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Found 49 results

  1. Jordan Haygood

    Review: Mages of Mystralia

    Developer: Borealys Games Publisher: Borealys Games Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Release Date(s): May 18th, 2017 (PC); August 22nd, 2017 (PS4) ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+ Official Website Note: This review is based on the PC version of the game I always appreciate when game developers try something new and different, opting to get creative with their craft rather than making their games carbon copies of other games. Perhaps the game has a really unique aesthetic that makes the game look like no other game out there. Or perhaps the game has a gameplay mechanic that hasn't been seen before. Developer Borealys Games is one developer whose action-adventure title Mages of Mystralia applies to the latter example. With a fresh new mechanic that allows for a unique and customizable magic-wielding adventure, Mages of Mystralia definitely has its charm, and a pleasantly colorful art style and beautiful soundtrack certainly help to emphasize that. But is that enough to make this game good? Or does Mages of Mystralia's flaws hurt it too much to make the game worth your time? What is Mages of Mystralia? Well, it's a game about mages, of course. To be more specific, the story involves a land (called Mystralia, funny enough) where mages, who once prospered, are now banned from society thanks to a mage-king from long ago who became mad with power and ...just plain ruined it for everyone. Gee, thanks a lot, dude. You play as Zia, a young woman who has recently awakened her arcane abilities. Unfortunately, in the process, her new yet uncontrolled abilities cause her house to burn down, her uncle perishing along with it. So yeah, she basically murdered her uncle by accident. Even though this game is fairly lighthearted, it definitely has its dark moments. After she flees from her village, she finds a fellow mage who introduces himself simply as Zia's mentor, since he decides to teach her the ways of the mage so she doesn't accidentally wreak havoc on Mystralia. After a transition involving Zia receiving a wand and a robe, the game finally kicks off. The story of Mages of Mystralia isn't really what I would consider a highlight, though. That's not to say it's terrible, in fact, I'd say it's fairly interesting, just that it's not really something you should look forward to since there's not a whole lot to it. But there are a couple of nice twists, even though they might be a bit predictable to some, and I enjoyed the development of Zia as a mage over the course of the game, so the story is still enjoyable. The real highlight of Mages of Mystralia is its gameplay. I've played games with customizable spells before, but none were quite like what this game has to offer. You basically have four main spell types - Immedi, Actus, Creo, and Ego. Seems simple enough, right? But then you have your runes, and that's where things get fun. You start with very few but gather much more as you do things like progress the story or solve various puzzles. And the more you have, the more you can put together with your four spells to create a plethora of different spells, from simple to chaotic. Want a spell that creates a clone of you that shoots fire out like a turret? Go ahead and make it. Want to shoot five fireballs that bounce off walls and shoot more fireballs upon impact with an enemy? You do you. Oh, and did I mention that you can change the element of any spell later on? Because you totally can. Which makes spell-crafting even deeper more fun. One thing that makes spell-crafting pleasantly challenging is this game's puzzles. There will be times when you have to create specific spells that will allow you to meet a given challenge, such as lighting several torches before a timer resets them. The best part about those particular puzzles is that they sometimes have multiple methods, some of which make the challenge a lot easier if you can conjure up the right spell. However, there's another type of puzzle that doesn't use your spells. With these, you basically move circles around a board until the arrows on them point to each other and the circles each light up. If I confused you just now, oh well. Just know that these are fun, too, if you like puzzles that make you feel smart afterward. Which I certainly do. Like with any game, it's hard not to find at least one gameplay flaw. Mages of Mystralia is no different. For one thing, I found that the controls could get in the way at times. For example, I fell off cliffs and into the water far too often because the controls didn't always get along with the camera angles in certain spots. Thankfully, you only lose a bit of health, but it still gets annoying. Maybe I just suck, but it seemed to me like an oversight that forces you to be extra careful to avoid pitfalls such as those. I also found it quite irritating when I got hit by an enemy, fell down, got back up and got hit again before I could even do anything. Seems like the whole invincibility frames thing could have been utilized a bit better. I noticed a few pretty bad glitches, too. Fortunately, they mostly helped me, like a couple of times when enemies fell through the floor and died or that time when my attack never dissipated and enemies kept getting hit by it. It should still get patched, of course. The game also has some sidequests, and while they are indeed a welcome addition, the lack of some sort of quest log makes it confusing to keep up with them. I also wish that the map was bigger (as in not just one overworld map of Mystralia but also maps of each individual area) and allowed you to mark it, or at least marked itself so you didn't have to constantly backtrack to find a single puzzle, item, or quest you couldn't get/pass before. These features are nice to have to keep you engaged, but could have been streamlined better. As far as looks go, Mages of Mystralia has a very charming art style. Rather than boasting high-end graphics, or even attempting something remotely close, Borealys Games chose a simpler, colorful aesthetic that is certainly pleasant to look at, which will actually help it age better in the long run. And it makes sense, considering this is an indie game, so it was a smart move to keep it simple instead of trying to be overly ambitious and making the game super ugly like some indie devs (and even some triple-A devs). Even with the simplistic graphical style, though, I did notice some lagging here and there. I'm not completely sure if it's the game's problem or mine, but my computer has run more graphics-heavy games without lag before, so I'm thinking Mages of Mystralia might have a framerate issue. I'll let you determine that yourself if you decide to purchase the game. It wasn't a game-breaker, but it was noticeable. Mages of Mystralia has a very pretty soundtrack as well. It's soothing to listen to while playing through the game, which is generally a plus with video game soundtracks. Beautifully written and beautifully orchestrated, composer Antoine Vachon did a splendid job composing a soundtrack that fits perfectly into the world of Mystralia. I can't think of much to say about the sound design, though, since there's really nothing noticeably bad about it. When characters talk, they make a vocal noise when a word bubble pops up, and it works fine. As do the spell-casting sounds, enemy sounds, various background sounds, and the voice acting heard in the beginning and ending cutscenes is pretty good. Maybe some players will notice something jarring, but everything worked just fine for me. All in all, Mages of Mystralia has a lot going for it, and I enjoyed my playthrough. Unfortunately, the game suffers a bit from somewhat flawed controls, a few glitches here and there, and lacks some features that make certain other features feel incomplete. But with its lighthearted yet occasionally dark story with some pretty good main character development, a delightfully creative and fun spell-crafting mechanic, a charming and pleasantly vibrant art style, and a beautiful soundtrack that fits the world perfectly, Mages of Mystralia is a good game that I recommend picking up. Pros + Lighthearted yet occasionally dark story with some pretty good main character development + Delightfully creative and fun spell-crafting mechanic + Charming, pleasantly vibrant art style + Beautiful soundtrack that fits the world perfectly Cons - Suffers a bit from somewhat flawed controls - Apparent glitches here and there - Lacks some features that make certain other features feel incomplete Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great A game that can easily be described as "The Legend of Zelda meets Harry Potter," Mages of Mystralia is a fun action-adventure game well worth your time thanks to its brilliant spell-crafting system alone, but also has vibrant visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, and enough other good qualities to push whatever shortcomings it may have off to the sidelines. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  2. Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code, a game with a name that sounds a bit on the random side, is a unique sort of fighting game. But is it any good? Or should you take a pass on this anime-style fighting game and just go back to playing Guilty Gear or BlazBlue? Travis Stywall has the verdict in his video review; check it out! Be sure to subscribe to us on YouTube so we have an excuse to keep making videos! And be sure to check out Travis' channel as well.
  3. 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! 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
  4. Ciel

    Review: The Legend of Korra

    Developer: Platinum Games Publisher: Activision Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One ESRB: T for Teen Release Date: October 21, 2014 This review is based on the PS4 version of the game It is no secret that, despite the brilliance of the franchise, the Avatar video games themselves are an unanimous atrocity. Enter perhaps one of the biggest surprises of 2014: The Legend of Korra video game, developed by renowned action-game developer Platinum Games. Does The Legend of Korra transcend the woes of its predecessors and thereby renew the Avatar gaming franchise? The answer is unfortunately ambiguous because despite working within a narrative framework penned by series writer Tim Hedrick—who disregards his own source material—it is the little things that developer Platinum Games does that fans should and will take notice of. The Legend of Korra video game serves to connect the second and third seasons of the television show, and it rightfully presupposes knowledge of Korra and Team Avatar's exploits. As such, one is immediately subjected to the world of Korra with little to no explanation of the franchise's lore. Consequently, for those unfamiliar with the Nickelodeon television show, the video game is not an ideal starting point. Unfortunately, the game's narrative is abysmal and is not worth delineating too much, primarily because the impossible act requires the existence of an actual narrative. Instead, what prevails is some semblance of a narrative that can easily be mistaken for the ramblings of a third-grader in his or her attempt to correctly explain the plot of any major action Hollywood production. As told through brief animated cut-scenes between missions, there is a bad guy whose aim is do bad things. The player assumes the role of a good guy who must do good things to stop said bad guy from doing bad things. To no one's surprise Korra is once again without bending and by means of linear progression she must unlock each of her abilities in turn as a means to triumph. Additionally, the disappointing absence of major characters from the series has Korra—and the player—progress primarily alone throughout the course of the adventure. However, this does not provide sufficient reason to charge the story mode with irrelevance and posit the game, on the whole, as a complete failure. Underneath the narrative there lies quasi-RPG and free-runner components that augment what would otherwise be a mundane enterprise. The more Korra utilizes a particular element (i.e. water, earth, fire, air) it, in addition to leveling-up, will admit the use of new combos. These combos, however, will need to be purchased in-game using 'spirits' that are obtained through combat, environment destruction, and mission completion. The in-game shop also provides the player with items that range from health potions to passive power-ups that can, for example, increase Korra's damage but reduce her maximum HP. Some of the eight chapters are linked via an endless-runner minigame of sorts that neither annexes nor hinders the experience. In fact, I found each to be quite fun. Additionally, the shop system works quite well, save for a few fundamental oversights. If the player purchases an item and uses it during a mission after the game auto-saves—only to die thereafter—he or she will have to repurchase the item upon starting once more at the checkpoint and is not reimbursed. While this can at times be an annoyance, the consumable items are relatively inexpensive provided of course the player is collecting as much spirit as possible. There was never a moment when I could not afford a consumable item even as I died over and again during my playthrough on Extreme. The Legend of Korra also has a share of collectibles to gather and uncover. Hidden items are scattered throughout and are tucked neatly away within large treasure chests. In order to yield the highest reward, it is the task of the player to beat-up the chests making sure to do the most damage as quickly as possible. Some early collectibles can only be obtained by way of specific elemental powers that the player as of that point does not possess. It is such that one will have to replay a few missions if he or she wishes to collect everything. Additionally, there are a few costumes that are unlocked by both entering secret codes and completing the game on various difficulties. Given the game's developer, combat is unmistakably the foundation from which the game was built. While indeed the player can burn through enemies using any singular element, one is encouraged to make use of all the elements in succession as switching between the four is done with the simple press of a button. Doing so provides a unique combat experience that is able to cater to long-time fans of the series and newcomers alike. Platinum Games is, as a result, walking the line of moderation in The Legend of Korra. It is this finite degree of moderation that debilitates the combat and leaves avid action-gamers conclusively wanting. The aforementioned combos are limited in scope and are easy to perform. Further, as there are no unique skill-trees when leveling-up and acquiring combos, the bending itself lacks personal identity. The fluidity of the combat is impressive in its own right and I rarely ran into difficulties with the camera; being able to lock-on to specific targets assisted in what could have otherwise been convoluted occurrences. The Legend of Korra does not stray far from brawler conventions for the core of its combat is fundamentally composed of blocking, dodging, countering and attacking. Combat is simultaneously enjoyable to take part in and easy to comprehend. Make no mistake, however; The Legend of Korra is difficult—even downright unfair at times. In fact, the game does not care for the distinction between the two. While standard enemies do pose a viable challenge and one will find themself repeating a number of sequences in acrimonious despair, it is the repetitive nature of each boss fight that plagues the immediacy of the game's action. During each boss encounter the player must obnoxiously dodge as one waits for the single easiest attack to counter lest he or she have to start all over again. The tiresome redundancy as put forth by each boss is embellished all the more given the provocative novelty of the final boss. Once the story is complete the player unlocks Pro Bending. During Pro Bending matches the player must attack his or her opponents. When an opponent's health is low, that particular opponent will be pushed backward one section. If all three opponents are pushed back, the player's team advances as a means of enclosing the gap between the other team and the back of the stage. To be brief, the objective of Pro Bending is to progress forward while knocking all three opponents back and off the stage. Pro Bending is a fun reward for completing the game; however, the latter, more competitive tiers are riddled—surprise, surprise—with frustratingly unfair computer antics. The player can only assume the role of Korra and, per Pro Bendering rules, is limited to water bending alone. One can use either weak or strong attacks as he or she dodges, dips, dives, ducks, and dodges their way to victory. On occasion, Mako and Bolin provide commentary, but the player will be too frustrated with their AI to be amused. Simply allowing the player to direct the actions of both brothers—that is to say give them orders—would have resolved most of the issues that arise during a given match. The Legend of Korra video game does not quite live up to its potential. And while fans of the Nickelodeon television series might not walk away entirely disappointed, the game does leave much to be desired. The initial experience is short, lasting anywhere from about four to six hours, but the handful of extra goodies call for one's attention. It is hard for me to recommend this game to those unfamiliar with the source material, but it is even more difficult for me to recommend this to fans without sounding apprehensive. In the end, what Avatar fans are left with once more is a longing for a game that will do the franchise justice—perhaps an open-world game, or maybe even a 2D fighter developed by Arc System Works or French Bread. Until then, what we have is what we have and what we have really is not all that bad—it's just not all that good either. Pros: + 'Normal' and 'Extreme' difficulties offer nice challenges + Smooth, elaborate, combat compliments the painterly aesthetic + Quasi-RPG aspects give rise to a sense of accomplishment and growth + Alternating between bending techniques and pulling-off long combos makes one feel powerful Cons: - The experience is repetitive and brief - The narrative is dull and uninspired - Major characters from the series are absent - The aforementioned RPG elements leave one wanting - The computer can at times be unfair, but not necessarily difficult - Those who are not fans of the show will find little to get excited about Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent While the game derives little from the rich history of its source material, it nevertheless accomplishes the task of being a sound beat-em-up with fun expeditious combat. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a copy purchased by the writer.
  5. iwx Leprechaun

    Nostalgia Pays Off: Lufia II Revisited

    Whenever I decide that I want to revisit a game from my past I am filled with 2 emotions, excitement and fear. The excitement stemming from the fact that I am about to play a game that once gave me joy, that left an imprint in my brain enough that I want to play it again. The fear in the thought that the game may not measure up to what I remember, therefore tarnishing my memories. For example, a year or 2 ago, I decided to revisit Resident Evil 2, the first game to really scare the pants off me. Unfortunately the controls aged so poorly that it has tainted my opinion on the game. Yeah I still remember my 11 year old self crapping his pants when the licker bursts through a window, but a little bit of the shine has been taken off the apple. Even so, I still can't resist myself sometimes; enter Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. Lufia II was released as the SNES was nearing the end of its life cycle, so it was unfortunately missed by many. After playing it again, I can tell you that it is one of the most cliche ridden RPG's you could come across. And I loved every replayed minute of it. There is really so much about this game to love. First off, the game looks pretty great for a SNES title with vibrant character sprites, detailed monsters and fantastic looking spells. The puzzles in this game can range from the most pedestrian to pretty challenging. I've played the game before twice and still had trouble with some of them on this go around. One of my favorite things is a cliche that they broke, the "spellcaster is weak" cliche. With the exception of 1 character, your spellcasters can rock almost the same about of damage as your main character. Bosses tend to be ginormous in this game Lufia II also has a nice spin to the "secret/hidden/deep" dungeon crawling quest. The ancient cave is a dungeon comprised of 99 levels. All of your weapons, spells and armor are removed upon entering and your level is reset to 1. You must battle through the dungeon relying only on items and spells that you find. Only upon reaching level 20, do you start to be able to find "Providence" the only item that can warp you out of the cave. Here's the kicker, you are only allowed to keep the items found in blue chests and none of the grinding you do in this dungeon carries over. Even worse than that is in my playthrough, I found 6 blue chests making it all the way through the dungeon, and 4 of the items were the same thing! That said, you can get some of the best weapons and armor in the game down there, so it can be extremely addicting. Yeah... Chances are 2 of those are really hard mimics As my spoiler suggests earlier, the story is a bit cliche'd. But that's not to mean that it isn't very well written. The writing pulls you into the story with witty dialogue and develops the characters amazingly for 16 bit sprites. I found myself with as strong an emotional bond to the characters as any game today. There are enough twists and turns among the cliches to keep you interested and the ending is truly fantastic. Luckily for me, I forgot enough about the game and was able to almost witness this through fresh eyes. After playing this again, a bit of faith has been restored in replaying games. I'm glad I replayed it, it is exactly how I remembered it. Maybe it is just that turn based RPGs just age a little better. If you haven't played it, do yourself a favor and give it a shot, hopefully you won't be disappointed. That said, I really need to start working on my backlog instead of putting 70 hours into games I've already played...
  6. barrel

    Review: The Banner Saga

    Developer: Stoic Publisher: Versus Evil Platform: PC/Mac Release Date: Jaunary 14, 2014 ESRB: N/A (Mature Recommended) Shortly after Double-Fine made a huge impact on the gaming space through the use of crowdfunding, one of the developers to quickly follow-up on the kickstarter fever was Stoic, the people behind The Banner Saga. Thanks to a great premise and development talent that included a trio of ex-Bioware employees, The Banner Saga was very successful in its funding and also managed to rally up prolific figures like composer Austin Wintory to aid in its development. Even though it created some series identity confusion with The Banner Saga: Factions in early 2013, as a multiplayer and combat focused strategy-RPG title, The Banner Saga creates a grander scale, solitary adventure and is intended to be part one of a would-be trilogy. Does the final product hoist its banner high and proud, or does it fail to maintain the wind and morale that supported it through its original foundation? The Banner Saga paints a very ominous setting right from the get-go: the gods of the world are believed to be dead, the sun remains stagnant serving as a bad omen, and the end of the world is perceived to draw ever closer. In this harsh and decaying world a conflict between men, Varl (giants with horns, basically), and the terrifying resurgence of the Dredge (stone-like juggernauts) begins to unravel. I“ve heard this game pitched multiple times as "Oregon Trail mixed with Game of Thrones", but as one of two people who hasn“t seen the TV show or read the book, I can“t personally make or fully understand that comparison with complete confidence. What I can say, however, is that The Banner Saga does certainly have a Viking-influenced setting, with events that are in close comparison to something like Ragnarok (the death of the Gods in Norse mythology), despite having its own very distinct internal lore. The narrative also switches focus between different main character perspectives throughout. Because of the alternating focus, The Banner Saga has no problem emphasizing the mortality of the cast of characters through its gameplay and narrative systems. As strange as it may be to make a comparison to Oregon Trail for something that is displayed as an SRPG, it is actually quite accurate. You can certainly tell Oregon Trail's influence was very intentional to the game“s core design. Thankfully, things don“t seem as actively unfair and dice-roll based as that title, and you (probably?) won't die of dysentery, but the pace and unpredictability of narrative events and gameplay makes it feel very much the case. You have to manage food, morale, and make plenty of tough choices throughout that will alter the course of your adventure in order to have your caravan survive. Playable characters, regardless of narrative stature, will also live and die, or join and not join, based on your choices or by-products of unintentional consequences. One of the best things that the The Banner Saga outright nails is the harsh atmosphere and bleak feeling of circumstance throughout. It always feels like you are at a disadvantage in some way: you may be short of food, leading the caravan to starve, morale may be low and cause the caravan to act irrationally, or the choices you made at an earlier point in the narrative may come back later to haunt you. There were many times throughout the course of the game where I thought to myself: "Man, this situation is my fault and I have to live with it." Of course, there are also very brief moments of optimism that can easily turn your fortunes for the better. It is because of the very unpredictable nature throughout that makes The Banner Saga“s so very engrossing and definitely personalizes the experience from start to finish. Still, not everything is resolved through simply managing your caravan's well-being, or choices throughout the narrative, and you will be forced to sortie into battle for one reason or another. The combat system is turn-based based and is reminiscent of more traditional strategy-RPG staples of the genre, but also brings its own personal spin as well. One of the more unique mechanics in battle is how it handles armor/health as well as "willpower". Health dictates both attack strength and life, so the lower the health, the lower the maximum threshold a character can dish-out to damage their enemy. In addition to their health, characters also have an armor stat value, where the higher it becomes more difficult to even scratch or hit their actual health, and it becomes absolutely crucial to learn how to whittle sturdier foes or go straight for health for less defense-oriented foes. There is also willpower, which is sort of like a consumable resource for characters, which can be used to extend a character's attack power or movement range, but is hard to regain except when killing an enemy foe or waiting stationary for a turn. Despite its more unique nuances, the combat is surprisingly easy to learn as well as managing to be strategic too. That said, even if the combat is solid it doesn“t have enough depth and variety to its flow to keep it consistently engaging throughout. You fight a lot of the same enemy types throughout, primarily of the damage-sponge “dredge” variety, and there isn“t really any unique scenarios to most encounters. Generally what variety you do get is customizing a character's base stats when they level-up or maybe having to adjust to a new batch of characters you may not be familiar with. As a whole, the combat is also not particularly challenging, minus the huge difficulty spike for the final boss, for avid fans strategy-RPGs. Also, In contrast to games like Fire Emblem or XCOM:Enemy Unknown, your allies can“t permanently die in combat, which alleviates a lot of the tension the narrative brings (although they do sustain injuries if incapacitated in battle, putting you at an disadvantage in future battles and they can't fully recover until they rest while camping.). Even if the art direction may not be inherently my cup of tea, the visuals are quite well-done overall and definitely stand out with its hand-drawn animation. Backgrounds in particular are quite mesmerizing and it is a treat to see the many gorgeous snowscapes as well as the serene-appearing locales. The visual style is also pretty consistent throughout from the overhead view in battle to the character portraits in story conversations. Having said that, it does feel like it cuts a few corners with the character designs, and many characters seem to share a certain general body frame, despite their discrepancies in their visual appearance, instead of unique character portraits as well as in-game combat character models altogether, but that is a pretty minor thing to pick at. Austin Wintory of Journey fame composes the score for the title, and as you may have guessed, his work is quite excellent in The Banner Saga as well. His unique musical compositions are very powerful in helping pave the tone for the overall experience. The music primarily ranges from powerful percussion as well as the creative use of Icelandic vocals, and it goes an extremely long way in fleshing out the decaying viking-esque realm. I think one of the neater things it does with its audio is how it even dynamically changes, from tense to bombastic, in the midst of combat pending on how favorably, or unfavorably, it is going. Seriously, it's almost hard to believe this is an indie sort of title due to how high caliber and impactful the soundtrack is in service to the game from start to finish. For as well realized as most of the facets of The Banner Saga are, it does feel like it doesn“t raise itself to its full potential, at least narratively. Even if it is part of a planned trilogy, it does not completely shake the feeling that certain larger aspects of the narrative are completely danced around despite their deliberate presence in certain portions. This is probably further emphasized because of the slightly different tone of the ending portion, and short overall playtime of the title. Also, in regards to the multiple storytelling perspectives, the human side seems to stand out a fair bit more in contrast to the Varl perspective. Regardless of my slight dissatisfaction with the narrative arc, the storytelling is well-written overall. Furthermore, because of the game's ambiguous overall structure, it is also certainly enticing to try and replay the game after finishing it to see its various event permutations. It's heartwarming to see that despite whatever controversy seems to surround Kickstarter nowadays, it can still also bring truly great things like The Banner Saga to fruition. Of course, it isn't flawless, with both combat and narrative that could certainly be expanded upon, but even as a first endeavor it is very gripping on its own merits. The Banner Saga successfully weaves an unpredictable adventure full of rough trials and tribulations, an extremely powerful musical score, and has very engaging gameplay systems work together quite well. I can only hope to see that a future part two (and three) goes above and beyond the already very high bar that this first entry has established. Pros: + Very ambiguous gameplay/narrative structure that leads to a lot of unpredictable scenarios + Excellent, dynamic musical score + Easy to learn battle system that is also strategic + Very distinct and cohesive art direction + Enticing replay value and well-written storytelling Cons: - Combat doesn“t have enough depth and variety - Certain aspects of the storytelling could've been touched upon more so - Not very long Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great The Banner Saga presents a fresh, engaging take on strategy-RPGs through the clever use of its dark setting and unpredictable structure. A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
  7. 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. 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. "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. 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. "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.
  8. Developer: Q-Games Publisher: Double Eleven Platform: PC (reviewed), PS Vita Release Date: August 26th, 2013 (PC) EDIT: Hey, there's a 50% off sale as of right now for a week! So....hey, if you're interested now is a great time to buy! Sometimes, you just want to have a relaxing experience. Pixeljunk Monsters can bring that, or it can deliver the PAIN, straight to your doorstep....or desktop, rather, I suppose. Whatever your preference for difficulty in games, Pixeljunk Monsters, and with its new iteration of sorts being the "Ultimate" edition, may just be the perfect game for you if you enjoy a good tower defense title. Turning trees into equal-sized structures that fire various projectiles may not sound like exactly the most eco-friendly action to take to defend against hordes of monsters, but whatever, it works! This is a silly game about silly things, and thus you can play however you like. If you want to be the most hardcore defensive expert, you can feel free to do that and ace (or get a "rainbow") every level! Personally I struggled a lot on the base difficulty and considered dropping down to casual.....but I prevailed and got halfway through the second island! If I had to give any complaints, I would justify that the price (at least, on Steam) is a little too much. $20 for a game that was originally $10 years ago seems a bit odd. The game is fantastic though, and the added content is.....well, decent. You get a new randomized level generator and online co-op which is not too shabby. I had trouble getting into a game but I didn't see very many people playing either, so I'd assume this game is best to play with a friend, either online or sitting next to each other. The amount of content in the game itself is pretty massive too I might add! With only three islands to play, you may be concerned, but let me rest those concerns aside because this game rips apart your pathetic hope and tosses the remains to the curb. As I said, even on normal difficulty I was being challenged quite a bit to get rainbows, which are needed to progress. The game does let you pick and choose which levels you want to try and tackle, so if you get stuck on a certain few you can just try and do the other available levels. I would estimate that there's easily a good 30+ levels in the game, and with each taking 20-40 minutes to finish the length of one playthrough is fairly long. The medal challenges, which require the player to complete specific levels while clearing certain conditions also help to add a lot to the potential amount of time you may spend on Pixeljunk Monsters Ultimate. These are fun and unique, and really require you to wrack your brain for different ways of clearing an otherwise easy level. All in all, Pixeljunk Monsters Ultimate is never unfair to the player, and thus in my opinion and thus it's definitely worth a potential buy, for anyone really. Being a fan of tower defense type games helps a bit in me enjoying it, but this isn't hardcore in the slightest unless you make it be, and nor is it easy by any means unless you choose for it to be so. As the game has been out on PSN for years already at a cheaper price, I would say wait until a 50% or more sale to nab this. Even then, if you know you'd love it, this is not a bad choice to pick up at its usual price. Stop those evil monsters from kidnapping your pixel people, and contribute to global warming today! I give this game a: 9/10 Wait, what's that about a giveaway? That's right, you can win a copy right here! To be in for a chance to win, tell me what other Pixeljunk game(s) you'd like to see on Steam (hint: Eden is already on it!)! You can enter once per person until this Friday, October 5th when I'll end it sometime in the evening (PST). Good luck!
  9. 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! 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? 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. 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. 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.
  10. barrel

    Review: Mamorukun Curse!

    Developer: G-Rev/GULTI Publisher: UFO Interactive Platform: PS3 Release Date: July 16, 2013 ESRB: E for Everyone A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review While the Xbox 360 has been a sort of obscure safe haven for shmups and bullet hell games this past gaming generation (especially for importers), game releases on PS3 have been rather sparse for fans of the genre for the most part. Fortunately for PS3 owners, however, developer G-Rev has had a hand in developing titles like Ikaruga and Gradius V, and decided to give the console a bit more love with their more recent system ports as of late. One of these games is the eccentric Mamorukun Curse, which, despite being a former arcade and XBLA release in Japan, has several new additions and modes with this PSN release. With more than enough candy and cuteness to cause tooth decay, does Mamorukun Curse have enough shmup substance for those without a sweet tooth? Like most shmups, the structure for Mamorukun Curse is pretty straightforward for the most part: You hold down the normal attack button for a barrage of bullets covering the screen, obtain attack radius increasing power-ups, and there is also one touch death for the player character, similar to a good majority of shmups. Movement is less of an on-rails matter like most in the genre as it does allow for some degree of free movement (with alternate paths for levels and such) but with a scrolling stage design that ensures you'll never get lost during actual play. There are also multiple characters to play with in the game, each with different attack properties. Also, thanks to UFO interactive, the localized version has the Japanese paid DLC characters for free by default. The most complicated and unique thing about Mamorukun Curse's gameplay is probably its ”Curse“ mechanic. In addition to the standard bullet barrage, the alternate 'curse shots' serve two advantages during gameplay and differ based on if they are fully-charged or not. A non-charged curse shot can be used to 'curse' the player's character and increase their offensive power at the sacrifice of bonus points, or candy. A fully charged curse shot gradually damages larger enemies as well as slows down enemies in its radius, and also dramatically increase the candy/points the enemies drop, but enemy attack patterns also become slightly more aggressive when afflicted by it. There is a bit more nuance to both charged/non-charged curse shots, and a risk/reward mindset when using both, but actual player implementation will be more useful than the tutorials presented in the arcade mode. Beyond that, Mamorukun has various modes to test players' skills, and it will certainly do that since it is not an easy game... even on the easiest settings. The Three main modes in Mamorukun Curse include: Story, Arcade, Netherworld Adventures (a trial mode of sorts) and practice options for the latter two modes. All modes share stages and bosses, but stage design is slightly tweaked in each mode and more so on higher difficulties. Even if the stages themselves are rather varied overall, and play on the game's mechanics in creative ways later on, it's a bit disappointing that there isn't more overall. Still, The game offers what I found to be a fair challenge without the gameplay being as twichy as many shmups on lower to normal difficulty settings. Since I tend to not be great and terribly competitive at shmups I found myself dabbling with the story mode the most. This is largely due to the requirements of the 'true ending' throwing me off and me having me repeat it several times before consulting an online FAQ, which has pretty specific requirements. The story mode itself starts with something along the lines of the group of main characters dying in the human world and are shortly sent to the netherworld after their passing. A strange young girl spirit confronts the main cast and quickly tells them they need seal the gate to prevent any more darkness seeping from, well, the world of darkness and prevent the Netherworld from being destroyed. The group agrees to help and with their newfound powers they try to work towards recovering their memories and return to the real world ...or something like that. While the storytelling does seem to sound a bit morbid and convoluted at 1st, the actual execution is anything but that, and for the most part, it comes off as more endearing than it probably should because of its tongue-in-cheek nature. It's a shame that obtaining the 'true ending' for finishing off the narrative is needlessly confusing to obtain. In terms of technical presentation, Mamorukun Curse isn't likely to impress anyone with its visual flair. It is certainly a colorful game an it shows off personality in several stages and especially story scenes, but overall doesn't do much from a technical standpoint. Actually, if there is one real problem I have with the presentation, it is actually based on how much visual clutter there is with the vibrant candy visual effects have during gameplay, which, in its worst moments, can occasionally mask or at least possibly distract you from enemies or their attacks. Also, I do wish the game utilized the cutesy manga-like visuals it had for the story's intro for the rest of the game, since it is mostly propelled by simple character portraits and text-boxes, but that is going into nitpick territory. When it comes to audio, I found myself enjoying the soundtrack a fair bit, which is appropriately energetic and catchy for the most part aside from some of the more tense boss themes. Seriously, I've listened to the character select music in particular for far too long. Unsurprisingly for a game of this sort, Mamorukun Curse maintains a Japanese dub for audio only, and for the quirky light-hearted narrative and setting the game has, the voice actors are more than fitting for it for it. I admit, I actually feel bad for not checking out this title earlier as a person who enjoys playing various shmups and at times importing them as well. Despite how Mamorukun Curse presents itself in a cutesy way, it manages to be a rather fun and a challenging game. It's not likely going set the bar among more technical shmup classics like Radiant Silvergun or G-Rev's(/Treasure primarily) previous work, Ikaruga, has done, but Mamorukun Curse still deserves the attention for fans of the genre, especially shmup starved PS3 owners. While Mamoru-kun himself may find himself Cursed during the course of his adventure, I know I'll still find myself blessed while continuing to play this bullet frenzy gem. Pros: + Cavity-inducing cuteness that carries from gameplay especially to the story scenes + Energetic and catchy soundtrack + Varied playable characters and flexible curse mechanics brings many versatile approaches to the gameplay + Satisfying challenge that isn't oppressive like many shmups/bullet-hells Cons: -“Curse" mechanic may be a bit difficult to wrap one“s head around initially - Not a whole lot of stages - “True ending” in story mode is kind of obtuse to obtain - Candy visual effects can be a bit distracting at times Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Mamorukun Curse brings forth plenty of challenge, charm, and fun for shmup fans.
  11. Developer: Tribute Games Publisher: Tribute Games Platform: PC Release Date (of Early Access on Steam): July 22nd, 2013 There's just something about nostalgia that makes us want to go back to older games, games that we played as a kid or in our teens. Games on the SNES or Neo-Geo had vibrant colors, great music, and some addicting gameplay. Mercenary Kings nearly perfectly catches this same vibe of nostalgia and uses it the max with some fresh, more modern gameplay ideas. Mercenary Kings primarily takes from two games about 10 years apart- Metal Slug and Monster Hunter. Is this a bad thing that it copies concepts from two equally classic games? Well, for the most part, not really! Gameplay consists of your slightly customizable character running around, shooting your weapon in the four basic directions (up, down, left and right), killing baddies. Crafting new, fancy weaponry is also a key part of being successful in the currently ~60 missions in the game. If you don't have a bigger gun, you can't defeat the bigger enemies, right? The gun crafting, while not too complex, seems pretty neat from the start. You have a wide variety of "parts" that you can attach to your little base weapon that make it larger and more cool-looking. Do you want to make a pistol that looks like a shotgun? Get a pistol base and put tons of shotgun parts all over it. You can also have different ammo for your gun, but certain guns will only take certain ammo, which makes sense. The way you get different materials to craft parts is through killing enemies and picking up what they drop. Beyond that, the RPG elements sort of stop, which is a bit unfortunate. You have a military rank, which is like a level, but all you do to rank up is just complete missions for a flat XP grab each time. There's 60 missions in the game currently (with a confirmed 40 more to be added by release), and each is fairly long, so the game isn't really lacking in length at least. Depth? Perhaps, but if you play with friends the fun can be endless. It doesn't really feel like a game meant for co-op though, so playing by yourself is perfectly fine. Each mission for example tasks you with a different objective, but if you watch your map it isn't too hard to find where to go. Well, the game is still fairly challenging. You can only take a few hits before dying, but you merely respawn at the last infirmary you passed by. The time limit, however, is your greatest enemy. Can't find all 8 hostages before the 15 minute limit is up for that mission? "Mission failed!" The somewhat low time limit on some of the harder missions and how the game doesn't seem to be meant for co-op are my only two major complaints however. Every other aspect of the game is stellar! The gorgeous SNES/Neo-Geo style graphics are lovely, and the animations are very fluid and sometimes amusing. I swear, Tribute Games and whoever does their art do some amazing retro stylized graphics! The rockin' chiptunes are equally great too though. I made sure to listen to some of the catchy tunes while I worked on this review and sometimes even while just sitting at my computer doing nothing. That main theme on the title screen is gold! The music will not disappoint! One thing I'll say before concluding this look at what will probably be one of the best pixel-art games this year is that the keyboard+mouse controls are pretty bad. The options menu is blocked so you can can't change anything yet, and the default keyboard controls are really strange. I immediately switched to just using a controller because it felt way more natural and not awkward and weird. This is definitely a game that you can only use a controller on for now, so keep that in mind before you check it out! Honestly, Mercenary Kings feels much more like a finished game with a few small nitpicks that can be patched in with "version 1.1", if you get what I mean. This doesn't seem like an early alpha that is barely playable, no, it's a full game pretty much. So, I highly recommend you play it! It's not an insta-buy as is, but if you can wait for the price to drop or don't mind the $15 price tag, this is a fantastic game to check out!. If you aren't into platformers with a lot of shooting in them like the Metal Slug games, this isn't for you most likely. If you're fine with that though, this game is a ton of fun and with friends it's even a bit more. In it's current Early Access state, Mercenary Kings gets a: 8.5/10 "Whether its solo or with friends, move out, cut down CLAW and save the world!"
  12. Royzoga

    Review - Resident Evil Reveleations

    Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform(s): PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 Release Date: May 21st, 2013 ESRB: M Note: This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game, with some of the 3DS version played as well. After spending around 25 hours on the game, I think I finally feel confident enough to write a full fledged review. That being said, I'd like to get something out of the way before I do so. I played very little of the 3DS version, cleared up to around episode 4, and thus I will make some comparisons when I deem fit, but the majority of the review will be about this 'HD' version. Diving right in I'd like to say how good the animated cut scenes look in the game, definitely polished up from the 3DS counter-part. Sadly that's about all I can say in that regard. The game looked like it was still being played on a 3DS, textures were rough, character models were somewhat undefined, rough really, but the feeling lasted only for about the first 30 minutes or so of game play. Graphics aren't always a defining point of a game, but sometimes they help. In terms of game play however, it's solid. It feels like I'm playing Resident Evil 5 again with the positioning of the camera, the shooting mechanic and statistics of the weapons, even the graphics remind me of it, and it's all glorious. While people might complain about the co-op survival horror experience, I have yet to hear anyone complain about the gameplay or controls. Sadly, two of the big things I happened to notice right away is that there is name laser sight assisted aiming, purely reticle that slightly differs with different weapon types. While this is a little disappointing, you can quickly get used to it with enough play, luckily. The second remains the lack of co-op, despite the majority of the game being accompanied by an AI partner. In a series that has adopted co-op so hard it was a bit disappointing to not have it this time around. Something else worth noting is the awkward use and almost requirement of the dodge mechanic, seemingly resurrected from Resident Evil 3. During almost the entirety of the game, it could be easily ignored and almost completely forgotten, except during the harder difficulties and even later in the game! Herbs become increasingly difficult to find and the enemies become much larger in numbers, making damage almost unavoidable. That's where the dodge comes in handy, the awkward, hard to time, terribly difficult to execute, life saving dodge. Moving on from controls to environment, and even story, the game shines. I haven't been genuinely scared or even slightly afraid of a Resident Evil title in a long time. Revelations changed that though, with its tight corridors, creepy creaking ship, disgustingly disturbing monsters and diary entries, it was hard to not get in the mood. While I believe the games have far deviated from their original story line, it's nice to see that game is tying some missing points together. Yes I was curious as to where the BSAA came from, yes I did want to know what happened between Resident Evil 4 and 5, and yes I did want to play as Jill again. However, in terms of other characters, not including Chris, I couldn't help but feel a bit underwhelmed by the new cast. With the BSAA Director O'Brian being rather 1 dimensional and a bit hard to believe, the big and seemingly useless Parker, and the fashion confused Jessica, the future of the horror survival series seems a little weird. In every situation where the game has the player side by side with Jessica, it's hard not to comment on how half of her outfit is missing or how her hair could not possibly get in her way. Oh wait...there was a girl named Rachael with crazy hair too... The story, as mentioned before ties in well with the exploration of the decrepit cruise ship. Players will be allowed to explore a very small area at first, teased with locked rooms and safes, similar to their counter-parts. And of course, as they progress, the player is rewarded with keys, new areas to explore, new weapons, and even new baddies to battle. This is the type of progression I have missed, as I'm sure many have, from the zombie slaying series. The slow, limited progression through an open ship/mansion/police station ties in so well that even after beating it, I was drawn to play again! The feeling of dispair, the nightmare of finding an enemy when low on ammo, the flashing red screen of the player's death imminent and feeling of helplessness as there was no way to fix it; this is what defined the older games, and this is what easily defines Revelations to be great. All that good and Raid Mode hasn't even been mentioned yet. Resident Evil Revelations decided to try something new, as opposed to the wildly popular Mercenaries Mode. Raid Mode consists of short sessions of the game, replaying through a few scenarios. In a similar fashion to how Borderlands handled their combat, when players shoot zombie-oozes, numbers, showing how much damage dealt, will bounce out. As the player increases their level they are able to purchase new weaponry to deal even more damage and have even more effects via mods. Even enemies display levels, showing the player whether fight or flight is the best option in each scenario, and with three different difficulties to go through 20 different levels, there's hours upon hours to be had of fun and actual co-operative play! Pros +Amazing single-player experience +Actually scary environment and disturbing scenarios +Tons of Raid Mode to be played Cons -Lack of Campaign Co-op -Easy to tell that it's a port of the 3DS version -Uninteresting new cast Overall: 8.5 / 10 Superb Even after complaining about the lack of Co-op and unappealing new cast, Resident Evil Revelations is easily one of my new favorite zombie-ooze slaying games. If you haven't already, please head over to http://afgg.wordpress.com/ for more gaming reviews and related things. Or if you're in the mood for anime, head on over to http://monthlyanimer....wordpress.com/
  13. Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse got a pretty bad rap from game critics, but they just did what they were paid to do - they reviewed it based on its merits as a game. However, that's not (entirely) what I'm here to do today. I've noticed that many reviewers of the game had varying knowledge of the show, but not many of them actually claimed to like the show - heck, I saw one review where the reviewer admitted to not even liking the show. So I decided it was high time a die-hard fan of the show reviewed the game. This is that review. *cue that "dun dun" sound from Law & Order* Developer: Heavy Iron Studios Publisher: Activision Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC Release Date: November 20, 2012 ESRB: M This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is a third-person shooter based on the Family Guy television show, specifically, the episode "Road to the Multiverse." In that episode, Brian, the Griffin family dog, and Stewie, the baby of the family, travel into parallel universes that show Quahog, Rhode Island - the setting of the show - in various states such as a scientifically advanced utopia and a world run by dogs. Back to the Multiverse runs with that theme by setting each level in an alternate universe, many of which are based on other episodes and gags from Family Guy that have nothing to do with "Road to the Multiverse." So does the game get the Family Guy humor right, or does it fall flat on its ass-neck? The story of the game begins with Bertram, Stewie's evil half-brother who was killed in the episode "The Big Bang Theory," returning to swear vengeance on Stewie - it turns out that this Bertram is from an alternate universe, and is amassing an army from other universes to destroy the universe in which Stewie, Brian, and the other Griffins reside. Stewie and Brian leap into action, with Stewie grabbing guns from his secret bunker in his room and grabbing his multiverse remote to chase Bertram through the multiverse and stop him from exacting revenge. While the premise is interesting, the universes visited in the game aren't really all that inspired, compared to the universes featured in the Road to... episode. There's a world ruled by frat boys and sorority girls, then a world ruled by Amish, a world where everyone is evil, a world ruled by alien chickens, a world ruled by...well, you get the idea. While having one constant theme to the universe isn't a bad idea in itself, it's the choice of themes that drags the game down, because none of them are really that interesting. Stewie explains the basics of what's happening in each universe when he and Brian arrive, but you wouldn't really have to be all that sharp to figure out that a level teeming with pirates is a pirate universe. The one saving grace of each universe is all the call-outs and winks to episodes of the series - for instance, in a level where handicapped people have all the power, there's a Wheelies Cereal ad from "Ready, Willing, and Disabled" and the Big Pete's House of Munch restaurant from "No Meals on Wheels." You'll also find appearances from other characters in the show, who are usually dressed to suit the theme of the level. You might find Herbert patiently waiting for school to let out in the Amish world, or find Quagmire tied to a bed in the evil universe. These nods and cameos really help to let you know that you're in the Family Guy world, and often provide some humor that other parts of the game are lacking. Many characters from the show make appearances, regardless of whether they fit the level's theme. By lacking, I mean the dialogue - most of it isn't all that funny. I certainly chuckled a few times, but overall the jokes really fall flat. Thankfully, all dialogue is recorded by the voice actors from the show, so at least it's done right even when it's not done funny. The worst part about the dialogue is that very little of it was recorded specifically for the game. The cutscene dialogue is mostly new, but the words uttered by various characters (including Brian and Stewie) throughout the level are mostly lifted directly from the show. What's worse, much of the voice work is repeated throughout each level, where a few canned lines play each time a character picks up ammo or health, resulting in a lot of repetition that gets old fast. It's certainly funny to hear a line the first time and remember which episode it's from, but not so funny after you've heard it a hundred times over the course of the fairly brief, 10 level campaign. I'm not sure how long it took me to complete the game since it doesn't keep track of playtime, but I can safely say it wasn't more than 6-7 hours, and that was only because I scoured every part of every level looking for collectibles and shout-outs to the show. If you just blow through the game, it might take 4 hours at most. The game's music isn't too bad, and it sounds like music that was composed specifically for the show, even on the occasions where it wasn't. Where the game really shines is the graphics, because the game essentially looks like a 3D version of the show. The graphics are cartoonish and all the characters look like they should, which is a great touch that brings the game closer to the source material. It also helps that the game opens with the show's intro, though it would have been cooler if it was rendered in 3D and not a direct video. The game also runs at a smooth 60 FPS framerate, and it almost never bogs down regardless of on-screen action. The game certainly looks the part. So how does it play? Back to the Multiverse is a pretty standard third-person shooter, which is an odd fit for a Family Guy game, but it's at least more entertaining than the mish-mash of gameplay styles from the 2006 Family Guy game. You play as Brian or Stewie and can switch out between them, unless you're playing co-op, which is local only - no online here. Each character has a set of weapons that they gradually unlock over the course of the game, and their weapons are different enough from each other to make both characters useful in certain situations. There are also a handful of powerups to use, such as one that summons Ernie the Giant Chicken to attack your enemies, or dropping a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man to distract enemies. Unlike most third-person shooters of this generation, this isn't a cover-based shooter, and there's no regenerating health - the enemies will sometimes take cover behind objects, but for the most part, they stand in the open to fire at you or run right up to you to hit you with melee attacks, which you can ward off with your own clumsy swinging of Stewie's golf club or Brian's whiskey bottle. That is, the enemies do these things when their programming actually works - oftentimes enemies would simply stand and stare at me, even when I was right in front of them, as if waiting to be put out of their misery from this fairly mediocre experience. The gunplay works, the melee doesn't work quite as well but still does its job, and the AI gets better later in the game for some reason, but taken as a whole, this game just doesn't have anything unique to offer. Really, it doesn't have much to offer at all - there are some neat unlockables, like costumes from various episodes of the show, as well as multiplayer characters, but it's not likely that you'll want to take the time to unlock everything the game has to offer anyway. Aside from the campaign, there's a multiplayer mode that I didn't get to try, because it's all local-only. There's the regulation deathmatch mode, a horde mode, something called Infiltration, and in a shout-out to an older episode, a mode called Catch the Greased-Up Deaf Guy. In multiplayer, you can play as various characters including and besides Stewie or Brian, many of which have to be unlocked from the in-game store with money collected during the campaign. The game also has a challenge mode, where you're dropped into one of the campaign maps and given some objective to complete, such as defeating a certain number of enemies or rescuing a number of NPCs. The challenges have 3 difficulty levels and can be played solo or co-op, but there's really not much reason to play them outside of a few unlocks and possibly boredom. All in all, Back to the Multiverse is a fairly solid game aside from some enemy AI issues, just one low on content and with nothing unique to set it apart from the myriad of other shooters out there. As a game, it works, but isn't going to wow anyone. As a Family Guy game, it's got plenty of references and nods to the show, and at least some of the humor is there, but in the end you're still playing a fairly bland shooter that just happens to feature characters and themes from a popular show. Die-hard fans may get a kick out of some parts of the game, but definitely shouldn't pay the asking price of admission - just give it a rental if you want to get in on the fan service, or if you've ever wondered what a particularly long episode of Family Guy with lots of violence and no cutaways would be like. Score: 6.0 out of 10 Closing comment: A middling score for a middling shooter. There's a little something here for fans, but only if you're willing to play through a standard shooter with spotty AI and aren't concerned about not being able to play multiplayer online. Maybe if you have friends who also like Family Guy to play co-op and multiplayer with you, you could try to get the game cheap, but otherwise, just stick to a rental.
  14. DrPixel

    Pixel Reviews: DLC Quest (PC)

    Developer: Going Loud Studios Publisher: Going Loud Studios Platform: PC (reviewed)/Xbox Live Indie Games Release Date: March 18th, 2013 (PC) NOTE: Continuing on with reading this review will require you to buy the "DLC Quest Review DLC", provided to you through DrPixel Inc. for the cheap price of only $7.99! It will add 95% more content to your base review page, I promise! In all seriousness though, DLC is somewhat a problem I would say in today's gaming industry! It seems like nearly every single major publisher and even some smaller game companies now are hopping aboard the downloadable content train. They provide you with the base game for the same price as before, but then "nickel n' dime" you for what precious remaining spare change you have by making you pay for extra, more fancy features in your game. Sometimes it's just costumes, a tiny extra level or something, and that's pretty tame I would say. However, some businesses now have full expansions or mini additions to games that really should have been there in the first place- and they cost your hard-earned cash that you could have spent on another game or two. DLC Quest was born to provide a nice little relief to those who are frustrated with the greedy (though smart) business decisions gaming developers and publishers are making in today's society. It's a joke game, and not meant to be more than that! I'm just not so sure if it's worth the entry fee though. You see, DLC Quest is an incredibly short game. Both the base game and the fantastic spiritual successor/sequel "Live Freemium Or Die", which is included, only took me 1.6 hours total, including getting nearly all of the coins, wasting a ton of time, and browsing the Steam forums for the game whilst in-game. That is incredibly short for a game, indie or not, and I can't say I'm 100% satisfied with the amount of content included in the game. The jokes are there, yes, and they are great, but when the experience is over I instantly forgot about most of the game, which is a shame because I wish it would have had a lasting impact on me. The jokes may be top-notch, yes (including one that seriously made me burst out laughing), and the satirical nature of the game is amusing, but the gameplay is just....so awfully shoddy that it pains me. You run around collecting coins in a boring, repetitive sort of environment, and basically do fetch quests for each NPC. One particularly annoying part of the second game involved the player having to run back and forth between an underground cavern and the surface, then to another area high above, and then back to the very far right side of the map. Some might say these are just small hinderances, but for a game of this length it's saddening to see that unfortunately the gameplay isn't fresh. At least I love the hilarious DLC packs that the game offers! Want to buy a "sexy outfits pack" so you can deck out all the NPCs in the game with skimpier outfits? Go ahead! Care for some incredibly useless zombies? I mean, every game nowadays has a zombie mode, so why shouldn't this one? Go right ahead! One thing that I both like and dislike about this game is the coin system to be honest. Collectables are another staple of popular games, and unfortunately this one is littered all over with them, easily a thousand or two if I remember correctly. I think if they'd gotten rid of the ridiculous collecting required to even progress in the game and did something funnier, like making each part of the game cost actual small amounts of money adding up to the game's real price, $3, it would have been much more memorable in the end. The graphics and music, while unimpressive, somewhat fit the theming of the game still. This is a much smaller-scale game developed by a much smaller company, so nothing is meant to look like it runs on Unreal Engine 4. The music doesn't stick in my head, minus , but that is fine for how big the game is. By the end of it, DLC Quest isn't the incredibly entertaining piece of amusement that it sets out to be. However, there's still a lot of great laughs to be had with this game (none of which I will spoil!), and if you don't mind coughing up the $3 (or $2 XBLIG version) PC version asking fee, you'll certainly enjoy it. I give this game a: 7/10
  15. Developer: Imageepoch Publisher: NIS America Platform: PSP/Vita Release Date: April 23, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was supplied by the publisher for this review As an aficionado of odd Japanese game titles, I have often been able to keenly guess at which games are likely to never see an overseas release. A simple glance at something like Black Rock Shooter: The Game on the seemingly forgotten PSP platform definitely seems like an easy example in this regard. One of several varying adaptations of the Black Rock Shooter franchise in Japan, from anime, manga, and in this example, videogames, it's a series that kicked-off in Japan based on concept art from a Hatsune Miku (very popular vocaloid software in Japan) rendition of the popular Japanese song: Black Rock Shooter. Chances are, if you aren't knee-deep in Japanese anime media then that made absolutely no sense to you, further proving my point. However, despite an unsteady release timeframe, NIS America has finally brought over this obscure PSP title for an overseas audience. Does Black Rock Shooter: The Game shine brightly or is it a faint blue ember? In the year 2032, mankind faces the brink of annihilation after a continuously losing battle with a mysterious alien invasion. The twelve remaining humans make a last stand and forcefully awaken a female humanoid weapon by the name of Black Rock Shooter to fight at their side. It is up to the young girl (her name shortened to BRS), to more or less single-handedly push back to alien invasion and keep humanity alive. Despite what sounds like a somewhat generic apocalyptic premise, the narrative is actually a little bit more interesting than it leads on to be early in. Storytelling gets surprisingly dark and there is some intrigue hidden as it progresses. Still, the delivery isn't particularly good, and certainly has some pacing issues like the main game. The main game is straightforward and broken up between various stages with separate missions to complete. Usually it has BRS go from point A to B while killing monsters in between, with the exception of the occasional motorcycle mission. This makes BRS feel mostly familiar from start to finish with very few exceptions, for better or worse. Combat is probably one of the game's strongest points. It is a pseudo real-time action RPG which has the player attack, dodge, and block based on enemy attack patterns. Timing is pretty crucial for evading attacks in particular and I would maybe draw a comparison to something like Punch-Out!!, but with a bit more depth. It takes some time to show its colors but as BRS acquires more abilities to play with as she levels-up it can have an engaging flow. At its best, some of the game's bosses show off some pretty varied tactics and combat skills. But at its worst, the frequency of normal encounters don't hesitate to recycle enemy types, and aren't nearly as varied. Outside of the main story missions, there are other missions to play through. 'Free missions' allow players to obtain unlockables like art, music, and the ability to rewatch in-game cutscenes while serving as an alternate means to level-up. Upon completing the game the 1st time, it also unlocks even more missions. These new missions can help progress towards an alternate ending as well as allowing much more challenging missions. Black Rock Shooter's main campaign isn't particularly long, and can take less than 10 hours to complete, but players can probably be held over by trying to gather optional content for a fair bit longer. Visual presentation of BRS is pretty unimpressive and I don't think it would be too far off to compare it to stuff I've seen back on the PS1. While the 3D character models aren't exactly terrible, animations arguable, some of the environments kind of are, with some of the worst examples appearing later on in the game. In terms of audio, BRS actually has some solid musical tracks with some catchy techno battle themes in particular. In terms of voice acting there is only the Japanese dub to work with, which is understandable. Despite having some Japanese VA's I like, none of them really seem to stand out, which probably goes hand in hand with how the story is paced. Unlike the unkind words I would use to describe different BRS's independent adaptations, like the anime, I didn't regret my time with Black Rock Shooter:The Game. Aside from certain character's disregard of clothing (BRS), it doesn't really offend and does some interesting stuff as a game. Storytelling plays somewhat intriguing but underutilized themes and the combat does have its fun highlights. Honestly, with better pacing and variety for both combat and storytelling, I think the experience could've easily been more noteworthy. Still, because of a very much samey feel throughout, I can't really think of too many reasons to recommend Black Rock Shooter: The Game to many others who didn't already have their fiery gaze upon this title Pros: + Unique real-time battle system that shines in certain boss fights + Various unlockables and extra content + Some solid musical tracks Cons: - Lackluster presentation, especially for environments - Standard battles and enemies will quickly become routine - Relatively short main game overall, lasting under 10hrs - Black Rock Shooter really should dress more conservatively... Overall Score: 6.0 (out of 10) Decent ImageEpoch created a solid template with the Black Shooter Licence, but in terms of actual execution it doesn't make for a very memorable action-rpg to recommend by itself.
  16. Developer: Slant Six Games / Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform(s): Playstation 3, Windows PC, Xbox 360 Release Dates: March 20th, 2012 for Consoles, May 18th, 2012 for PC ESRB: M Note: This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game. Alright, let's stop for a second a breath. No this isn't going to be an attack, no it's not going to be a complete bash, and with Resident Evil Revelations HD right around the corner it felt relevant. That being said, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (ORC) is by no means a great game, but not necessarily a terrible one either. Fans of the series will no doubt be rather turned off by the third-person, cover based shooter, as opposed to the traditional tank controlled horror survival of the classic Resident Evil entrants. As I mentioned in my Resident Evil 6 review, different isn't always bad, maybe not great, but certainly not bad. Capcom needs to make fresh with the zombie slaying franchise, especially after 8 main entries (yes, Zero and Code Veronica count), a ton of spin offs, and even rail shooters. Right off the bat, the game takes place during one of the most popular times in the Resident Evil universe, around the second and third entries. Kudos for at least understanding that a lot of fans wanted to return to this time. Even characters like Leon S. Kennedy, Jill Valentine, Claire Redfiled, and Carlos Oliviera make appearances, although unsure whether all their appearances were considered canon or not, are least nice to see. Something important to remember about the game as well is that the squad the player belongs to are not survivors. They weren't stranded in Raccoon City, they weren't infected are trying to find a cure, they are a highly trained, armed to the teeth rag tag group of soldiers trained to deal with this kind of situation. The game never felt like it wasn't either, at least it had some continuity to how the game feels! Campaign missions for Umbrella's personal clean up squad, the Wolfpack, prove to be quite challenging at times and rather entertaining, as well as lengthy. Chapters can take upwards of 45 minutes, and as fast as 20, sometimes less depending on skill. Add in another equally long campaign through DLC and you've sunk at least 20 hours on a coherent, co-op ride. Something else worth noting is the level of customization. Each campaign has six characters to choose from, of which only four will follow into the fight. The six classes those characters represent are the tank like soldier, the Bio-Organic Weapon (B.O.W.) controlling field scientist, the infection curing medic, the stealthy cloaking recon, the enemy spotting surveillance, and the explosives expert demolitions. Each class has 1 of 3 powers to choose from, as well as a huge array of primary weapons and secondary hand guns. On a related note, the AI actually prove to be extremely helpful, especially during the professional runs of each chapter. Even the online multiplayer seems fun, containing four different modes ranging from a death matches, to capture the flag, to surviving until a rescue helicopter arrives, and heroes mode, where characters will duke it out with their favorite heroes and villains from the series. Unfortunately, as experienced recently, the game does suffer from some...odd net code design, making it hard for people to join other's games. Even the lobby's, private and public alike, have an extremely small timing window for other players to join! Sadly, the negatives don't end there either. While sometimes the AI act like you want, you'll find a lot of times where they walk in front of your shots, grenades, or refuse to heal you despite being on your last bit of health. This is further worsened by the fact that there is no way to instruct them or command them to do actions, which the game claims there is. After nearly 30 hours of campaign play and trying these commands, Ludono and I can assure the others that it is impossible unfortunately. With a game like this, that's trying to branch out and break away from the norm set by the series, it's crucial that all the game plays right. That there are no bugs, that things work the way they were designed to work, and that the game is fun. With Operation Raccoon City you'll be lucky to get two of them from time to time. While the hate of this game from the fans of this series feels a little unwarranted, there have definitely been moments where the game has made me stop, almost unsure if I wanted to continue. I can say now, after playing such a long amount of it that I'm glad I did not stop, that I continued to play. Despite having some easily noticeable flaws, Operation Raccoon City still has a certain charm to it, that continues to pull back to it from time to time. Pros: +Tons of playtime to be sunk into campaign as well as a relatively fun multiplayer +Great Co-Op experience +Incredible amount of unlockables and customization with six different classes to play as Cons: -Easily noticeable flaws with AI and lack of control -Feels buggy at times especially when zombies can attack you during cut scenes -Rather annoying squad system to invite friends to play any game type Overall: 6.5/10 Decent Operation Raccon City may not be the Resident Evil game we all wanted, but it's still quite enjoyable, especially with a partner. If you haven't already, please head over to http://afgg.wordpress.com/ for more gaming reviews and related things. Or if you're in the mood for anime, head on over to http://monthlyanimereview.wordpress.com/ Thanks for reading!
  17. Developer: Team Ninja Publisher: Tecmo Koei Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U Release Date: April 2, 2013 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the PS3 version of the game Last year, the original Ninja Gaiden 3 received quite a bit of backlash from its fanbase and critics, thanks in no small part to a significantly decreased default difficulty, no variety for weapons/magic and enemies, poorly implemented mechanics, and just a plain overall structure. Some time after, it would seem that Team Ninja took the critical feedback to heart by releasing an enhanced version almost a year later called Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (originally released for the Wii U last Fall). Featuring new weapons, spells, playable characters, mechanical tweaks, and an significantly increased default difficulty, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge intended to remedy the complaints of the original while also eventually making its way to PS3/360 so owners of those systems don't feel left out. However, since Razor's Edge is built upon the core framework of the original, it begs the question: Just how sharp can this enhanced version actually be? Storytelling is, well, what you'd expect of a Team Ninja game (read: not great), but better than something like DOA5. The resilient ninja Ryu is being hunted down by a extremist sort of cult due for unknown reasons. This cult will not hesitate to kidnap political figures in the process of sending a message, so Ryu himself agrees to help save these hostages with the assistance of an undercover government faction. During the mission, Ryu confronts a masked individual believed to be the mysterious cult's leader, and who nearly ends his life. However, in desperation, the masked individual imbues one of Ryu's arms with an ancient magical curse that worsens based on the amount of lives Ryu claims. Needless to say, the curse brings more conflict for Ryu throughout, who is under constant siege by this mysterious group. Surprisingly enough, the story is a bit more palatable than previous entries if only due to a slightly more comprehensible overall script and better voice work, but still rather weak.This preface also leads to some of the gameplay design choices of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. In emphasizing Ryu's brutal and murderous nature, they really up the ante of the gory dismemberment compared to even what Ninja Gaiden 2 on 360 established as well as the vanilla version of 3. Also, in less pleasing news, they decided to have the curse mechanic tie into the gameplay where every time you get hurt, your maximum threshold for health is decreased until you reach very specific checkpoints, dismissing consumable healing items entirely. In conjunction to some other structure alterations with the increased difficulty, this leads to some balance issues. Structurally, Razor's Edge will probably feel foreign to fans of previous Ninja Gaiden entries since the balance and flow of combat of previous games is anything but there. On paper, Razor's Edge attempts to retain the spirit of the series with its trademark weapons and relatively high level of difficulty; cosmetically, it will probably look familiar as well. That said, an important thing to establish when playing a difficult game is whether or not you are offered adequate tools to handle your opposition with some degree of consistency. Previous Ninja Gaiden games usually encouraged more methodical play, having players play defensively and learning to capitalize either through mastering the flow of combat or enemy attack patterns in situations like boss fights. Razor's Edge does not have that sort of intrinsic combat balance consistency; even as a fan of the previous games who is not unfamiliar with difficult games in general, I have a lot of complaints with this game. Enemies in Razor's Edge are super aggressive, and you know what? That is probably a better alternative to the sleepy and pushover AI that the original NG3 had, since the series is known for its fast-pace and technical gameplay. The thing is, the enemies in NG3:RE don't have have much regularity to their attacks, blocks, and evade patterns. For example, when an enemy gets staggered for a combo, I have had plenty of baffling moments where I may be executing a combo and the enemy randomly decides to jump out of it and punish me. Another time I was doing the same thing with no problem, both without any visual cue as to what I did right or wrong. Every enemy also seems to have very quick unblockable attacks or grabs, and while these did become more commonplace in NG2, they seem much more so in this game and often times there is nothing you can do about them, even if you even press a button. Going back to their attack patterns, Ryu's attacks (even the unlockable characters) against most enemies types often times hardly feel consistent, with the super cheap 'alchemists' enemy type embody this issue the most; which just block/avoid everything randomly except ultimate attack/magic spams, until you get certain overpowered weapons. In more artificial difficulty related complaints, Razor's Edge seems to have noticeable input lag and this makes the unbalances of combat even more stiffing. This goes from general movement to attacks, and makes the game feel kind of button-mashy for combos specifically, since the immediate timing just isn't there for a game that needs it. Spamming the charge based auto-combo 'ultimate attack' becomes all too tempting in this game, since it is the most reliable attack. Of course, a common complaint with the series that still remains today is the camera, which while is more flexible/speedy in Razor's Edge, it definitely has more than a few hiccups. It's a sad thing when there was a certain point while playing where I accepted that enemies/bosses were going to get free damage on me and winning an encounter in the campaign could easily be luck-based regardless of my game plan/execution. My prior qualms are only emphasized because recent actions games, and even earlier 3D Ninja Gaiden games, have more than proven that there can and should be more finesse and balance to these action games. This holds especially true for players who are more passionate about higher level play and want to master the highest ranks/difficulties. Now that all of these complaints are out of my system, surprisingly enough, not all is bad with NG3:RE. 1st off, I think the new and very visceral 'steel on bone' mechanic is satisfying to execute almost every time in a sadistic gory sort of way, with very brutal attacks and flashy animations and plenty unlockable skills. Also, new characters like Ayane, Kasumi, and Momiji are fun to play with pretty different movesets. Even Ryu, which not necessarily my preference mechanically, since he feels sluggish and a bit more unreliable in comparison, does look pretty cool when wielding the latter unlockable weapons in the main campaign. Game modes are to-the-point in Razor's Edge. There is the main campaign, chapter challenge, and the online focused "Shadows of the World" mode. Main campaign is straightforward, since I didn't make it clear earlier with my gameplay complaints, where it is a fast-paced romp with the only real breaks being the bookend cutscenes laced within. For the various unlockable characters and Ryu as well, there is also the ”chapter challenge, which is basically the main campaign but not being interrupted with most cutscenes in between. What is neat is that you can save replays of either the chapter challenge or Ninja Trials (tied to Shadows of the World mode). So, if you magically do a solid run of the game you can immediately capture it after finishing a stage. Like the original, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor“s Edge sports an online multiplayer called Shadows of the World. Shadows of the World allows players to customize and level-up a sort of faceless ninja through cooperative and competitive modes. Ninja Trials is a relatively standard survival mode where you can solo or team up with another online player while you take on waves of enemies, which you can use your blank slate character or Ryu and the other unlockable characters. Clan Battle is a bit more interesting with what is basically a 8 vs 8 deathmatch with varying objectives. I did have fun in the brief time I played clan battle, but I could imagine it getting very unbalanced very quickly considering the leveling-up structure for skills and weapons. As a whole, for those who want something more than the solitary grind of single-player can certainly get more out of the online modes if they enjoy it. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor“s Edge is not exactly a bad game by itself, but in contrast to previous entries and even more recent games from this year alone, it can certainly feel that way since it feels less methodical/technical and very unbalanced in terms of difficulty structure. It's a weird thing when a series that helped accentuate the 'hardcore' action game feels rather poorly designed in many areas and a significantly improved re-release just can't completely fix it. The game does have its moments of fast-paced and bloodthirsty fun, and though the series does seem like it can be salvaged after 3, it is still likely to disappoint most longtime fans and newcomers as well. For a series that is known for its keen gameplay sharpness, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge sure does ironically have a lot of rough edges. Pros: + Flashy and brutal attacks and animations + Fast-paced gameplay with plenty of content + New characters and weapons are fun to play and use Cons: - Serious balance issues with the game“s combat and enemies - Some input lag for attacks and movement - Camera issues (not new for the series) - Trivial Story Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent In some moments fast-paced and brutal fun and many more outright vexing in terms of design, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is likely to be very divisive. For fans of the series and newcomers alike it will be a real test of patience if they want to extract enjoyment out of this title even with this enhanced version.
  18. Royzoga

    Review - Resident Evil 6 + DLC

    Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform(s): Playstation 3, Windows PC, Xbox 360 Release Dates: October 2nd, 2012 for consoles, March 22nd 2013 for PC ESRB: M Note: This review is based on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. Capcom's beloved 'survival-horror' franchise makes its new entry with Resident Evil 6. After the controversy and mixed opinions on Resident Evil 5, Capcom continues to try and evolve the series pasts its origins. Sadly this desire for the new leaves a lot to be desired. Anyone ever gone to start a game and instantly been thrown into it, no menu, no choices? As soon as the player starts the game they are forced to play through a single player tutorial, somewhere much later in one of the main protagonist's, Leon Kennedy, campaign. This forced learning proves to be a little awkward, as the pacing for it doesn't seem to make much sense. One minute the main characters are limping, barely able to fight with no ammo in their handguns, the next they are completely fine, every weapon in the game at your ready to fight a random zombie horde. What a strange and awkward transition, not to mention that the majority of those weapons won't be at your disposal until much much later, it just feels like a big tease. Then when the player finally completes it and they are able to navigate a main menu, a sigh of relief can almost be heard. Never had I been so happy to see a main menu, letting me actually decide what I want to play, and wow, there is a lot to play. The game offers three different main campaigns that albeit a weird and complicated story, are fairly entertaining, long, and fun to play, especially with a partner. A fourth campaign can even be unlocked by completing the other three, which actually fills in a lot of the gaps of story quite nicely. Mercenaries mode also makes a comeback, with three different maps to play from as well as additional ones which can be purchased for as low as a dollar a piece. Even after completing mercenaries with every character, as well as every campaign, my co-op partner, Ludono and I had sunk around 35-40 hours in, but we had barely scratched the surface it seems. With Resident Evil 6, there are a few downloadable modes that incorporate online cooperative and competitive play. These modes range from a competitive version of mercenaries called Onslaught a kind of prey versus predator mode aptly named Predator, a competitive versus mode called Survivors, and an escort type mission called Siege. The maps earned and bought for mercenaries mode will also be used for these, really stretching that dollar bill of the player. Despite multiple frustrations, Ludono and myself continue to play, well into the 50-60 hours range. Guess Capcom found a way to keep players playing! Unfortunately, tons of play time doesn't completely make up for the hiccups the game seems to suffer so badly from. Gone are the merchants from Resident Evil 4 and 5 so upgrading, or even purchasing weapons is impossible. If the player misses it in the completely linear campaign levels, they'll have to replay the entire thing. The upgrade system is instead replaced with a skill system, and with the exception of a few skills, seem to do just about nothing. These skills can be purchased after or before every mission, points being found from killing enemies or breaking jars, pots, barrels, etc. Capcom even removed the shared inventory system and seemed to pollute the area with herbs and ammo, making it nearly impossible to ever really run out. I recall one time, only one time in the entire time Ludono and I played through our 35-40 hour campaigns, on both PS3 and X360, where either of us complained that we didn't have ammo or healing. As much hate as Resident Evil 5 receives, at least the shared inventory and partner system seemed relevant, it proved to be rather difficult to solo the game, at least the first time around. Resident Evil 5 was actually a pretty well constructed game, at least when I played with Ludono. Bosses were difficult, or had a certain trick to beating them, the story made sense, weapons could be purchased and upgraded and even shared! Even if the horror element was taken out of the game with the addition of co-op, it still added the constant dread of hearing your partner go down or run out of ammo completely. Hell, even BSAA emblems were more fun to find than Serpent emblems. I would actually even give it game of the year when compared with Resident Evil 6. In a long running game franchise like Resident Evil it's important to add diversity, to change the game a bit. Resident Evil 4 did and it turned out to be a huge success. People today still claim it as their favorite. This always struck me as odd, mainly because people complain about how bad the fifth and sixth games are automatically for adding co-op. Co-op doesn't make a bad game, it doesn't make a good game, but it is something I value. Honestly if Ludono wasn't my partner through Resident Evil 6, I doubt I would have been able to stomach it, but since I played a co-op developed game with a co-op partner, it was fun and at least somewhat enjoyable to say the least. It's not fair to the company or the game to write it off because it's changing things, at least try before you criticize. Pros +Enjoyable co-op experience +Hours upon hours of content, even without DLC +DLC is actually fun and worth the few dollars! Cons -Uninteresting, linear, and confusing story and campaign -Forced tutorial at start is annoying -Too many healing items and ammo around -Lack of upgrading weapons and sharing inventories makes diversity between players difficult Overall: 6.5/10 Decent Despite Resident Evil 6's obvious flaws, it still proves to be fun and definitely worth the time and extra money as long as you have a partner to play with.
  19. DrPixel

    Pixel Reviews: Monaco (PC)

    Developer: Pocketwatch Games Publisher: Pocketwatch Games Platform: PC Release Date: April 24th, 2013 Sometimes, games and game developers specifically just go and do whatever they want. Instead of making the usual multiplayer shooter or the equally popular singleplayer RPG, Pocketwatch Games decided to try the unusual and make a co-op game about heists. It's meant for co-op, designed for co-op, no, DESTINED to be played in co-op! Does it actually hold up to the huge standards for co-op games left by such classics like Left 4 Dead or the mod "Sven Co-op" for the original Half-Life? To start off, I'll say that Monaco is odd- but odd in the good way though! The graphics are uncoventionally retro and "simple", the music is classy and not head-banging at all like today's tunes, and even little things like the dialogue and lighting in levels is done to perfection while other areas of the game, such as the plot, are kept basic. I've often thought about why this might've been done. Is it to even further bolster the uniqueness level of the game? Or, perhaps Pocketwatch Games (which is a name I love, I might add) just likes to focus on the little things in games! The two questions asked above can't really be answered in full- which is why I love this game! This isn't your traditional co-op experience, and I think the game completely embraces that. Other games meant to be played together with friends instead of against them often just let you play through the game together like the singleplayer campaign or try the "horde mode" path. Creativity is the essence of a non-bland, fun time, and Monaco captures that perfectly. Teamwork is key in Monaco, but surprisingly it's actually fine to play by yourself. It's a bit different than sneaking around, telling one friend to go collect the extra gold at the end of the map while you go take out a guard and another friend watches your back. Instead, you are all alone in the war on those who have gold. This just makes the game both harder and easier though! Having poor teamwork can quickly get your whole team led to doom in the later levels, so being on your own is actually still equally sneaky and intense. Speaking of intense, this game really loves to pressure you when the heist goes awry! The music tenses up, exclamation points pop up above the guards' heads, totally not like the Metal Gear Solid games, and your team of elite heist wannabes must flee to safety. In fact, death is pretty common in this game it seems. However, defeat isn't punishing in Monaco- in fact I'd say that it encourages the player to keep at it and try a different plan of attack for the mission. The aracade-sy feel of Monaco comes is just fantastic. Collecting coins makes you get a better time at the end of the level which is a great incentive to collect them all, and to even use your gadgets you need to collect coins. That in itself is an awesome idea that should be used more in retro games such as this! In addition to that, the graphics are crisp and pixelized, and while the music is more modern-sounding I think Austin Wintory (yes, the guy who did Journey's music!) still did a lovely job with it, keeping to the frantic old-timey arcade feel of the game. Probably the one thing I was concerned about when looking at the game at first was how long or how varied the gameplay would be. Luckily, the game is pretty long, as I'm about 40% through I'd estimate and I'm 3 hours in. That sets you at about an 8-10 hour game I'd guess, given the game gets harder as the levels go on so you'd keep at each one longer. Each level is fairly different too, and there's even a bonus level at the end that I had spoiled for me but I won't for you- just know that it is awesome! Unfortunately....the amount of tools isn't quite as big as I'd like it to be, but this is a small complaint really. While I wouldn't go as far as to call it "the best co-op game of all time", Monaco succeeds heavily on what it tries to do. For $15, you could certainly do better, yes. If you're looking for a nice, fun time with some friends though, Monaco is a great choice for a Friday night session of playing robbers. Remember- What's Yours....Is Mine! *insert obligatory game subtitle reference here* I give this game a: 8.5/10
  20. Royzoga

    Review - Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

    Developer: Sanzaru Games Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment Platform(s): Playstation 3, Playstation Vita Release Date: Feubary 5th, 2013 ESRB: E 10+ Note: This review is based on both versions, played simultaneously. After years of anticipation, fans can finally bring Sly Cooper and the gang home again. It has been almost 11 whole years since the last! Luckily, Sanzaru Games brings back the joy of quasi stealth platforming with some extremely interesting cross playing features with their systems. Players may notice Sly's brand new look, although noticeably weaker on Vita, still shows a fresh take on older hero. Despite the fact that a brand new company has taken the thieving raccoon's reigns, it feels like Sucker Punch is still there in heart. A funny, interactive, and charming universe awaits anyone willing to give it a try. Game play returns as solid as ever and veterans of the series will have little to no trouble readjusting. The combination of stealth, combat, and platforming proves to be a fresh and invigorating sensation. Sadly the game seemed to 'baby' the player maybe a little too much. Whenever gamers encounter something new, the game forces an awkward cut scene in which one of the Sly gang will explain to another the proper way of doing things. Now that might not seem like a huge problem at first, and certainly didn't to me, but as the game stretches on, new gadgets and items are purchased, or new characters are used, it definitely gets a bit annoying being told that X is used to jump. That being said though, it doesn't make any of the game's core mechanics any less appealing, or the hub worlds. Before starting any story related mission, the player is first thrown into a world that accurately portrays the different time line they might be visiting. This sense of freedom is almost overwhelming at first. The over worlds are expansive, detailed, riddled with items, clues and various secrets that when obtained open different unlockables for players to obtain. This alone made replaying levels and the game a must and a rather enjoyable sequence. Furthermore, when searching for these items, the cross play between the PS3 and Vita really shines. The PS3 version of the game actually has a feature in which the player can prop up their Vita (Which if the PS3 copy was purchased they'll have both anyway,) and use it as a sort of item detector. The hub worlds can be seen in an almost infrared vision, causing items to stand out more and make it easy to find them. Not bad for a free eh? It actually gets better! Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has an incredible cloud upload and download feature, making the transition between the two effortless. Furthermore, for all the trophy hunters out there, both versions have separate trophy lists that will unlock at the same time upon downloading their file from the cloud. Nice to see someone actually supporting cross play effectively between the PS3 and Vita. The last thing worth mentioning has to be the story. Veterans of Sly 3 will instantly recognize where the story takes place...directly after the ending to the previous one to be exact! After 11 years players can finally learn what happened to Sly, how he lost his memories and how it all plays out when Carmelita realizes he's up to his thieving tricks again. The characters, the plot, the random movie references and pokes at humor are all like a breath of fresh air. It has been a long time since a game has felt this easy going, this easy to sit down and enjoy with out getting overly frustrated r worried about deep and convoluted plots. Not to mention it's nice to have almost all the same voice actors from the original Sly games from 11 years ago! Pros: +Engaging and easy to follow story +Open world and tons of freedom as well as replayable missions +Well crafted cross play and cross buy Cons: -Sometimes holds your hand too much -Noticeable graphic difference between PS3 and Vita -Too many Sanzaru Games logos everywhere! Overall: 8.0/10 Great Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a welcome entry to the long thought dead series, showing to everyone that platformers, especially one's with thieving raccoons are most certainly not dead. If you enjoyed this review, head on over to http://afgg.wordpress.com/ it'll really help us out if you dropped a like
  21. Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment/Ensemble Studios Publisher: Microsoft Studios Platform: PC Release Date: April 9th, 2013 Age of Empires has gone through a good number of games by now, including a spin-off or two (Age of Mythology, anyone?), but it hasn't really touched on its roots at all. That's changed now with the release of Age of Empires II HD on Steam this week. It boasts adding new features and a nice little coat of HD paint, but are they actually worthwhile additions to spend $20 on? I'll be honest- I've never played an Age of Empires game before. I did play (the fantastic) Age of Mythology quite extensively when I was younger, but that's a whole other diamond in the strategy game mine. The Age of Empires series, particularly the first 3 games, are simple to the core yet still incredibly fun to play. You try your hardest to take out the enemy, which can be AI bots, other players online, or a mix of the two. You build hordes of units to first collect resources for your soon-to-be mighty kingdom, and then either smash, diplomatically ally with, or sneak in a victory with your wonder against your opponents. There's tons of units, buildings, and civilizations to play as. Also, there are plenty of map choices, with randomization being the most fun option of course. I can definitely see why everyone and their pet horny toad seems to love this game, as I do too now! This new HD edition comes with some new and some old extra tidbits of course. Firstly, the Conquerors expansion pack is included, which basically adds to every aspect of the game. Next up is the general modernization of the game. It now runs on modern versions of Windows with no problems, has widescreen support, support for resolutions up to 1920x1080, and even support for multiple monitors. Oh! Who could forget the "HD" tag too? The lighting is improved apparently and the textures look a bit better. It's not awfully much but overall it is definitely much prettier to look at. Steam Workshop is included with the game to help making downloading or uploading maps, campaigns, and mods for the game loads easier than it was in the days of the 90s and early 2000s. I'm glad more games are using Steam Workshop, and this seems like a great canidate for it. At the cost of this comes a few things that did end up annoying me a bit. To start with, the graphics themselves haven't seen much of a "HD" change as to be expected by the title. It still looks great for a late 90s game, but an actual HD overhaul would've been great. The resolution also seemingly can't be changed, as it takes whatever your desktop resolution is. With this being an expanded version of an older game, I'd expect it to at least let you change what resolution you want the game at, but this is just a small nuisance really. I'd also like to say that the multiplayer is absolute gold in this game. There's a new system in place just for the HD version, and while I'm not sure how it differs from the original multiplayer system, it is certainly quite stable, if a bit laggy. Playing with a fellow GP buddy (Ludono), we had a cubic kilometer of fun in the few games we played. Each game takes multiple hours to finish usually, though it is possible to save and re-load games you've played with others luckily. The experiences we had were both ridiculous and awesome at the same time (have YOU ever seen massive armies of Spanish conquistadores plowing their way through anything in their way? I bet not!). There was only one time when we weren't really enjoying the game, and that was when we teamed up against 6 A.I. opponents who promptly ganged up on me early on in the game, forcing us to quit early and start anew. This was completely due to the randomization of the map though I think, as my buddy was on the opposite side of the fairly large map. However, every other moment of our time spent in the multiplayer portion of the game was very fun and we really enjoyed bashing each other's brains out in one game and then teaming up to fight fiercesome A.I. opponents the next. Anything goes in a game of tactics and while Age of Empires II HD isn't overly heavy on it, how you win (or don't!) is up to you. Is Age of Empires II HD still a worthwhile addition to the very prestigious series it's a part of? Definitely! The new additions might not be that huge, but they serve their purpose well for making the game actually playable on modern computers. The game is a classic by far, and while it may not be the most HD-realistic, ultra-modern portrayal of combat in the Middle Ages, it's still an incredibly fun one. Check it out here if you're interested: http://store.steampo...com/app/221380/ I give this game a: 9/10 Want to win a copy of the game? Register (if you haven't already) and comment below telling me your favorite strategy game of all time- or, if you don't have one, tell me your favorite ancient (let's say, pre-1500 A.D.) civilization! Contest ends Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Get entered now to win this great game before it's too late!
  22. Royzoga

    Review - Injustice: Gods Among Us

    Developer: NetherRealm Studios Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U Release Date: April 16th, 2013 ESRB: T (Note: This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game.) So after several hours of pummeling superheroes and super villains the time feels right to construct a review. NetherRealm Studios newest project, Injustice: Gods Among Us, a brutal fighting game containing heroes and villains from the DC universe and boy does it pack a wallop. Right off the bat, the entire concept of this game made tremendous amounts of sense. Seeing as DC has recently rebooted their entire comic universe with The New 52, a fighting game containing some of the canon material of this new series ties in incredibly well. Because of this, characters and even stages are easily recognizable because of this, revisiting locations like Metropolis, The Bat Cave, and even Arkham Asylum! Firstly, the game mechanics themselves should feel quite familiar to anyone who has played the newest Mortal Kombat, and this proves to be a great thing. Combat is simple for newcomers to understand as well as having a certain level of complexity for the more hardcore. Frame advantages, recovery frames, active frames, and even damage can all be found from the incredibly easy to maneuver moves list. Characters feel and play almost exactly how they would be expected to play. Batman uses a bunch of nifty gadgets, Nightwing has his staff and electric sticks, Bane punches harder than the steel of a tank, and Green Arrow shoots...arrows. However, the roster did feel a little underwhelming after finally getting one's hands on the full game. Characters like Black Adam and Killer Frost may elude some players, while others like Martian Man Hunter and even Hawkman seem to be missing in action. In terms of content however, Injustice delivers big. The single player story mode takes between 5-6 hours to complete, and also follows the example of its predecessor in which gamers can sample different heroes the game has to offer. Albeit, it was a tad disappointing to play as Batman for two and a fourth chapters of which there are only a total of 12. It would have been nice to been able to play as a few others, or even involve them in the story a tad more. Sadly, by the end of story I felt a little confused as to why certain characters were even present. That being said though, the story wasn't bad by any means, nor are any of the single player experiences. Injustice allows players to first play through story, an arcade mode similar to that of other fighters, a mission mode where the player must complete certain tasks or win fights under certain criteria, tutorials, and of course practice mode, which is a highlight of itself! The amount of options the player can use in training mode is staggering, allowing them to see exactly where certain attacks connect, how much damage they do relative in a combo and so on. Oh, and there's also an online practice mode in which you can practice with a friend. Online mode feels about as good as anyone would expect. There aren't any crazy modes, no resoundingly incredible lobby features, just the standards, but that's good. It's a good thing to see a game not try and go too crazy, to polish the basics and do well on them, rather than have tons of extra sub par content. King of the Hill and Survivor work as they need to, but aren't overly impressive. What is overly impressive however was the fights themselves or rather the connection of them. Out of the 50 or so matches played online, only one, just a single match had button and input delay. That and after playing against what felt like the entire cast, it's hard to find one or two characters that can be defined as 'broken.' Sure there are things players do that make the character seem cheap, but it felt like no matter whom I was personally fighting, there was always a reason as to why I was defeated, mainly due to my lack of skill or misreading or misjudging moves. As players continue to trek through the different modes and challenges of the game they are rewarded with XP. Once a receives enough and levels up they are then given various in game items or keys that can be used to unlock extra costumes, concept art, and even music from the game. Players can also unlock extra emblems, character images and backgrounds for their player cards, just in case you didn't look cool enough beating Superman with Harley Quinn. All in all, Injustice: Gods Among Us may have played it a little too safe. The game plays well, works just how you'd expect it to, and feels well polished, but I can't help but feel it could have pushed some boundaries a little further. Perhaps this will change with the expansion of the roster of fighters as there are four character planned to still join the Injustice ranks. Pros: +Copious amounts of modes and game types to play +Accurate portrayal of characters and universe +Very few technical hiccups or flaws with game play Cons: -Played it a bit too safe, really lacks the wow factor -Relatively short story that relies heavily on the player having knowledge of the DC Universe -No Marc Hamill as the Joker! Overall: 8.0/10 Great Injustice Gods Among Us may not be winning any game of the year awards anytime soon, but it is definitely one of the most solid built games I've seen in a while.
  23. Royzoga

    Review: Record of Agarest War

    Developer: Idea Factory Publisher(s): Aksys Games Platform(s): Playstation Network Digital Download, Xbox 360 Release Date: April 27th, 2010 ESRB: T (So, I recently made an extremely long reply to a news article pertaining to this game possibly being added to Steam. After conversing with a few friends and reviewing the post I decided to make the post into an actual review. It is my first of hopefully many for the site and I haven't really written one in a while, so if you believe I can do better, please message or speak with me detailing how I can be a better reviewer.) Record of Agarest War can be easily described to those whom haven't played it before. Imagine Disgaea was combined with the most simple aspects of a dating simulator. Throw in a few light side/ dark side decisions as well as some risque static pictures of girls scantily dressed just for some flavor too. The end result is a game that can be equal amounts of pain as it can be pleasure. Pain feels like it sticks out a bit more obviously in the beginning, middle, and end of the game, however one cannot exist with out the other, or at least in this game they cannot. The intro to the game provides an interesting and fresh idea unheard of in the JRPG universe, in terms story that is. A general in an army decides to break orders to try and save a young elvish girl and is thrust into a destiny that forces him and his next four generations of children to fight an unknown evil. The story actually proves to be one of the most enticing things about the game. That being said though, combat is where the game starts feeling a little bland, and in a Tactical JRPG, a bland combat system can doom it from the start. The grid based system should be all too familiar to people whom have played games like Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics, but the newer things, AP costs, SP, combined attacks, EX fields, feel a bit overwhelming and unmanageable until much later into the game. Sadly, combat also fails to be much of an eye catcher as the beautifully rendered character models. Instead of hi-resolution models the characters and enemies look like PS2 era pixelated sprites, similar to the early Atelier games. This aspect is relatively disappointing because when in town or conversing with party members involving the main story or just even purchasing things at the shop, they are represented by attractive character models. That being said though, after playing the game for long enough, the story and music and even the level of customization outweighs the sub-par graphic level. Customization can even be seen as one of the highest and best parts of the game. Throughout the entirety of each of the five generations, the main hero, you, make choices that will result in different battles, different character relations, dialogue, and can even impact the next hero! For example, at the end of generation one, based on whom you decide to wed, if you can even, will result in a different character model, weapon types, and even skill affinity for the hero of the next generation. And luckily, this feature is apparent up until the very last generation. An even further level of customization permits pertains to party members. Not only does each generation yield multiple heroes and heroines of different shapes, sizes, colors, and skill sets, but also monsters. Record of Agarest War has a unique monster capturing system introduced later on in which you actually use monsters in battle or in exchange for useful items and equipment. Unfortunately, being that there are five different generations, as well as a secret true ending generation, the game can start to feel like a massive time sink at times. Completion of generation one typically takes between 15-20 hours, and by the end of generation five, players are more than likely to be in the hundreds of hours. That doesn't even cover the end game content which can then stretch on even longer! Furthermore, plenty of the fights in the game can feel like they drag on, especially towards the end. Especially if the party you're using is under-leveled. Generation five for example, can have multiple boss fights, single bouts, that lead into hour long wars, maybe even two depending on what the party's level is. Even random encounters in dungeons can lead into the half an hour region if you're not careful, and might not even yield even one level for any party member. Not to mention the game fails to explain what each level stat does or how each one works in sync with each character. If you're not careful, you could accidently turn a tank character into a glass water gun, instead of a rough power house. Sadly, messing up character's stats early on in the game can almost make them useless for later on. In the end game especially, if any boss senses a weak character, they're usually the first target. Record of Agarest War can definitely be classified as a hard core JRPG in that sense, and very similar to Disgaea even as the game goes on, enemies stats, as well as damage output becomes so ridiculously high that in the end, the player will only be able to measure it as 'a lot,' or 'not enough.' This aspect though made the last hundred or so hours more enjoyable, and even the start of the second play through. New Game Plus mode does exist for the game and it is glorious, almost enticing players to try again. If players choose to play on the same difficulty they will receive pretty much everything they had in the last play through, minus levels. If they choose to go up a difficulty tier then they will be able to retain money, extra skills, and upgrade points for characters and equipment. The player can also complete a certain in game tasks that will net them extra equipment, money, skills, and even upgrade points. What's really great about those is, all the rewards reset after a new game plus, but are still technically completed and just need you to claim the reward back at town. All in all, Record of Agarest War had the potential to be something incredibly, truly redefining for the JRPG genre with it's intricate story and bride customization, but ultimately lacks the proper base components to make it amazing. Pros: +Intricate and original story + Expansive customization +Large array of party members and monster system +Beautifully done voice acting and background music Cons: -PS2 Era graphics while in battle -A huge time sink -Not for casual JRPG Gamers Overall: 6.5/10 Decent Record of Agarest War proves to be an okay JRPG with a ton content that will definitely soak up large sums of time. However, due to flaws with combat and non-newbie friendly battle systems, the game seems as though it can only really appeal to the hardcore Tactic style gamers.
  24. What, didn't I just make one of these!? Well, this one holds a slightly different purpose. Since we're a gaming community, it's only natural some of us accumulate collection of not only games, but gaming books. However, I noticed that other than in the Video Game Inspired Books thread, there really isn't much talk about them. So, in tangent with The Book Mini-Review Thread, I've created this thread, to bring more attention to gaming books and everyone's thoughts. There are a couple rules I have to set up, though. This covers all gaming related books. Novels, art books, manga, publications... even magazines if you really, really want to. Everything made of paper (or is available on an eReader) is up for grabs! Please don't write something like 'this book's the coolest go buy it' and be done. It doesn't have to be long, but do try to write a review. If you just want to recommend something willy-nilly, go ahead and go to The Book Recommendation Thread. This is only about gaming books. Any other book reviews go in The Book Mini-Review Thread. You don't have to follow any specific guidelines, or put up scores or anything--write however you'd like! All I ask is that you put the correct book name, the author, and a picture of the book (if you can find it). No spoilers, please! If someone already reviewed your book... don't worry, just review it! More opinions are always welcome. There we go! I'll be posting an example of a mini-review in just a bit. Again, you don't have to follow anything I might write, it's all up to you... but I know some people feel more comfortable with a template or guideline in hand, so they'll have that too. So, get on your reading glasses, pull out your favorite gaming books, and read and write about them!
  25. Number 905

    Review: Paca Plus

    Developer: Paco Project Publisher: Paco Project Platform: PC Release Date: Out Now ESRB: N/A (G-Rated) Sometimes the creative capacity of the mind truly terrifies me. If you only pay attention to mainstream video games, you may be unaware of what the independent scene is capable of putting out and how there really is no such thing as too small of an audience. Case in point, Paco Project have brought a different spin to the visual novel genre with Paca Plus, a game that asks players how they would react if they started seeing their girlfriend as an alpaca. No, you read that correctly. High school student Saeki Kazuma goes on a date on his girlfriend“s birthday to the Alpaca Kingdom. After falling asleep on the way home, he wakes up to see something unfathomable: a fluffy alpaca wearing human clothes. For reasons unbeknownst to him, Kazuma begins seeing his girlfriend as a real-life alpaca. As the story progresses, he has to come to terms with this development and unravel the mystery behind this phenomenon. It“s a goofy plot, but it“s also what attracted me in the first place. It was too stupid of concept for me not to try, as I“m a big fan of games that manage to plant their tongue firmly in their cheek. To that extent, Paca Plus delivers. It“s definitely humorous and full of situations worthy of a chuckle. That said, if you“re hoping for any sort of seriousness, touching moments, or gameplay choices, this really isn“t for you. To be truthful, a decent part of the humor and absurdity comes from the translation. I won“t mince words; it“s an absolute mess and I don“t think it was ever actually read by an English speaker. It seems like a script that was run through a translation service, perhaps multiple times. While this can add to the humor, it also ruins any chance of emotional involvement by forcing you to spend too much time trying to figure out what you“re reading. You can generally scrape by with context clues, but some parts just don“t make sense, even after multiple rereads. Issues with the translation are worsened by the storytelling and art. It“s not bad, but the developers definitely prefer to tell rather than show. While there are plenty of everyday situations you might want to see an alpaca in, you“re just told about them instead of being shown amusing pictures of what“s happening. Ultimately, the art assets are just too few and, as wrong as it feels to say it, I was left wanting more alpaca than was offered. Closing up a shaky experience, the audio design is a mixed bag. The Japanese voices are well done and, while the main character isn“t voiced, it“s surprising how many side characters are. The music is on the border between decent and good, though sometimes it feels like it ruins the mood by setting the tone better than the story. You end up feeling like it“s a sad scene not because of what“s happening, but because of the music. It“s a little distracting, but not as immersion-breaking as the translation. You might be able to tell at a glance, but this game isn“t for everyone. If, like me, you“re going into Paca Plus looking to laugh at an absurd concept, chances are you“re going to be pretty satisfied. It“s one situation where the translation is a plus, adding a B-movie feel to the experience. Those looking for a serious romance or some heart warming monument to love being more than skin deep will quickly find the translation issues to be too much to look past. Maybe the original Japanese story is stronger, but the English translation is no bard“s tale. Pros: + Amusing concept + Humorous execution + Strong audio work Cons: - Few story choices - Laughably bad translation - Not enough art assets Overall Score: 5.5 (Out of 10) Average Paca Plus is a pretty good game for a laugh. Unfortunately, most of those laughs will be at its expense.
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