought back some of the lighter and funnier elements of the GTA series, but Saints Row ratcheted up the hilarity and fun so much in Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV that GTA is barely a blip on my radar anymore.

Just Cause 2

 

Revised title: Just Because 2

 

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Because why not.

 

I know the actual title is pronounced more like "caws" than "cuz" because you have justifiable cause for blowing everything up, but even if you didn't, I'd still be doing it anyway. Just because I could.

Sonic: Lost World

 

Revised title: Sonic: Lost Momentum

 

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Through the dark, to the light, it's a super Sonic flight...

 

This works in two ways, but I'll start with the most obvious: Sonic Generations was pretty dang good. It was basically the first Sonic game that could appeal to fans of both the 2D style and the 3D style, while retaining all the speed and bright colors and snappy one-liners of games past without any of the boring stuff. But, if Sonic: Lost World is any indication, it was also the last game that could appeal to both fans, because Lost World doesn't have the brilliant stage design and tight controls of Generations, nor does it play the "switching between 2D and 3D" field very well. It doesn't even copy Super Mario Galaxy well, the thing it clearly set out to do. The other way it loses momentum is in the game itself, because it's far too easy to either run into sections of the stage that slow you down, or parts of the stage are intentionally designed to make you move at a pace a turtle would consider a tad sluggish. It has its moments, but Sega clearly couldn't keep up the momentum after the awesome Generations.

Ride to Hell: Retribution

 

Revised title: Why the Hell??: Much Confusion

 

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I made this exact face several times while playing.

 

Why the hell should I care about this character's past right at the beginning? Why the hell am I suddenly on a turret? Why the hell am I chasing these guys? Why the hell do I care about his brother? For that matter, why the hell should I care about ANY of this?

 

WHY THE HELL AM I PLAYING THIS WRETCHED GAME??

 

BONUS revised title: Tried to Sell: Bargain Bin

 

Retailers tried to pawn this awful game off on people for about a week, gave up, and tossed it in the $5 bin hoping someone would buy it blindly or just for the lulz.

1001 Spikes

Revised title: 1001 $?!%&$

 

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I fell enraged.

 

Repeating the words I've uttered while playing 1001 Spikes would be enough to get me banned from this site 25 times over. The game is ridiculously and purposely difficult, to the point of almost trolling you every time you think you're about to beat the level but get killed by that one sudden spike trap or falling block you didn't expect. There are so many ways this game can kill you, and only a couple that you can actually see coming. And since there's no checkpoints, it requires a lot of memorization to make it through a level...and you'll spill equal amounts of blood and obscenities along the way.

Dragon's Crown

 

Revised title: Dragon's Frown

 

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"No, no, no! The LARP Costume Contest is in Keep 3-C!"

 

Look at that dragon. Not only is he not wearing a crown, he is also quite unhappy. What's wrong, Mr. Dragon? Are you upset about all these adventurers busting into your keep and trying to kill you? It's probably the adventurers. Hey, you kids! Leave poor old Mr. Dragon and his vast treasures alone!

Batman: Arkham Origins - Cold, Cold Heart

 

Revised title: Arkham Origins: Old, Old Boss Fight

 

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"I had the mouthpiece installed so you can't see the faces I'm making at you."

 

Everyone already knows Mr. Freeze is the main villain of Cold, Cold, Heart, so it's not spoiling anything when I say he's the final boss. What I will spoil is how you beat him...and it's the exact same way you beat him in Arkham City - by hiding and using the different environment takedowns to attack him. As an added kick in the face, unlike Arkham City, Freeze doesn't learn your attack and keep you from doing it again, so you could just pop out of the same vent 5 times and he'd be none the wiser. The only thing cold about this DLC was the lack of love it had for the fans who bought it.

Destroy All Humans!: Path of the Furon

 

Revised title: Destroy This Franchise! Path to a New Studio

 

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They could keep either the PS2 era graphics or the fun. Guess which one they chose.

 

If you've never played the original Destroy All Humans! or its sequel (imaginatively titled Destroy All Humans! 2) you could be forgiven. The games never really got a lot of hype, and aliens just weren't "in" when the games released. But if you did, you probably had an absolute blast playing them, which is no surprise since they were handled by Pandemic, who, as their name implies, were great at making chaotic and entertaining games. But after the first two games, the sequels/spinoffs were handed off to new studios, who did nothing to improve or expand the gameplay of the originals and instead just made games that were clunky and a chore to play. This 2008 Xbox 360 game in particular is notable for looking even worse than a PS2 game and having horrid framerate issues, and worse physics, despite being on a more powerful console. If aliens ever do invade us, it will be because we took a fun series about them destroying us, and turned it into utter garbage.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist

 

Revised Title: TMNT 4.5: Hypercloned and Spliced

 

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This is definitely either TMNT4 or Hyperstone Heist. Don't ask me which one.

 

Let me go ahead and get one thing out of the way - I love both TMNT4: Turtles in Time and TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist and enjoy playing them both...but not back to back, for fear of intense déjà vu. For those that have never played it, Hyperstone Heist is, to put it bluntly, almost entirely slapped together using assets from Turtles in Time. It reuses backgrounds, music, character sprites and animations, and other things, even when they don't make sense - a pirate ship fits in fine when you're time traveling, not so much when you're supposedly in the present day 1990's. To be fair, the stages aren't exactly like those from Turtles in Time, and include several new areas alongside the recycled content. Hyperstone Heist also features mostly new boss fights, except for the final one. Still, you have to wonder why they didn't just do a straight port of TMNT4...but regardless, the gameplay is still just as fun, and you'll be happy the heroes in a half-shell didn't skip the Genesis entirely save for that one fighting game that no one cares about.

 

inFamous: First Light

 

Revised title: inFamous: Fetch Quest

 

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Sure, I mean yeah, that works just as well.

 

The main character's nickname is Fetch, and she goes on a quest of sorts. It was handed right to you and you dropped the ball, Sucker Punch!

 


 

So there's part 42 or 87.3 or whatever number I'm on. What did you think? Accurately revised yet again? A sequel that could never live up to the original? Terrible in every way? Sound off in the comments, and be sure to stay tuned for Part 754!

Venom

E3 2014 has officially come and gone, but the hype for the games shown is just beginning. We saw new entries in huge franchises like Halo, Mass Effect, and Super Smash Bros., and we saw a number of new IPs taking form as well, like Bloodborne, Splatoon, and whatever it is that Criterion is working on. Everyone saw different things that excited them the most, so today, for no particular reason, I'd like to share with you some of the things that really caught my eye and got me excited! The following list is in no particular order, but you'll know just by reading which ones I'm looking forward to most.

 

And if you know me, most of it will be Nintendo. :P

 


Infamous: First Light

 

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I'm a little disappointed they didn't call this Infamous: Fetch Quest, but I suppose silly puns don't set the tone for this game very well. Anyway, let me just say that I never get excited about DLC. The vast majority of it is pointless, and often too expensive for my tastes. So it's strange that I'm eagerly awaiting this stand-alone DLC for Second Son, which focuses on Abigail "Fetch" Walker instead of the original protagonist, Delsin Rowe. Fetch was a fun character to be around, and while she explained a bit of her backstory, it wasn't enough to really evoke much feeling. That looks to change with First Light, which will explain how she gained the power to control neon, her capture and imprisonment by the antagonist of the main game, and her subsequent escape. Even if the story doesn't turn out to be interesting, I'm still looking forward to having a reason to get back into the world of Second Son when First Light releases in August.

 


Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha

 

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I'm going to bodyslam all the zombies. ALL OF THEM.

 

Jeez, try saying that in one breath. Once again, here's a piece of DLC that's caught my interest, even though it's currently on a console I don't own and thus I can't even try it out. But I'm still hoping for the chance to play it anyway because it looks ridiculously over-the-top and is absolutely filled to the brim with Capcom goodness. You can dress up as Mike Haggar and (presumably) perform jumping pile drivers on zombies, or throw on a Chun-Li costume and hit them with the ol' Hundred Rending Legs. To see all the references to Capcom series past and present makes me want to fall in love with the company all over again, despite the fact that they haven't really released or announced anything notable lately. The DLC is available as I type this, for those that are interested, but I'll be hoping it launches alongside the PC version of Dead Rising 3 later this year.

 


Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker

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We're not responsible if you have SMB2 flashbacks and start throwing turnips at your friends.

 

It's no secret that I absolutely love Super Mario 3D World. I pretty much wouldn't shut up about it for a while (also, if you haven't bought it yet, stop reading and go do that) but what I never really gushed about was the Captain Toad segments of the game. Does that mean I didn't like them? Heck no! I loved the Captain Toad mini-stages in 3D World, and now Nintendo has seen that others did too and decided to give us an entire game full of puzzling goodness. It's clear that they started with the basis of the gameplay from the 3D World version, but there was so much more on display that you'd never see in the originals, showing that Nintendo has put a lot of hard work and care into making this a worthwhile game for WiiU owners and not just a quick cash-in on a popular minigame. Look forward to tracking treasure when the game releases (no word on whether it's a physical release or eShop yet) this holiday season.

 

 


No Man's Sky

 

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The Lorax is probably in there somewhere.

 

Wow. To say No Man's Sky looks impressive is a huge understatement. While not much was revealed about the game beyond the fact that players can travel between randomly-generated planets and explore them, and optionally take parts in dogfights along the way, that's honestly enough for me. I suppose it also helps that these worlds show off strange new life forms and exotic, colorful plants, which is naturally a nice change from the brown and grey of the majority of games. The game shows massive promise, and, while that's usually just a good setup for failure or falling short of expectations, I have confidence that the team at Hello Games can pull it off and make one of the most beautiful, amazing, and immersive titles in recent memory. Look for more on the game in the coming months, because it unfortunately doesn't have a release window as of now.

 


Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

 

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Everyone who looked at this picture just got naturalized as a US citizen.

 

Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know, but I suppose I should elaborate a little more. This was a new IP revealed by Nintendo for the 3DS, and it looks brilliant. It's a strategy game being designed by a team at Intelligent Systems, known for their work on the Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series, so you can be sure they know what they're doing. As you might guess from the acronym, the game revolves around steam, so naturally it has quite a lot of steampunk flavor. It also draws from the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, so those elements, combined with the usual Nintendo charm, should make for quite a spectacle. From a gameplay standpoint, it borrows from the strategy RPGs the developer is known for, but also incorporates elements of a third-person shooter. It should be a lot of fun to play, so look for it when it launches sometime in 2015.

 


Batman: Arkham Knight

 

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"I'm still not seeing why they delayed my game until next year, Oracle."

 

We've known about Arkham Knight for a little while now, but that doesn't make me any less excited to play it. In fact, seeing it in action at E3 only made me even more anxious to slip back into the Batsuit and lay the beatdown on some thugs. Arkham Knight is being developed again by the original creators at Rocksteady Studios, which is great news for anyone (like me) who was more than a bit underwhelmed by Arkham Origins. The new game also introduces a drivable Batmobile, so you can bet if Batman needs a set of wheels to get around, the size of Gotham has increased quite a bit from previous games. The game also looks great too, which it should, since it's not being developed for last-gen consoles - only PS4, Xbox One, and PC owners will get to play Batman: Arkham Knight when it launches in 2015.

 


Hyrule Warriors

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Me? Excited for Hyrule Warriors? How could you tell? Kidding aside, it's going to take a lot for me to talk about this game in a coherent manner without bursting into capitalized ramblings on how awesome it's gonna be, but I'll do my best. Hyrule Warriors, if you haven't been paying attention since the game was revealed a couple of months ago, is exactly what it sounds like - a mash-up of the Zelda franchise and the Warriors (Dynasty, Samurai, you know) franchise from Tecmo-Koei. This means massive maps filled to the brim with puny enemies just waiting for a good slashing, which you, as one of a number of Zelda characters, will be all too happy to give. However, it's not just Dynasty Warriors in a Link costume - there are also Zelda elements to be found, such as sub-items you can carry and use in battle, chests which contain yet more sub-items, and even huge bosses to take down by hitting their weak point with whatever sub-item you acquired on that map. Being a huge fan of both franchises, the marriage of the two gameplay styles looks like it will be an amazingly fun experience, and I hope you're all as excited as I am (well, maybe a little less, because I'm insanely excited) to play Hyrule Warriors when it drops on September 26.

 


Super Smash Bros. 3DS/WiiU

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My entire childhood and then some is in this game.

 

Oh boy, here we go. Remember how I said I could barely talk about Hyrule Warriors without wanting to explode with fanboy delight? Well, go ahead and multiply that by about 1000, because I don't know how long I can wait to play the next entry in the Super Smash Bros. series. The huge lineup of newcomers, the fan favorite returning characters, the inventive and interactive stages, the insane number of items both new and old, the new modes, the...EVERYTHING! Nintendo dropped some megaton announcements at E3 (Pac-Man! character customization and power ups! October 3 for 3DS!!!) and every single one just made me wish I could skip ahead to the day the 3DS version releases, because nothing could possibly excite me more than taking that game home on release day (there's no way I'm buying it online and waiting) and popping it in my 3DS to get down to smashing. And of course, once the WiiU version comes out, I doubt anyone will ever see me again because I'll be too busy playing Smash Bros...you might have to just join me in an online battle to make sure I'm okay. xD Look forward to smashing your friends on October 3 for the 3DS version and sometime in Winter 2014 for the WiiU version.

 


 

That's just some of the things I saw that really got me excited, that really made me say "wow, I cannot wait until that game comes out!" Of course, if I listed every single game I'm interested in, you'd never finish reading this. So what about you? What games are on your wishlist and watchlist? What surprise reveals gave you the inexplicable urge to hop up and dance? Sound off in the comments so we can both be excited!

Venom

The Super Mario Galaxy games are often considered the best 3D Mario games around, and, if Metacritc has anything to say about it, are the most critically successful Wii games released. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but they're probably among the most commercially successful too, at least if you pretend Wii Sports doesn't exist because that game just makes everyone else's sales numbers feel inadequate. Unfortunately, I'm not here to talk about how great the two Galaxy games are, because you already know that anyway. No, what I'm here to talk about today is how our supposed hero, Mario, is a serial murderer.

 

Read on, if you dare. Or, if you don't, I dare you to keep reading. Double-dog dare you!

 

Let's start with the first game, on the first level, because Mario just can't wait to start killing innocent things. Seriously, in the very first stage, Mario faces a boss at the end, but it's not Bowser, not Bowser Jr., not even a miserable Boom-Boom. It's an egg...or, it was, until Mario callously landed on top of it in an attempt to destroy the creature inside before it was even born. After the creature awakens, it makes a futile attempt to get away from Mario, completely blinded by the remainder of the egg shell covering everything but its feet and tail. Mario then cracks the egg completely to reveal some kind of Petey Piranha looking thing. Rightfully annoyed by this point, THEN the creature attacks Mario, and Mario goes ahead and destroys it like he was going to do anyway. Take a look at what it took for the "monster" to even get to the point of attacking though - it was clearly acting in self-defense by then.

 

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Not to mention that, other than the razor sharp teeth, it's completely adorable.

 

Or how about Tantarox, found in a later galaxy encased in not one, but two protective layers of webbing. Clearly he doesn't want something getting in, right? Hint: It's Mario. He doesn't want Mario getting in and killing him for no reason, which is exactly what the plumber does when he breaks through both layers to reveal Tantarox, who, I stress, wasn't bothering anyone because it literally couldn't even be seen by anyone. Later in the game, one of the bosses is a gigantic robot that Mario disassembles for pretty much no real reason. It doesn't make any attempt to stop him, probably because it doesn't even know he's there. Being a giant robot makes it difficult to see tiny assassins running up and down your body, removing screws that hold your vital components in place.

 

Moving on to Galaxy 2, Mario's bloodlust is far from satisfied. One of the early boss fights is against a cute armadillo...thing called Rollodillo. Why, just look at the little guy!

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I SAID LOOK AT HIM.

 

If it wasn't for the rocky exterior, he'd be the most huggable thing this side of the Yoshi Star Galaxy! When Mario arrives on his little outer space ball thing, he shows up and...just sort of runs around. He doesn't run AT Mario, or even really try to do anything besides frolic about and look absolutely adorable. It's almost like he just wants to play! It's not until Mario uses the Rock Mushroom powerup to ram a boulder into Rollodillo's backside that Rolly actually makes an attempt to crush Mario, which makes you wonder if, just maybe, he wasn't going to hurt the plumber at all...until Mario made him mad trying to kill him.

 

That isn't even the worst example, though. In another level, the Flipsville Galaxy, the Toad Brigade tells Mario about a monster, which can be seen on a faraway platform. Oh no! Mario had better be careful when he gets over there, because surely Glamdozer will be keen on attacking when he-

 

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Hmm, maybe I didn't land hard enough.

 

Oh, no, it's just sleeping. And not a Star Bit to the eye or a spin to the face will wake it up. You'd think at this point, Mario might find a way to just sneakily look for the Power Star while it's asleep, but you've been reading this far, so you know better than that. Mario's solution is instead to flip a freaking grate underneath Glamdozer to damage its one weak point. Honestly, I'd probably try to kill someone if they woke me up like that, too.

 

Mario's homicidal tendencies aren't even limited to bosses, as regular "enemies" get the same treatment. I put "enemies" in quotes because a large number of the creatures in the games don't attack Mario or even acknowledge his existence - they're just there, going about their day, when suddenly a chubby plumber decides to bring their lives to a rather undignified end. Granted, you could say this is like the older Mario games where enemies just keep walking if Mario passes over them, but it's probably only because they didn't have a running animation to show them fleeing in terror from the thought of becoming another bloodstain on Mario's boots. Sure, many of the bosses and enemies in the games are directly antagonistic towards Mario without provocation, so maybe he's just playing it safe, but I wonder if he's playing it too safe...by killing everything.

 

I get that everything Mario does in these games is done out of love or...honor, or...something. I'm not sure why he rescues Princess Peach every time, he just does, and that's fine. But even still, you never see Bowser stopping along the way to Peach's castle to burn down a forest or step on bunnies or anything like that - he just goes straight there, grabs her, and then goes off to hide somewhere, all without killing anyone. Mario's response is to instead cut a bloody swath across numerous galaxies and destroy anything that might stand between him and his shiny gold trinkets. When your archnemesis has a lower bodycount than you, you might actually not be a very good hero.

 

The games are still pretty amazing though, so I guess I'll give Mario a pass.

Venom

Or maybe it's technically Part 2. Either way.

 

A few days ago, I revised the titles of upcoming games to make them more accurate. But why stop there? Why not include games that have already been released in the fun? Why not see how many times I can rehash the same joke before it gets old?

 

Why not indeed.

 

So here's a selection of video games that have had their titles updated to be more accurate, with maybe more to follow!

 


 

NHL Hitz

 

Revised name: People Only Watch NHL For the Hitz Anyway

 

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This image bleeds excitement.

 

The NHL Hitz "series" (all whopping three games of it) is the NFL Blitz series' Canadian cousin. The basic premise is that it's hockey, but more arcadey-style and with more hitting. So basically, it's exactly like real hockey, but maybe with less rules. Or maybe more. No one's really sure because no one knows what hockey is supposed to be. The only reason people watch it is for the violence, because that's the only way to keep the audience (and the players, probably) from getting bored. EA took that and put it in video game form, and Hitz was born. And then died a few years later.

 

Putty Squad

 

Revised name: Whutty Squad?

 

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Gaze upon the true power of the PS4.

 

Did you know there was a Putty Squad remake on PS4? Did you know they're releasing it as a boxed retail game for $30 instead of releasing it digitally for like, a normal price for that type of game?

 

Actually, better question: Did you know that the original Putty Squad for SNES (Super Putty in the US) ever existed? Because the developers apparently forgot that nostalgia only works on things people actually remember.

 

inFamous

 

Revised name: inFamously Repetitive Missions

 

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*zap*

 

Go here. Zap these guys. Go over there. Zap those guys while maybe not zapping the guys who aren't bad guys. Go get that package from the guy you zapped. Go get that package and THEN zap that guy. Go back three spaces and zap those guys. Do not pass go, unless you zap those guys first.

 

DID YOU ZAP THOSE GUYS YET COLE???

 

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

 

Revised name: Blunders: A Tale of Two Sticks

 

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Which button makes the older brother cram the younger one into that cage?

 

Have you ever played a game where you had to control two characters at once with one controller? If you have, it was Brothers. Or maybe Ibb & Obb if you don't have any friends, but that's not the point. Brothers has two brothers (who'd have guessed?) but the game is single-player only, so you have to move both of them around with each thumbstick and perform actions with the buttons assigned to them. If you've never played a video game drunk, play this, and you'll get the same feeling.

 

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

 

Revised name: Castlevania: Lords of the Franchise

 

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"Excuseth me, English, but mightn't I take this fork to your horse?"

 

Because Konami has pretty much just handed MercurySteam the keys. It's unlikely we'll see the franchise going back to its 2D roots (Mirror of Fate doesn't count and you know it) anytime soon, if the words of the LoS series producer are anything to go by.

 

Aliens: Colonial Marines

 

Revised name: Aliens: Colossal Mistake

 

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I will make any excuse to use this GIF.

 

Truth time: I've never seen Alien. Or Aliens. Or the other movies, which are terrible and I'm told I shouldn't see them anyway. But I have played a couple of Alien video games, and Colonial Marines is the only one I consider to be a mistake that should have been terminated halfway through development. Like, seriously, someone walking in and seeing that game on the screen should have just destroyed every devkit and computer in Gearbox's (or whatever company actually did most of the work) offices. But instead, this thing burst through the chest of the gaming scene, ruining everyone's dinner and fond memories of the franchise in one fell swoop. And hey, while we're on the subject of Gearbox's terrible FPS games...

 

Duke Nukem Forever

 

Revised name: Duke Nukem Should Have Been Delayed Forever

 

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Of the porcelain throne.

 

Too easy, I know, but I'm doing it anyway. DNF was already a dead horse before it came out, so by this point I'm only beating on the skeleton. But it really, really should not have ever been released. It took 14 years to not get finished, and then they released it anyway. 3D Realms and 2K should have just washed their hands of the whole thing and moved on to more important, less bank draining matters. But alas, much like the aliens who keep invading Duke's city, some people never learn until it's too late. And then they come back and do it again anyway.

 

Pocket Fighter

 

Revised name: Slightly Smaller Than Usual Fighter

 

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Behold, the treasure of Shinbeard.

 

Look at Sakura's head! It's like the size a cantaloupe! And look at freakin' Zangief! There is no way you're getting any of these fighters in your pocket, unless you are a kangaroo.

 

Killzone 2

 

Revised name: Whack-A-Molezone 2

 

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A glimpse of the elusive Helghast in a rare moment of not being in cover.

 

Those Helghast sure look pretty menacing, don't they? With their glowing orange goggles and their...breathing apparatuses. And their helmets! Don't forget the helmets. That must be why those guys feature on the cover of the first three games instead of the actual heroes. They're totally badass! Except when they're actually, you know, in the game. Once you see them in action, you'll see that once they get behind cover, their orders consist of "pop out and shoot, duck, pop out and shoot, duck, etc. etc. until you're dead." Killzone 3 was a little better at least, in that some of the enemies were programmed with loneliness and would come find you if they couldn't see you.

 

Watchmen: The End is Nigh

 

Revised name: Watchmen: The End Can't Come Fast Enough

 

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Your rage meter fills up in real time as your contempt for this game rises.

 

This game is absolutely awful, and playing it is a chore. If you soldier through to the end because you want achievements or because you hate fun, you'll find yourself wishing the game would end every step of the way. The game isn't really that long (taking into account both parts) but everything, particularly the combat, is so slow and plodding it feels like it drags on forever.

 

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

 

Revised name: Movie Gear Solid 4: Hours of Talking About Guns and the Patriots

 

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Legend has it you get to control some of this occasionally.

 

Come on, this was unavoidable.

 


 

So what do you think? Accurately revised? Not even close? What the hell is a Putty Squad? Whatever you have to say, feel free to say it down in the comments!

Venom

This started out as a couple of dumb one-off jokes I made earlier today, but then I realized...why not go further with it? Why not make it a number of dumb jokes?

 

Why not indeed.

 


So, in today's post, I'll be talking about some upcoming video games that are taking way too long to come out. But not just that - I'll also be revising their names to more accurately portray their current state and poking a little fun at them along the way. I've got my poking stick set to "stun" and my jokes set to "kill," so let's get this thing on the road!

 

Agent

Revised name: Undercover Agent

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This is literally the game's entire existence.

 

Do you remember Agent? No? No one does, so if you said yes, go sit in time out, Mr. or Ms. Pants on Fire. It was announced in 2009 or so, and since then there's been nothing - total radio silence. Suffice it to say, it appears Agent has gone deep undercover, so until Rockstar pulls him from active duty, he won't be seen in the public eye unless he's in disguise. Let's just hope Momma Agent doesn't get a letter saying he was KIA.

Final Fantasy XV

 

Revised name: Final Fantasy 2015, At the Earliest

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Revised revised name: Pretty Boys with Sharpened Toys

 

At first they were going to call it Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which is a heck of a mouthful. Makes sense to shorten the title a bit, especially after it's completely failed to show up on store shelves since its announcement in 2006, right? But Squenix wasn't just shortening the name, they were telling us something. Something to do with 15...what does it mean? Well, I've deduced that it means 2015 is the absolute earliest we'll see this game on store shelves. So if they rename it to FFXVI, be prepared to wait another couple of years, at least.

 

The Last Guardian

 

revised name: The Last Guardian of the PS3's Legacy

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"Woof! I mean...meow! I mean...hold on, let me think about this."

 

Let's pretend for a moment that The Last Guardian is still coming to PS3, because that may be the only way for some of you to hold back the tears. Got rid of the sniffles yet? Good, let's move on. The Last Guardian has been "in development" for a while, being announced in 2009, and has always been slated to come out on PS3. Since it looks like the PS3's lifetime will expire before this game ever comes out, I've taken the liberty of crowning it the Guardian of the PS3's Legacy. Once every PS3 game that will ever be released has come out, ol' Trico will finally spread his wings and soar onto the system to secure the console's legacy with one final, amazing game. Unless it turns out to be terrible, like most games that stew in development hell for years, but let's just do what it takes to keep from crying and hope for the best.

Beyond Good & Evil 2

 

Revised name: Beyond Good Graphics and Evil Executives 2

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Still waiting.

 

BG&E was a fan favorite and a critical success, but it didn't really do well commercially, so fans were ecstatic when it was announced the game was getting a sequel in 2008. And yet now they've been waiting...and waiting...and waiting. At this point, I'd like to think that by the time the game finally does come out it will have amazingly advanced graphics, probably powered by the Playstation 5, Xbox Two, and Wii U Me, and the developers will have finally found a way to convince the publishing bosses that the game will turn a profit.

Prey 2

 

Revised name: A Longer Development Cycle than Prey, 2

 

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Now with twice the prey!

 

Prey 2 was announced in 2011 or so, but they've been pretty quiet since Bethesda told everyone that it was being polished up to their standards. What standards those are, exactly, we'll never know, but it probably involves releasing it with a host of hilarious glitches. In any case, the original Prey took around 12 years to finally see the light of day, and while Prey 2 has only gotten a few years in, the complete lack of any new info points to the developers trying to match or exceed that cycle. I'm pretty sure at that point it stops being "development hell" and turns into "development hell frozen over."

 

Kingdom Hearts 3

 

Revised name: We Ran Out of Kingdom Hearts Spinoffs 3

 

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I'm confused about those 3 things behind the logo too, Sora.

 

It finally happened. After so many long years, we finally have confirmation. It's what we all expected, all hoped, all secretly knew. And our waiting has paid off as Square Enix has revealed...that it has finally run out of Kingdom Hearts spinoffs.

 

Half-Life 3

 

Revised name: No-Life 3

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While you wait, enjoy this mockup that took someone literally seconds to make.

 

Because people who are still going around looking for clues of this game's existence have no life. That, and the game itself doesn't have a life, since it doesn't exist. It's a double whammy of painful realization!

Starcraft: Ghost

 

Revised name: Starcraft: Ghost

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I don't know if this is an actual screenshot. No one remembers what the game looks like.

 

Oh, wait.

 


 

Some of you may be saying that these are the same games I featured in a past article (welcome back, Señor or Señora Pantalones de Fuego) but I talked about them differently this time, so it makes it new. So nyah. :P

 

So what do you think? Did I hit the nail on the head with my revised names? Do you have a better name for any of these? Or do you not care either way and just want to sound off in the comments about something else? Whatever the case, head on down there and speak your mind!

Venom

Review: Dr. Luigi

To cap off the Year of Luigi, Nintendo did what they've done best with these games - created something whose basic gameplay emulates an old favorite, but managed to put a Luigi-themed spin on it somewhere along the way. For his latest feature, Luigi gets a shot at playing doctor. How does it stand up to the classic, Dr. Mario? Keep reading to find out!

 

Developer: Nintendo, Arika

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Wii U (via eShop)

Release Date: December 31, 2013

ESRB: E for Everyone

 

It may have taken him 30 years, but Luigi has finally gotten his Ph.D and is ready to help cure the viral infections of the world by throwing multicolored pills at them. Filling in for Dr. Mario is no easy task, but Luigi manages to follow the proper procedure set forth by his brother as well as bringing his own unique methods of medicine to the operating room. All the elements of Dr. Mario are intact and the basic gameplay remains untouched, so your enjoyment of Dr. Luigi might hinge on whether or not a twist on the familiar is enough reason to make another appointment.

 

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If you've never played Dr. Mario before, here's the gist - red, yellow, and blue viruses fill the screen, and it's your job to place pills of the same color on the viruses. Stack 3 of the same color on a virus and it's gone. Pills will sometimes be solid colored and sometimes have a different color on each end, which keeps things varied and challenging as you enter later levels and more and more viruses appear on screen. You can choose to start at low levels or dive right into a germ-filled field, and you can also change the speed that your pills drop as well as choose the music you'd like to hear while you play. Dr. Luigi of course features this in full form, but, as mentioned, manages to work in a couple of new ways to play.

 

Dr. Luigi features four main modes - Retro Remedy, Operation L, Virus Buster, and Online Battle. Retro Remedy, as you might expect, is the classic Dr. Mario gameplay as it's always been. You can play this mode solo, against one other local player, or against a CPU opponent. In 2-Player and Vs. CPU modes, the players work to be the first to clear their screen, and playing well and making combos results in junk pieces dropping into the other player's screen to hinder their progress. There's also a variation on the Vs. mode called Flash, where instead of attempting to clear the entire screen, players attempt to be the first to clear specific, flashing viruses.

 

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Operation L is a new take on the tried and true gameplay, modeled after the good doctor - Instead of a single pill, Luigi drops two pills stuck together in a L-shape. This changes the gameplay more significantly than you might think, as you're forced to adopt new tactics to account for the extra pill as well as the shape. You'll need to think ahead to account for where each piece of the pill will drop, and as you get higher in level and more viruses appear on screen, you'll have to figure out how to deal with moving the oddly shaped pills around to where you need them, and you'll also need to find new ways to get unneeded pills out of the way. This often presents situations where you'll simply have to drop pills wherever you can and clean them up later, which can prove difficult if you're not careful. Players new to the series or those who are just a bit rusty will most likely be overwhelmed by the new mode at first, but even seasoned veterans will find that it takes some getting used to before they'll be comfortably clearing screens with the L-pills.

 

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Virus Buster mode returns from Dr. Mario Online Rx, trading out Wiimote control for touch-screen control via the Gamepad. In this mode, rather than having a full playing field, you'll be restricted to the bottom portion of the usual pill bottle. Pills will begin descending and you'll use the stylus to move them around, and tap them to rotate. The real kicker to this mode may come as a sudden surprise though - after a short time of play, two pills will begin to drop at once, and a bit later three pills will drop at the same time, forcing players to multitask and get everything where it needs to be. This requires as much planning ahead as possible as well as being able to deal with unnecessary pills or clearing the wrong color off a virus quickly due to the small size of the playing field. Virus Buster is easily the most difficult mode of play and will take a fair bit of practice for even skilled players, but it's great if you're seeking a challenge.

 

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Last is Online Battle, which is exactly what it sounds like. Online Battle lets you play against players around the world in ranked matches, and allows you to view the leaderboards at any time. You can also simply have a friendly match that won't be ranked, and you can play Retro Remedy or Operation L in normal or Flash modes. Unfortunately, I've yet to be able to find anyone seeking a match so I can't say if the netcode is any good or not. All modes can be played off-TV on the Gamepad alone, but only Virus Buster uses the touch screen. All other modes use traditional button inputs.

 

From a sound and visual standpoint, Dr. Luigi doesn't really try to do anything different. It's nice and bright and colorful, just as past iterations of the series have usually been. The sounds and music are mostly recycled, with Chill and Fever sounding pretty much the same as they have since Dr. Mario 64, although there are altered versions of the songs depending on the mode you're playing. Operation L features two new songs, both of which are nice and catchy, but not as memorable as the classic tunes.

 

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All in all, Dr. Luigi is a fine iteration in the Dr. Mario series, but, again, your enjoyment may depend entirely on how appealing Operation L sounds, unless you've not grown tired of the classic gameplay. There are versions of Dr. Mario for most major Nintendo systems so there are always other (and less expensive) options for that, but if you want to experience the changes Luigi and the Gamepad bring to the series, or you've never played any other version of the series, it's certainly worth checking out Dr. Luigi if you've got a case of puzzle fever that needs to be cured.

 

Score: 7.0/10

 

TL;DR version - Dr. Luigi brings everything from past Dr. Mario iterations to the Wii U, along with a fun new Luigi-themed mode. Operation L will challenge your ability to wield oddly shaped pills and Virus Buster will keep you on your toes by dropping multiple pills at once. Still, the very basic concept remains the same, as does most of the sounds and sights, so the main reason to pick this up is if you really want to see the new modes or if you've never played Dr. Mario before. If you just want the classic gameplay though, it's best to stick with a cheaper option like Dr. Mario Express or Online Rx.

Venom

The third entry in the Batman: Arkham series is here, with development duties shifting from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developer Rocksteady to the team at WB Montreal, who handled the Wii U port of Arkham City. So how does this look into the Dark Knight's past and early years of crime-fighting stand up to the first two games? Read on to find out!

 

Developer: WB Montreal

Publisher: WB Games

Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC

Release Date: October 25, 2013

ESRB: T for Teen

 

This review is based on the Wii U version. As the Wii U version lacks the multiplayer mode, it will not be factored into the review.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins, as mentioned, is the third entry in the Batman: Arkham series that exploded onto the gaming scene in 2009 and was met with critical and commercial success for pretty much being the first game to get Batman right. Arkham City took that and made the combat better and environments bigger, and Arkham Origins decides to go even bigger, with a previously inaccessible portion of Gotham opening up for play, as well as the play area from Arkham City before it became Arkham City.

 

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Though you wouldn't know the difference with all the thugs standing around.

 

That's because, as you might have guessed from the name, Arkham Origins takes place well before the events of the previous games. It makes sense given Arkham City's ending, which I'm not going to spoil if you haven't played it, but seriously, go play the first two games. Done? Okay, welcome back. Arkham Origins takes us back before City, before the Asylum, a mere two years after Batman has started doing Batman things, and most of the city still thinks he's a myth. Of course, Black Mask knows better, and so he puts a bounty on Batman's head, attracting eight assassins who try to claim the bounty and just generally make Batman's Christmas Eve miserable. Everyone in this game is just a younger version of themselves - Batman is far from the cool, collected hero of Asylum and City and instead prefers brute force to fear tactics. James Gordon is still a lowly captain trying to clear the streets of Gotham of corruption while dealing with the same corruption within his own police force, and Alfred...Alfred is still an old man, because he's never been anything else.

 

Batman may be younger, but that doesn't mean he's not good at Batmanning yet. The core gameplay remains exactly the same as it has been, with Batman doling out beatings via the ever-popular Freeflow combat system, and using his various gadgets, most of which are from the previous games, to great effect to defuse traps and find his way out of a jam in a pinch. There's only a few ways Origins really tries to mix up combat, like the introduction of the Shock Gloves, which are used outside of combat but can be used in combat to deal more damage to enemies, which is nice in large encounters. It also tosses in a single new enemy type, martial artists that can counter Batman's strikes. Otherwise, it's still the same variety of thugs (and sometimes cops) armed with the same weapons they used in the other games, as well as the occasional massive brute enemy to make things harder on ol' Bats. Of course, the game still has some boss fights tossed in as well, but unfortunately, this has never been the series' strong point and so many encounters are more an exercise in patience than skill.

 

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"If I can't kill you, then I'm at least going to frustrate you a little bit!!!"

 

Much like Arkham City, players can simply blow through the story missions and call it a day, or they can stop and explore to find various side quests, stop crimes in progress picked up from GCPD's dispatch radio, or just stomp some random thugs hanging about on a rooftop for no particular reason. And, of course, it wouldn't be a Batman game without Enigma (The Riddler, as he's later known) tossing collectibles about the city. He also has hijacked Gotham's radio towers, which Batman can take back in order to open up fast-travel points, a new feature in the game. These points will appear on the map, once again relegated to the Gamepad, allowing you to get around the city more quickly. And you'll be doing a lot of running around if you hope to complete all the sidequests - there's a substantial amount of stuff to do in Arkham Origins, as evidenced by the fact that I'd done a number of side missions and the entire story and was still only around 30% completion.

 

It's safe to say that with so much to do, Gotham must be pretty big, and it is. It's a fair bit larger than Arkham City, and being set before any of the events of the first two games, it looks like the dank, dark crime haven we saw in Batman Begins. There's the requisite run-down buildings against brightly lit signs for Ace Chemicals, Christmas decorations, and the like to add a touch of color to the mostly gray and brown palette. The game doesn't really look any better than the first two from a graphical standpoint, but no one was playing these games for their looks in the first place anyhow. The sounds in the game are also pretty standard for the series, with orchestral, movie soundtrack-style music hitting in the background of the bigger set pieces, and, since the game is set on Christmas Eve, there's also a lot of Christmas music playing here and there. Most sound effects are plucked from the previous entries, and much of the voice cast also returns from the previous games, with the exceptions of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. Batman is instead voiced by Roger Craig Smith, who mostly tries to imitate Conroy anyway, so it's hard to tell the difference. The Joker, as many know, is voiced by Troy Baker, who does a serviceable job as the Clown Prince of Crime.

 

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a.k.a. The Clown Prince of Expensive Heating Bills From Leaving the Windows Open.

 

As you've probably guessed by this point, aside from some small changes the game is pretty much like its predecessors. That holds true up to a point...and that point is when the various bugs and glitches begin to rear their head. Yes, unfortunately, this game is plagued with some issues ranging from minor annoyances to nearly game-breaking. Some of the smaller problems include textures popping in and out of view, which would be fine if it happened when objects were coming into the field of view, but it often happens when you're standing right next to them. There's also some clipping issues here and there, where I found enemies sunk partway through the floor or stuck inside of objects or walls, all the while shouting threats as if the poor souls didn't realize that no matter how fast they moved their feet, they were never getting any closer to Batman.

 

Some of the more major issues come in the form of Batman not free-flowing to enemies when he clearly should, which ruins combos and just combat in general. There were also times I had trouble getting Batman to perform specific moves, such as the aerial attack against shielded enemies. By far, the worst problem is the stuttering and freezing the game experiences. Occasionally the game would stutter when bringing things into view when free-roaming around the city, and sometimes it would lock up completely for a few seconds at a time before resuming. It even completely froze on me twice, forcing me to shut down the console. There's also a particular fight near the end of the game where there is just so much going on that the game struggles to render it all and appears like it could collapse under its own weight at any second, though fortunately it pulled through. There's some other random quirks here and there, such as a point in the final boss fight where I was performing a takedown, and the camera zoomed way in and just stuck there, causing me to have to reload the last checkpoint.

 

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"Why don't I come over there and...I mean, you come over here and I'll hurt ya good!"

 

Still, despite the lack of polish and bugs, Arkham Origins is, through and through, worthy of the Batman: Arkham name, for better or for worse. The characters, the mechanics, the setting, everything feels right at home with the series and at the end of the day, the flaws can be overlooked, at least to a point, to find an enjoyable game with a decent story about Batman's early years. If you're a huge fan of the series and want a new Arkham game to play, Origins is just the ticket, since the game will easily keep you busy for a long time if you decide to pursue the numerous sidequests, and even if you don't it'll still provide a good 6-7 hour romp. However, if you're just coming off Arkham City, you might want to wait to play this one because you may feel like you're just playing a more glitchy version of the same game over again.

 

Score: 6.5/10

 

TL;DR version - Arkham Origins takes the mechanics of its predecessors and lets them loose in Gotham, giving players a bigger area than the previous game, Arkham City. Batman's early years make for a fairly interesting story, no more or less engaging than the "Batman fights the Joker again" fare of the other games. However, the game has several bugs and glitches which can really bring down the experience, or in the case of some, stop it entirely. But if you're a fan of the series it's worth soldiering through to see everything the game has to offer, which is quite a lot. Just don't soldier through right after your last trip to Arkham City because you might get an overwhelming sense of deja vu.

Venom

Sega and Disney Interactive recently revived, remade, and released an HD version of the beloved Genesis classic Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. Does it hold up to the fan-favorite game everyone knows and loves, or is greatness just an illusion for this high definition Mousecapade? Keep reading to find out!

 

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Developer: Sega Studios Australia

Publisher: Sega/Disney Interactive Studios

Platform(s): Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC (via Steam)

Released: September 4, 2013

ESRB: E for Everyone

 

This review is based on the PSN version

 

Before I start this review, I need to be honest - I've never played the original Genesis version of Castle of Illusion. Or, more specifically, I have played it, but only the first few levels. There's certainly nothing wrong with the game, but something about it just never captivated me. Still, due to an unhealthy obsession with all things platformer, I knew I had to give the HD remake a shot. Surely, with the graphical prowess of current-gen consoles, they could capture the whimsy and wonder that the original version always should have had but couldn't process?

 

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The good news is, yes, they did, very much - this is, through and through, a vibrant, wonderful journey through Disney-inspired lands starring everyone's favorite mouse in red shorts. The journey starts with Mickey and Minnie, having a serene picnic, as one often does in the bright and happy Disney universe. Their picnic, however, is ruined when a witch named Mizrabel snags Minnie away with plans to drain Minnie of her beauty, which will then be transferred to Mizrabel to make her attractive, because apparently there are a lot of warlocks out there that need courting. Anyway, Mickey naturally responds by following Mizrabel to her Castle of Illusion, where he must traverse several distinct areas in and around the castle in search of the Rainbow Gems, which will form a bridge to Mizrabel's tower where his dear Minnie is being held.

 

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Mickey's quest takes him to a number of strange locales, aptly demonstrating the "Illusion" part of the castle name. Mickey runs, jumps, and bounces his way through forest trees, crumbling temples, and lands made of candy and sweets in his search for the Rainbow Gems. The mechanics work much like the original game, where enemies are dispatched by bouncing off of them - which has been tweaked to only require a regular jump rather than two button presses - or by throwing items collected through the levels at them. Thrown items are tied to the theme of the level, such as apples in the forest, which is a nice touch. Still, the bounce is the main method of dispatching enemies, mostly because bouncing off enemies is the only way to reach higher ground, resulting in simple level progression or even finding secret areas of the level. One place where the remake really deviates from the original are sections where the camera shifts to allow MIckey full 3D movement throughout a certain area. This is used to great effect in some boss fights, as well as the Castle itself and small sections of other levels.

 

If you have any experience with platformers, none of this will be new or even particularly challenging, at least at first. Some of the secret areas do throw some curveballs at you, but failing to navigate these areas usually just results in getting booted back to the main area of the level. It's not really until the later levels that the challenge ramps up pretty considerably, which is a bit jarring, but admittedly a welcome change for those who found the early stages lacking. Of course, the reason that the change in difficulty is so jarring is because the game is so short - it can be beaten in as little as 2-3 hours, with only the challenging final levels and possibly the quest for secret collectibles (which unlock new costumes and statues depicting enemy characters) adding a little extra playtime. There is also the option of running each level in Time Attack mode with leaderboards, though this will really only appeal to a certain subset of players.

 

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But, while the adventure may not last long, it certainly provides a host of great visuals along the way. While the game is rendered in full 3D, it's done in such a way that most everything looks like it's out of a particularly detailed cartoon. Mickey himself appears like he was plucked straight out of a drawing, looking quite like the mouse we all know and love rather than the serviceable but slightly off-putting rendition from the Epic Mickey games. The soundtrack is also wonderfully whimsical as well, with newly re-arranged music by Grant Kirkhope (composer of numerous soundtracks for Rareware games) complementing the visual stimuli with some great tunes. Or, if that doesn't take your fancy, you can always revert back to the original Castle of Illusion soundtrack at any time, to give your adventure a more retro feel.

 

All in all, the game comes together to form a package that is sure to appeal to not only fans of older Mickey Mouse games, but to anyone who has an itch for a light-hearted platformer that needs scratching. While the game is short and offers limited reasons for replayability, this is one of those games that players will want to come back to again and again, whether to challenge themselves to complete the game 100% or just to have another fun romp through the Castle. Where most developers are content to simply port an older game to new systems and call it a day, the developers at Sega Australia have done an amazing job crafting the game with love and reverence to the source material while updating it for a modern audience, and the end result is no mere illusion - it's bona-fide magic.

 

Score: 8/10

 

TL;DR comments: If you're looking for a fun, whimsical platformer, look no further. The $15 price tag may be a little hard to stomach for such a short game, but it's highly unlikely you'll want to just play the game once and forget about it - you just might find yourself returning to the Castle of Illusion to deliver another bouncing beatdown on Mizrabel, just for the fun of it. The game looks great and plays great, and offers tribute to its past not only in the original Genesis game, but classic platformers in general.

Venom

Welcome readers, to a special limited edition Venomous Incorporated blog post, Tales of Unboxing! You may be wondering what makes it a limited edition, but before you run and tell your friends to check out this post before it disappears, it's not going anywhere. No, it's limited because it's probably the only one you'll ever see since I don't get to buy many collector's or limited editions of games. But this time I did! I did Namco-Bandai's bidding and put in a nice pre-order for Tales of Xillia, which granted me a free upgrade to the Limited Edition of the game. Since these are limited to the first print run, it's likely that they'll soon become a collector's item. Though it certainly won't be as rare as the Collector's Edition, it's sure to be sought by penny-pinching Tales fans who missed out on it. So let's open it already! But of course, any good unboxer knows that you can't unbox something without showing the box it's being taken out of, so here it is:

 

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Lovely, isn't it? I kinda expected it to be bigger myself, but I'll take what I can get. Though it's difficult to tell from the picture, the logo and that circular Stargate-looking thing behind the characters have sort of a "pop-out" feel to them, and the logo sparkles a bit in the right light. Proper! So now that you've gotten a look at that, let's have a peek at what was stored away inside:

 

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You've got your game, of course, then a CD with a selection of tracks from the game, and an Character Book, which is basically an artbook that focuses solely on the characters. Not bad for pre-order extras if I do say so myself. But you didn't come here to look at everything from afar, did you? Let's get some details! First, the lovely CD:

 

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I'm kinda curious as to what a Splendid Sword Dance is now.

 

Twelve tracks of RPG music goodness in a keep sleeve with inexplicably more appealing artwork on the back instead of the front. While I haven't listened to the CD yet, I'm sure it's intended to serve as a "best of" of sorts since it's not a full OST, so it should be interesting to find out where the tracks they chose for the sampler play in the game, other than the obvious ones like character themes and the main theme. But maybe music isn't your thing, and you want pictures. Well, they've got you covered there too! Behold, the artbook (with the front facing up this time, since I had it face-down in the overall picture) as well as a random page from the artbook:

 

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Fingers sold separately.

 

As you can tell by the second picture, it's nice and glossy, and the artwork is very detailed, so it's sure to be a treat for those who like artbooks. There's also some short bio info about the main characters to help you get to know them better before playing, which is always a plus, especially for those who like a little background information before diving into a new game world. And, finally, of course, the limited edition of the game comes with, you guessed it, the game itself. It also includes a DLC code for two classic Tales character costumes in the style of characters from Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Destiny:

 

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You can probably tell by looking that it doesn't appear to have an instruction manual, and you'd be correct, but that's not really all that surprising in this day and age. It's also worth noting something that hadn't caught my eye until now - the game uses the old Namco logo by itself instead of Namco-Bandai, which is odd, but kind of a cool throwback if nothing else.

 

So, there you have it! For those of you who did get the shiny LE (or the even shinier CE) you either already know what's in here or got something better, but for those who didn't, well, you may begin being jealous...now. :P Hope you all enjoyed seeing the contents of Tales of Xillia LE, and I'll be sure to regale you with more Tales of Unboxing should I ever come across anything else worth unboxing. For now, I'll leave you with this completely random picture of someone admiring the box...

 

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Video games as art. For video game characters.

Venom

A few days ago, I talked about how what makes the Super Mario Land games weird is also what makes them stand out amongst the numerous games in the Mario series. But, of course, they aren't the only strange games in Mario's 30-year run - there's plenty to choose from, be it Yoshi's Island (the one with the baby), Super Mario Bros. 2 (the one with the dream), or Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (the one with the gender identity issues) but the one you might not expect me to talk about is Super Mario Sunshine, a.k.a. the one with the water gun.

 

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And yet, here we are.

 

Super Mario Sunshine gets equal amounts of love and hate for switching things up by slapping FLUDD on Mario's back, but that's not what makes it weird. And it's not the pineapple-looking people populating the game world who we'd never seen before and now are traveling to the Mushroom Kingdom for sports events, and it's not even the fact that said people mistake a goopy Blue Man Group version of Mario for the real thing, because that's just more stupid than odd. No, even with all that, this is still a true 3D Mario game at the core - He's out to collect 120 shiny things, and he can do almost everything he could do in Super Mario 64, with the exception of punching, because all that would do is get paint on his gloves. His gloves that he inexplicably wears with a short sleeve shirt, but whatever - Mario would look weird without gloves. Granted, his NES sprites didn't wear gloves (his instruction manual illustrations did, though) but that was because it would have probably cost another $10,000 to color his hands differently. That and it seemed like it was mandatory for NES characters to not have hands, and instead have circles where hands should be. But advances in technology changed all that, and now characters can have fully animated hands.

 

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Although some developers kept using circles, because drawing hands is hard, y'all.

 

But I digress - the paint. The paint is part of what makes Sunshine such a strange game. It's not just regular old run of the mill paint, or even lead paint, but some kind of living paint. The things that Shadow Mario paints have a tendency to come alive, and, oddly enough, usually take the form of a Piranha Plant, because even when you've got paint that comes to life you've gotta go with what you know. The paint also spawns sentient bubbles that try to attack Mario, so there's that too. But outside of the enemies, the paint serves a far more useful, err, use, and that is painting doorways to another world. While that in itself isn't really noteworthy, it's the fact that it's not just the doorways, but evidently Mario is made of paint too. At least, I hope he's made of paint, because otherwise being disassembled at a molecular level every time you enter the warp would hurt like hell.

 

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Here we GAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!

 

Anyway, aside from that, there's also the fact that, unlike Super Mario 64 (and later, Galaxy), this game doesn't have any power-ups to speak of unless you count some slight modifications to FLUDD, or FLUDD itself, I guess. The closest thing to a power-up is Yoshi, because for whatever reason Yoshis in this game are temporary. The only way to get them out of their eggs is with their favorite fruit (which means Mario must have done something to make them mad at some point) and once you do, the Yoshis have a limited supply of "juice" which can be kept up by eating more fruit. When they run out of juice, they burst into molecules like Mario entering a warp and reappear back in their egg, which is kind of a terrifying existential loop now that I think about it, but this article already has enough unspeakable horrors that we don't really need to go into that. Just know that the use of Yoshis in this game is another reason it's strange.

 

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And then when you take a stroll on the pier to get away from it all, BAM - giant watermelon.

 

But wait, there's more! While vacationing on Delfino Isle, Mario meets Bowser Jr. for the first time. That's not all that strange since he's now a series regular and can just come and go as he pleases at this point, but what is weird is his claim that Peach is his mother. And that's not the strangest part - no, that would be the part where Peach doesn't deny it, at least not at first. Peach responds to this revelation as if it's more of a sudden realization than an outright fabrication. And speaking of the Bowser family (because I'm moving away from that last point before it gets weird) this was the first game where Bowser was big enough to crush Mario with his pinky finger. This proves that every time Bowser gets his hands on some amazing new power source, the first thing he does is use it to make himself bigger. Still want more weirdness? How about the levels that take away FLUDD and get down to some old school hopping and bopping...in some kind of outer-space railroad void.

 

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"Mario in space? How silly."

 

Even if you don't like Super Mario Sunshine, you've gotta appreciate that the team was able to experiment with these levels, which led to the logical conclusion that was Super Mario Galaxy.

 

And that's what it all comes down to - Super Mario Sunshine was yet another experiment in the Mario franchise, and it gave Nintendo plenty of great new ideas to carry into future games while unfortunately leaving other ones behind. Where today Nintendo has mostly settled into baiting fans into buying the next game with nostalgia (not that I'm complaining, Mario games are still tons of fun) back when they were trying to get consumers to come to the Gamecube, they decided to take some chances and try something new. As mentioned, the result was one of the most polarizing Mario games ever made - you either love it or hate it - but no matter what, it's the oddities that come with the game that make it stand out of the crowd and keeps people talking about it over 10 years later. I urge anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to try it out to pick up a copy and take the dive into this sun and surf soaked adventure, because while it may not offer a galaxy of greatness, it's still one of the brighter spots in Mario's history.

 

(puns definitely intended.)

Venom

The Super Mario Land games for Gameboy mark a lot of firsts - the first portable Mario games (not counting Game & Watch stuff), the first appearances of Daisy and Wario, and the first time it was possible to run out of batteries before you ran out of lives. While the Land games don't usually top any "best Mario game" lists, they're still fondly remembered and played to this day, whether via the 3DS' Virtual Console or an actual Gameboy. But while there are a lot of things to be said about the Land games, both good and bad, one thing everyone who's played the games can agree on is this: They are weird.

 

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Nothing out of the ordinary here.

 

Particularly the first Land game, but they both have their oddities. We'll start with the original: at first, you'll notice it's got all the Mario basics covered: he runs, he jumps, he steps on things, he picks up Mushrooms and flowers, collects coins, and he runs under bosses when they jump to get past them and beat the level. Or shoots them to death from his mini-submarine. Wait, what? Yeah, it's like someone on the Mario team wanted him to cameo in Gradius or something and was told no, and so they developed their own Super Mario shoot-em-up and spliced it in with the traditional platforming gameplay for no adequately explored reason. But hey, at least when you finish a boss, no matter how you do it, you'll still get the wonderful sensation of finding out the princess isn't actually in that castle/underwater tunnel. Except instead of being helpfully informed of this by a Toad (or whatever Daisy's personal security force is), Daisy will simply transform into a regular enemy and run away, which makes you wonder why Mario didn't assume Daisy was actually a shapeshifter and just leave after the first boss.

 

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Oh! Daisy...sorry, I thought you were Peach at first.

 

But, ok, Mario's in Sarasaland in that game, so maybe things just work differently there. That's why Koopas explode on impact and flowers cause Mario to fling Superballs around like a spastic 5 year old suffering from ADD and parental neglect. Maybe Sarasaland's water supply isn't breathable for whatever reason, or maybe it isn't even water. Fine. We'll cut it some slack since it was done by a different team too, so maybe they had some ideas they didn't get to voice during the production of the console Mario games. For all intents and purposes, it's still a pretty good Mario game, and, weirdness aside, still holds up to this day. The same can also be said about Mario Land 2, but there are places where it ups the weirdness even without side-scrolling shooter levels or Superballs. For starters, instead of it being about Mario rescuing a princess, this time around he's rescuing his castle and WHEN DID MARIO GET A CASTLE.

 

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And furthermore, what happened to the first one?

 

Yep, Mario's out to get his castle back from now-series mainstay Wario, and in order to do that Mario must gather the six Golden Coins to open his convoluted but undoubtedly pretty secure lock system and take the boot to Wario. So...how long has Mario had a castle? I mean, I get it, sometimes when you're knee deep in praise and princesses you need a place to get away from it all, so I guess this is like his summer home or whatever, but it's just weird that he suddenly has one and then it's never mentioned again. It's also never explicitly stated that this is the Mushroom Kingdom (and really, it would probably be stranger if it was) so you kinda have to wonder where exactly Mario built the thing, and why he chooses to vacation in places like Dinosaur Land over his own flippin' castle. But that's just scratching the surface of the oddities in the game. First there's the powerups - sure, there's the good old Fire Flower reminding you that this is definitely not that weird game they did before because it actually shoots fire, but then there's...whatever this thing is.

 

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That thing.

 

The Super Radish/Carrot/Super Mario Bros. 2 leftover grants Mario tiny wings on his cap which allow him to flutter downward safely like the Raccoon tail in Mario 3, unless you're a pretty good button masher, because pressing the button fast enough will allow Mario to just fly forward in a perfectly straight line until you get to the end of the level or run into something. And speaking of levels, these run the gamut between a fairly normal forest level to outer-freakin'-space, which is par for the course these days, but back then was a pretty big diversion from the castles and brick road strolls of the console games. Then there's the enemies, which range from the standard Goomba and Koopas (which don't explode this time, thankfully) to giant insects and some kind of cross between a horse and a fish.

 

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Also, they apparently make their home in Jell-O lakes.

 

Speaking of enemies, this game also does something that no other non-RPG Mario game (to my knowledge) does, and keeps track of how many you've killed. That Goomba x 19 in the screenshot up there isn't how many enemies are patrolling the level, it's how many aren't patrolling it anymore. Because you killed them. You monster.

 

Anyway, the point of all this is, while the Land games have plenty of Mario trademarks, they also have some new, sometimes intriguing and sometimes insane ideas that, for better or for worse, didn't really pan out and become part of the series from then on. Except for Wario of course, since he hijacked the entire third Land game and made it the first of his own series instead. And while the games may be weird, that's what makes them stand the test of time - the fact that, unlike some other Mario games, there's just not really anything else like them. So, whether you're a Mario fan who's always been wondering when the series' experimental phase was or just someone who needed a good incentive to play the Land games again, take some time one day to play the Land series. You may feel lost, sometimes confused, or just plain weirded out, but I guarantee you'll love every second of it.

Venom

Yesterday I started up a new file on Assassin's Creed III, fully intending to play through the game and try to actually finish it, something I didn't do last time I played. When I played before, I got a little bit into the game after it switches control to Connor, and ended up stopping for no particular reason and never going back. While it's probably safe to say I'm not missing out on a particularly engaging story, I am making a harder push to finish games I start and go back and replay games I started and never finished, and I was hoping ACIII would be the next game in line in my (admittedly failing if Tales of Vesperia is any indication) quest to conquer some of my backlog. But I've come across a bit of a problem after playing the ship mission and reaching America. It's not really a problem with the game itself or any issues with the Wii U version since I was playing on PS3 last time or anything like that. It's more of an issue with compulsion. The compulsion to kill every Redcoat I see like I'm possessed by the vengeful spirit of a Revolutionary soldier.

 

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Say "wot" again. I DARE YOU.

 

You may recall some months ago (shameless plug imminent) I spent 3 hours on the first level of Scribblenauts Unlimited because I was just so enthralled with the limitless creation. Well, ACIII doesn't have that. It has something, but I don't know what. I don't know if the combat is just that fun or I'm just that easily distracted. Maybe I'm more into Colonial history than I realized, or maybe it's that vengeful spirit thing. All I know is that I haven't even completed the first mission available after stepping off the boat in Boston. I'm really not even sure where it is anymore. I mean, yeah, there's that big exclamation point marker on my mini-map, but I don't really have time to look for that when I'm looking for the red dots that signify enemies. Sometimes they're on the ground, sometimes they're on the roof, sometimes they're marching in groups, sometimes they're just standing around chatting it up with one or two other soldiers. With so many different variations on their military tactics, a sharp-minded assassin always has to explore the best avenue for avoiding detection and slipping past the enemy to complete his objective. Or he can march directly into their camp and kill every single one of them instead.

 

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Well, almost every single one of them.

 

Every time I turn on the game, I immediately charge towards the nearest Redcoat and attack him, and I just keep going from there. From the rooftops to the dock, anyone wearing red is a prime target for my fist or sword or whatever happens to be in my character's hand at the time. In fact, the combat is becoming my sole reason for even turning on the game. It's not so strange for me to ignore the missions and go off to find ways to create random hilarity in open-world games, but ACIII doesn't really have a lot of room for hilarity outside of glitches. It just has a lot of room for killing, and that's all I seem to be doing. There are even times where I'll toy with my opponent before finally finishing him off, like by disarming him, letting him pick up his gun, then disarming him again, or by tossing him around the area and seeing what all he runs into. Other times I'll just rush headlong into a group of marching soldiers and tackle one of them only to finish them all off within a few seconds. My point is, the combat in the game is really easy, and yet it's somehow keeping me entertained more than anything else in the game possibly could. Granted, the game has the word "assassin" in the title, but I think I'm supposed to be killing other people too.

 

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People other than this guy.

 

I should probably see what that "creed" part means too. And yet, for reasons I can't explain, I've killed more Redcoats than I could ever count if I had all the time in the world, and I keep going and going, killing and killing and making piles of bodies that terrify passersby until they inevitably pop out of existence to be replaced with identical soldiers for me to kill. There's a part of me that wants to get back to the game and start that first mission, but even if I was to head in the direction of the mission marker I'd just start killing every Redcoat along the way until I spotted a group off the path and ran off, never to find my way back again. Maybe once AC4 comes out I'll have a reason to finish the game, but until then I'll just keep playing with no aim or reason, making the bad guys' coats redder until I finally get tired of it, some other game comes along and takes my attention, or until the vengeful spirit is satisfied, whichever happens first.

Venom

"So I Gotta Rant" he says. He says it's the first in some brand spankin' new series. Well, where's the rest of it if it's such a great new series, by gar?

 

Well, dear hypothetical reader who only exists in my head, I'm here to answer that question for you, because today, So I Gotta Rant gets its second installment. Rejoice! Or don't...either way, enjoy. :D

 


 

Over an hour. That's how long I've been sitting here, waiting for LittleBigPlanet 2 to finish updating. I put the game in over an hour ago fully intending to play the game, and yet, now, I've somehow lost interest in it. Somehow, the giddy excitement of dressing up a cute little Sackboy and cavorting off on a magical platforming adventure has lost its luster. Is it because I've been sitting here waiting for the empty, boring install screen to finally go away?

 

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Yes. It is because of that.

 

Whatever happened to the days when I could just pop in a game and play it? It used to be that you could buy a game, take it home, pop it in your system of choice (or the system you got whether you wanted it or not, depending on your childhood) and it was ready to go right out of the box. Nowadays there are games that literally get patches the day they land on store shelves. Did they not have time to finish? Did they not care because they knew they could patch it? What happened to the days when game developers either shipped complete games with almost no bugs and glitches or else suffered the wrath of a thousand angry gamers, critical lambasting, and the expenses of several returned copies?

 

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You know, these days.

 

But, alright, let's back up a little bit. There's nothing inherently wrong with patches and updates - I mean, if we'd had them in the Atari days, E.T. could have been made playable. It's actually great that some developers care enough about the community to listen for problems and actively attempt to fix them. But it also means that developers can get away with not finishing their games before release because they know they can just patch them later. Of course, most developers don't do this (because most developers aren't Terminal Reality) but the point still remains that patches have made it all too easy to turn the players into your quality control team. And when your player has to wait anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour (or more) just to play the game, they're not exactly going in with high hopes. I mean, don't get me wrong, sometimes it's well worth the wait, but other times, well...

 

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Don't mind me, just trying to find my AI.

 

Yeah.

 

"So you have to wait for some patches. Big deal! It makes the game more stable/playable/better/etc." you might say. But the point is that in doing so, I have to wait quite a while just to even play the game, depending on which game it is. But, fine, have it your way, patches are wonderful and great and I'm thankful we have them. That still doesn't excuse install data. Mandatory install data as most games tend to have. Because, once you've finally gotten done with the patches and your game has finally started, the first thing you should want to do is wait some more. Let's take Metal Gear Solid 4 for an example. In the 2 or 3 times I've played through the game, I never had my PS3 online, so I never downloaded any patches. Not that I needed them, since the game ran fine as it was. Regardless, I still had to sit and wait...and wait...and wait while the game installed it's massive data at the beginning and after every chapter or so. I get it, MGS4 was a huge game and wouldn't have been possible without this, but, seriously, THE WAITING. Once again, it had me pining for the days when I could just put a game in and see the title screen seconds later, not minutes/hours later.

 

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It's me again.

 

Not to mention that some games that have optional installs don't really seem all that different with or without the data installed. So why bother? Why not make them all optional? At least then I could start playing the game immediately...immediately after the patch is done downloading, that is.

 

So, needless to say, it's getting to be rather annoying to have to wait to play a game that I might actually be pretty excited about playing. Excitement can only last so long, and sometimes it doesn't last as long as a patch download or data install. Yes, these are necessary evils in today's gaming world, but they are an evil that I will continue to rant about, because when I grew up the worst waiting was waiting to get home from the store to play the game. Now it's waiting for the patch to finish downloading, and that will never cease to bother me.

 


 

On a related note, it took me about 45 minutes to write this. The LBP2 update is at 94% now. Make your own conclusions about the validity of my annoyance. :P

Venom

Ok, maybe I shouldn't try to write Steam related puns, but I will try writing something different.

 

Since gaiages gave us the idea to post mini-reviews and gave us a good example to work with in her own blog, I thought I'd try my hand at this too. So, stealing her idea and her layout, here's some miniature reviews, with scores, of some of the games in my Steam library!

 

Let's start with a classic...

 

 

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Loom

 

Loom is a point-and-click adventure game from the early 90's, developed by LucasArts. It was among the first in LucasArts' line of P&C games that removed any failure and unwinnable scenarios, ensuring that players of any skill level could complete the game. Loom eschews the traditional inventory-based puzzles and instead relies on note-based puzzles. Not written notes, mind you - musical notes. Your character carries a staff which can play musical notes, and playing them in different orders will cast spells which will have various effects on whatever item you're focusing the spell on. The unique gameplay, combined with the usual LucasArts humor, makes this one well worth checking out for adventure game fans. Just be warned, it's a little on the short side and ends on an unresolved cliffhanger.

 

Score - 7/10

 

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Just Cause 2

 

Ok, I'll be honest - I haven't finished JC2 on Steam, but I finished it when I played in on Xbox 360, so that's close enough, right? Anywho, this game is an absolute blast, full of non-stop thrills and more adrenaline rushes than you can shake a F-22 at. The game features a massive open world just ripe for the exploring and destroying, and you'll do plenty of both - causing "chaos" by destroying government-owned property is the only way to unlock missions from your bosses, The Agency, as well as various factions scattered around the fictional island of Panau. If there's anything bad to be said about this game, it's that none of the characters are particularly likable, and the voice acting is atrocious, but you'll likely be too busy shooting, exploding, driving, flying, and parachuting around the island to notice. Give this one a shot if you're in for a good action game, because this is plenty action packed for even the most hardcore hellraiser.

 

Score - 9.5/10

 

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And Yet It Moves

 

AYIM is an interesting game. It's a platformer at heart, but with a twist...because you can literally twist the level in order to open new paths. By rotating the stage left and right, you'll open previously unnoticed entryways, move obstacles out of the way, navigate intriguing maze-like labyrinths, and find out how far your character can fall without dying. :lol: The game's graphics are unique too, in that everything appears to be made out of paper, setting this apart from the majority of puzzle-platformers out there. This one, like Loom, is also on the short side, but it's a lot of fun while it lasts.

 

Score - 7.5/10

 

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Saints Row 2

 

Truth time, again - I never finished this on Steam, just on 360. But that's because the PC version is nearly unplayable - first of all, the game won't even run at a steady framerate unless your processor clock speed is the exact same as the Xbox 360's, so the game will inevitably play either too slow or too fast unless you tinker with files outside of the game, but it's hardly worth the trouble. The controls are also incredibly touchy, making driving an exercise in futility. Everything about this game is shoddy generally awful, making this one of the worst PC ports of any game ever made. This mini-review is a cautionary tale: stay away from SR2. Saints Row: The Third, however, runs fine, so maybe grab that instead.

 

Score - 1/10

 

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Cthulhu Saves the World

 

Cthulhu Saves the World is an old-school RPG inspired by the 8 and 16-bit heroes of yore - Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and the like. The game features the dread beast Cthulhu (obviously) embarking on a quest to regain his powers that were taken from him by an unknown force. Along the way you'll meet a colorful cast of characters, from Cthulhu's official groupie to a talking sword and an alien who looks like a cat. The battle system is reminiscent of Dragon Quest, where the monsters are displayed on the screen as if viewing them in first-person and your menu to choose actions under them. This game has some more modern mechanics though, such as a random encounter limit and combo attacks between characters. With the style of an old-school RPG, the trappings of a modern one, and the humor of a fantastic writing team, Cthulhu Saves the World is easily one of the best PC JRPGs you could own right now, and it comes at a fantastic price as well - a mere $2.99 for a good 9-10 hours of gameplay.

 

Score - 9/10

 

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Jolly Rover

 

Jolly Rover is essentially The Secret of Monkey Island with dogs. Well, that's not entirely accurate, because Jolly Rover, the main character, doesn't want to be a pirate like Guybrush, but he ends up getting swept up in a tail (sorry) of treasure and adventure on the high seas. The game is your standard point & click adventure, though at times it feels more skewed to the "casual" crowd - there's not any really heavy head scratchers, but if you do get stuck, you can sacrifice an easily-found cracker to your parrot sidekick for a hint. Each time you ask for a hint, it becomes more obvious until it pretty much spells out exactly what you need to do. So it's not the most difficult game to complete, but it's a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor. If you've played the Monkey Island games and are looking for something with a similar pirate vibe, or just want to play a fun adventure game that doesn't ask too much of you, check out Jolly Rover.

 

Score - 7/10

 

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Symphony

 

Your music is under attack. Your mission: to liberate it! Symphony is another one of those "your own music does different stuff in the game" things, and, personally, it's my favorite of the various ones I've played. Each level plays like a vertical-scrolling shooter, where you use your mouse to pilot your ship around the screen and shoot enemy ships that invade from various sections of the screen. Destroying enemies nets you "inspiration" as well as powerups and score multipliers, and gaining inspiration allows you to unlock more powerful weapons. The game also features progressively more difficult boss fights at mostly random intervals, meaning you could be jamming along to your favorite song when suddenly a pair of eyes pops up on the screen to tell you he's trapped the soul of the composer, and you, puny physical being, will never free him! With plenty of weapons to unlock, varying difficulties, and an actual goal to work towards - defeating all the bosses and reclaiming the Symphony of Souls - Symphony is one of the more engaging games of this style.

 

Score - 8/10

 


BONUS: A Greenlight mini-review!

 

This game isn't on Steam yet, but it can be. Give it your vote of confidence!

Steam Greenlight :: Escape Goat

 

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Escape Goat

 

There are plenty of puzzle-platformers on Greenlight right now. So why should you pay attention to this one? Because it is fantastic. The game puts you in control of a purple goat (because why not) and tasks you with escaping from a prison, because also why not. But you're not alone! You also have the companionship of a tiny mouse, who helps out in a big way. Escape Goat drops you into one-screen rooms full of switches, blocks, tricks, and traps and asks you to escape from each room. To do this, you'll often need quick reflexes, the help of your mouse friend, and memorization skills for when you inevitably trigger the wrong switch and have to restart the level. The game design is great for quick, bite-sized chunks of play time or marathon sessions, and some of the later, more difficult levels really give you that sense of accomplishment when you find your way out. The greatest sense of accomplishment, however, is passing any of the secondary levels that unlock after you finish the main game - some of the toughest, most nail-bitingly intense levels await you after the prison, and I loved every minute of it. Also, to end on a random note that I couldn't manage to squeeze in anywhere else, this game has awesome music. Vote it up!

 

Score - 9/10

 


That's all for the first round! Be sure to stay tuned for the next episode, where I review...wait, I'm not going to tell you. That would be silly, because then you'd know what to expect and whether or not you should read the next one before it's even done. So stay tuned for the next episode, because everything about it is going to be a complete surprise! Mwahahahaha!

Venom

This started out as a review for The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. I genuinely wanted to give people my honest opinion of the game, while outlining where it shines and where it needs work. But after getting trapped on the second level of the game by a never-ending flood of walkers that block the only escape route to the exit, it's apparent that I'll never finish the game. Since I can't review it effectively, I'll instead take the time to tell you why you should stay far, far away from this rotten, godawful mess of a game.

 

Upon starting the game for the first time, it's already apparent that this game lacks polish - the controls are loose, the graphics are bland, character models are ugly, shadows are blocky and jagged, and voice-overs sound like they were recorded into a tin can rather than a microphone. Meanwhile, the framerate often struggles to stay at 30 FPS, which, for a game that looks as outdated as Survival Instinct does, really shouldn't be that difficult. There's also the fact that, during the tutorial, the messages that tell you which button does what often appear after you've figured it out yourself, or just don't appear at all. These are all little things though, and certainly no reason to avoid the game outright. But I'm just getting started...

 

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Well? We're waiting...

 

I only played two levels of the game (more on why in a moment) but in both levels the overall objective was "find gas so you can drive to the next level." Granted, the second level did have some secondary, optional objectives, but they were both fetch quests for survivors found in the level. For a game with the word survival right in the title though, you'd think it would have maybe put more emphasis on surviving than getting gas, but I digress - I've never seen the show, so that may be what they're doing all the time anyway. Sure, you do have to survive against the "walkers," but under normal circumstances that really isn't all that difficult. Getting behind a walker will allow you to stealth kill it (even if it knows you're there) and melee killing them from any angle can be fun. The walker AI is so brain dead (pun kinda-sorta intended) that they'll happily stand there while you gleefully beat them to death, maybe occasionally taking a feeble swing at you. It's when they grapple you that things get annoying - your reticule floats around the screen at random, and you have to center it on the zombie's head and press the attack button while it's centered to instantly kill it. This would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that the game often didn't register my button press when I was certain I had the reticule lined up, making this little QTE more annoying than it should have been. The best (worst) part is that if there are multiple zombies around, after one grapples you any others nearby will grab you the moment you kill the previous one, which often means getting surrounded = getting killed because you can't stop getting grappled to heal.

 

And therein lies the reason I never passed the second level - I got surrounded by so many zombies that I literally could not kill every one of them grappling me over and over and over. But let me back it up a minute, because this requires a little context, I suppose. When you start the level, the road is blocked so you have to go through a small general store to get around the cars in your way and get to the gas station. In order to get gas (as I mentioned, your objective for the first two levels) you have to get a key to turn on the gas station's generator, and once you do that, all the noise from the generator attracts the walkers, which another character helpfully tells you before completely disappearing. Like, literally, he just disappears, you don't see him run out of the station or anything. So anyway, whether you could see any walkers or not, some will inevitably show up to try and ruin your escape, so you have to leave as quickly as possible. But remember that grocery store I mentioned walking through? Yeah, I still have to go through there, only now it's full of walkers. Seriously, full of walkers. There's just a sea of flesh-eating zombies waiting right there along your escape route, every time, all the time, and as soon as you get to them they will grab you, and they will kill you - there's way too many to fight off no matter how good you are at the grappling QTE. So I tried, and tried, and tried again, but there was absolutely no way through. I finally had to give up because after I reloaded my checkpoint several times, the game apparently couldn't handle it anymore and the framerate stuttered and froze every few seconds, making the game entirely unplayable.

 

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I don't know who took this screenshot, but I do know their game probably crashed shortly afterwards.

 

Yep, I used the dreaded "u" word, and it is entirely justified. Not just because of the crippling framerate issue, but because this game is so shoddily made that it would be impossible for the average gamer (and I'm hardly an "average" gamer) to make progress in this game without the aid of a cheat device or something. First of all, the game doesn't know how to remove dead zombies from the world - there was one point where I was standing on the fire escape of a building, and two zombies followed me out. I killed them, and turned around to contemplate going down the fire escape or back the way I came. Suddenly, I was grappled by a zombie, who I promptly killed, but I was wondering how he got there so I looked in the room I'd just came from - nothing. I went back to my quiet contemplation, only to be attacked again - by the same f***ing zombie. And this isn't one of those "maybe you didn't kill him all the way" situations - his body disappeared, but apparently the game decided to just respawn him right there, infinitely, until I was smart enough to go somewhere else. This is apparent throughout the game if you're paying attention, since a zombie that you killed in a particular place will often be there again if you get far enough away, by which I mean a few freakin' steps. Second of all, the checkpoint system is horrid - one of the survivors I mentioned earlier asks you to find him batteries. Sure, no problem. I made my way to the police station, fought off some walkers, got the batteries, gave them to him, and went on my merry way. I died shortly after meeting a second survivor inside the station and starting his fetch quest, only to be popped back outside the police station. My objective? Find batteries for Officer whatever his name was. This game is so terrible at remember what you've done that dying could mean a few seconds lost (the generator thing I mentioned earlier happened to be a checkpoint, surprisingly) or several minutes. And if you quit the game and start it up again, it doesn't start you at your last checkpoint like most games - no sir, you're going right back to the beginning of the level, because screw you for quitting the game, that's why.

 

Maybe I'm just angry, but there is absolutely no reason anyone should ever play this game, for any reason, unless, I guess, you really - and I mean really - hate someone and want to show them in one of the worst ways possible by giving them this thing as a gift. This is one of the sorriest excuses for a video game I've ever played, and I've played Postal 3, Sonic '06, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, Samurai Slowdown III (a.k.a. the PSX version of Samurai Shodown 3), uh...well, you get the idea. The worst part is that the game could have been fun, if it wasn't for the fact that it tries its damnedest to make you fail repeatedly. I really liked bashing in zombie heads, I really liked the idea of getting sucked into the world of The Walking Dead, but all of this was ruined when I realized I could never leave the second level no matter how hard I tried. This could have been at least half-decent if more work had been put into it, but as it stands, this is a rushed, buggy, unpolished, and nearly broken game that no fan of Walking Dead or zombie culture could ever enjoy. So, if you're looking for a good Walking Dead game, play Telltale's game based on the comics. If you're looking for a good zombie game, play literally just about any other game with the word "Dead" in the title - Dead Island, Dead Rising, Dead Pixels, Dead Nation, take your pick. Just, whatever you do, don't go anywhere near this game, because you'll only find the frustration and annoyance of a game that almost, almost could have made it if only the developers had actually tried. It's a crime against all gamedom that lazy developers like Terminal Reality are getting handed money by publishers to puke out something like this when so many decent, hardworking studios are shutting their doors one by one. Maybe that's what this game was trying to represent - that there's only a few "survivors" left in the world (the developers who barely have enough to keep functioning but manage to cling to life) being swarmed by a bunch of foul, rotten, husks (terrible developers who coast off publisher money) who only care about one thing: flesh (money) and will do whatever it takes to get it. If so, then, good job Terminal Reality, you really did well with your social commentary. Just, maybe next time, try to do well with your Walking Dead game instead.

Venom

Welcome, welcome one and all, to the offshoot of madness, that which sprung forth from the fires of a series of inquisitary tales called "So I Gotta Know" to form itself into a new, more threatening species known as "So I Gotta Rant!" In this new and unfamiliar-ish world, questions are no longer asked and answered and left alone. No, now, questions are asked, answered, and complained about for all to witness! So step inside if you dare, to a world where someone decided that griping about annoying things could make an engaging reading experience, step inside, friends and strangers, to this world of harsh words and harsher paragraph transitions, brought to you by Venomous Incorporated!

 


So yesterday I decided to boot up Hitman: Absolution after buying it months ago and never playing it. I decided the first thing I ought to do is see how graphically intensive the game was, because it never hurts to be sure you're not jumping into 15 agonizing frames per second when you first start up a game. So I went in and ran the benchmark tool, and everything was looking good, so I exited out and got ready to play a rousing game of assassination and baldness starring Agent 47 as the assassination and his luxuriously luminescent head as the baldness.

 

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The Baldness always gets top billing.

 

Then a strange thing happened: down in the corner of my screen, a little message told me "Achievement Unlocked." Evidently by checking to see how well the game would run, the game thought I'd done something noteworthy and decided to share that information with me and the world. "Hey! look over here!" It seemed to say. "You did something worth writing an awful pun and showering you with praise for!" It continued, well past the point that any sane human being should be hearing inanimate status messages speak to them. Well, didn't I feel special that I'd unlocked that achievement?

 

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Congraturation!

 

No. No I didn't. Of all the things I could get an achievement for, checking to make sure my hardware was up to the task of playing the game was not something that I couldn't have accomplished without plenty of practice and time invested into the game. Of course, it's not the worst offender - plenty of games I've played have decided that it's an achievement that you pressed start on the title screen, if you even get that far - bwing! Achievement Unlocked - The Adventure Begins! That's great and all, but I don't really need the game to celebrate the fact that I actually bought it and played it. The developers and publishers should be happy about that fact, sure, but they could find less ridiculous ways to tell me that. More and more I'm seeing pointless, incredibly simple tasks to "achieve" that give me a little message that's supposed to make me feel good about myself. But how can I feel good about doing something that I literally could not have avoided doing if I wanted to play the game?

 

Before I continue ranting, let's back up a little bit. When achievements were first introduced, there were still plenty of arbitrary ones like "kill 100 peoples" and "cleared chapter 1-1" but they were among various others that might have made you feel like you accomplished something, like an achievement for finding all the hidden goodies in a level or for getting 20 melee kills in a game where melee amounts to wildly flailing about and hoping you hit something enough times to kill it. Some achievements used to have meaning, and certainly, some still do, but they're lost among a sea of "press start for 10G" and "watch opening cinematic for a bronze trophy." This trend probably started around the time achievements and trophies pretty much became "mandatory" but has gotten worse in the following years. Why did developers stop trying with achievements and trophies and just start throwing freebies at gamers for no reason? Who are they even doing this for?

 

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I maked a character!

 

Achievement hunters. These are people who, for whatever reason, subject themselves to playing games like Yaris and Dora the Explorer in Knee Deep in the Dead (I'm not good at remembering subtitles) just to get "easy achievements." Well, yeah, they're easy, they're pointless, and frankly, they don't need to exists. So why are people so obsessed with them? How does having a gamerscore of 100,000 make you better at games if all the games you played were incredibly easy? How does getting the platinum trophy in Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust make you feel anything other than dead inside? I'll never know, but I do know this - developers have noticed that there are people out there who will play easy or terrible (or terribly easy) games just for the achievements. So rather than actually, you know, make the achievements something you have to literally "achieve" they've decided that it would be easier on themselves and the people playing their terrible game if they awarded them for doing literally everything from starting the game to beating the first enemy to saving their progress. Soon enough, developers of non-terrible games caught on and thought "you know, people just want achievements, they don't care what they're for. Let's just stick them in there any old place!" and a new trend was born...a new trend of shamefully pandering to people who play games for the "rewards" instead of the actual gameplay. I don't know, maybe someone out there actually thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 Bionic Commando game and kept playing because they wanted to know more about Rad Spencer's wife arm, but it's safe to say most of the people who finished that game were critics, because they had to, and achievement hunters, because they wanted those achievements and trophies.

 

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"are you saying I don't stand on my own merits as a game??"

 

I know this article sounds like I'm damning achievement hunters and developers alike, but it's hard not to with the trend showing no signs of letting up. For every one person who got all the achievements in Revelations 2012 because they couldn't get enough of the incredibly awe-inspiring shoddiness of it all, there were two more people who saw it through because it kept giving them achievements. For every one person who appreciates getting achievements as part of the game, there are two more who gloat about it. Achievements have gone from being a quaint little inclusion to being included solely for the purpose of giving collectors with too much time on their hands something to do and an undeserved sense of accomplishment. There may still be people out there who appreciate the good, hard to get achievements, but that just brings up another point...shouldn't it be time to start calling the difficult, "highest rank on every level in Bayonetta" rewards "achievements" and the pointless, "paused the game once" throwaways something more fitting like "free gamerscore?" It would make a lot more sense to see that than a word that doesn't mean what developers seem to think it means. But until I can petition the president of video games to make such a change, I guess we'll all just have to get used to achieving the possible.

 


So that was my first little public outburst that I structured to look like semi-professional writing. This started out as another "So I Gotta Know" feature, but after reading over it a couple of times I decided it sounded more like a straight up rant than a fun game of questioning and answering. Anyway, what do you think about achievements in general? Have you long since stopped caring about them? Do you still enjoy them regardless of how difficult they are to get? Are you one of those achievement hunters I complained about and now you're standing outside my door with a pitchfork and a torch? If so, please let me know in the comments so I can go out the window. :)

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