Jul 032013
 

Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams TitleAfter successful Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight campaigns, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams made its way to the PC. However, with a pathetic graphics card, and a demo that struggled to run, I decided to sit this one out until it came to consoles. Now it’s here to finally justify whether it was worth the wait.

Giana 6As the title suggests, Giana Sisters follows the story of two sisters. Giana must rescue her sister, Maria, who was captured by a dragon. Setting out in a world of dreams, she can take two forms. These forms permeate not only gameplay, but visuals. The blond-haired “Cute” Giana has the ability to twirl like a helicopter, while the crimson-haired “Punk” Giana can propel herself like a rocket. Contrastingly, Cute Giana’s world favors a spooky form, while Punk Giana’s is more natural and vibrant. The music also instantaneously transforms. Cute Giana’s favors melodic tunes, whereas Punk Giana’s craves a more metal-infused influence.

Giana 2With the ability to shift phases at any time, the entire experience changes. Initially, this is very enjoyable. The two mechanics can be combined to form some challenging platforming, and the scenery is pretty on the eyes. You’ll spend time admiring the way the world transforms as leafy trees and flowers wither and die. However, it doesn’t take long for that level of enjoyment to diminish.    

Billed as an old school platformer, it meanders in that vein to a fault. Those two main gameplay mechanics are introduced right off the bat. From there, the games twenty or so levels do a serviceable job of challenging you, but the mechanics themselves never evolve. Nor are any new mechanics added. This could have been overlooked had the level design and environments kept me intrigued, but even they got a bit boring. There were a couple standout moments, like the levels that toyed with the duality of fire and ice, or the one that took a clockwork inspiration, but other than that, the forest and castle motifs far overstayed their welcome. As a huge platformer fan, my enjoyment and will to play is often more-so governed by the creative nature of the presentation than the actual gameplay, so this lack of variation was a bit disappointing.

Giana 4Difficulty spikes also often reared their ugly head. On a few occasions, checkpoints were my greatest enemy. I’d make it past a difficult section, only to die on a easy part and find myself back at the start. This was often the result of nebulous platforming and hazards. On some occasions it was difficult to tell which dimension a platform was in. Other times, hazards which provided minor visual cues would be missed entirely. This trial and error created quite a bit of tedium. With fairly lengthy levels, I found myself often burnt out. One night – with work looming in the morning – I found myself stuck on the final boss. After what was probably nearly an hour of struggling with him – in addition to the already thirty minutes of making it through the level to him – at my wit’s end, I had to admit defeat. The next day I had to trudge back through the level, and deal with that asshole of a dragon again until I finally got lucky enough to persevere. Even then, I didn’t feel that great; I just felt relieved. I was freed from my burden. With time trial modes and an even tougher difficulty with no checkpoints, I don’t see why anyone would subject themselves to that much torture.

Giana 3The game also has some pretty glaring technical issues. The amount of screen tearing is distractingly atrocious, especially toward the end. It’s a shame, as it really undermines what could have been a decent experience. While I can’t speak for the performance on other platforms, adding these inexcusable issues to an already large amount of questionable design choices makes it hard for me to love this game as much as I would have hoped.

That’s not to say it’s a bad game by any means. If you’re intrigued by the visuals or the premise, there is fun to be had. While I craved more variation with the visuals, they underlying art direction was nice. The few mechanics were sound. And even though I despised some of the bosses, they were interesting. Just know that what you see is what you get.

Playstation 3

Graphics

80
 

Audio

75
 

Gameplay

65

Creativity

80
 

Execution

65
 

Offset

70
    

7.3

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Visuals and art direction are nice.
  • Phase shifting aids both gameplay and presentation.

Cons:

  • Mechanics never evolve.
  • Environments often feel too similar.
  • Difficulty spikes, especially boss battles, can be frustrating.
  • Screen tearing runs rampant.

 

Jun 282013
 

 

 

TLoU 1This sure has been an odd console generation. The Last of Us epitomizes that. Instead of just safely churning out another Uncharted entry, the talented folks at Naughty Dog decided to split up their studio and launch a new IP. That decision is paying off in spades.

The Last of Us is Naughty Dog’s first foray into the world of the modern mature rated title. While the “mature” label often garners a negative connotation for being juvenile in its delivery, The Last of Us is truly worthy of that “M.”  The dark, often depressing, tone really gives them some liberties not seen in their recent franchises. All the bullet points for a mature rated title are there: Ellie is one of the most foul mouthed fourteen year olds I’ve ever seen. Weapons and combat are extremely gruesome and visceral. Blood and guts are strewn everywhere. But above all this, there is an underlying maturity to all other aspects.

TLoU 3The survivalist nature really does this game justice. The conscious effort to make the world seem so bleak and desperate aids all other facets. The various situations in which Joel and Ellie find themselves in all ratchet up the tension. It’s kill or be killed. The Clickers are probably one of the most unnerving enemies in recent memory. Blind, and using a creepy echo-locating clicking sound, they pose no threat to the quiet. But make some noise, or get noticed by other enemies, and you’ll quickly find one biting into your neck, resulting in immediate death.

TLoU 4This tension is also exacerbated by the scarcity of resources and the designer’s decision to not hold your hand. There are some things that are explained to you, but a lot of things are left for you to discover. Opting to start on the hard difficulty setting, I cannot tell you how many times I died early on in the game because I was trying to use my resources as little as possible, or simply ignoring some of the tools at my disposal. I quickly had to abandon that way of thinking and adopt strategies that were more stealthy, but also more aggressive. Then, after a while, I picked up on some of the subtleties of combat, which was both extremely satisfying and empowering.

The simple crafting system, which only contains around six components, further accentuates the desperation of the situation. The components can be combined in multiple ways, but at the expense of others. Decisions must be made as to which supplies are most important. For instance, alcohol and bandages can be combined to make a deadly Molotov that, if used correctly, can really simplify some sticky situations. TLoU 2Or those same materials can be combined to make a health pack. Shrapnel can be used to make shivs, create grenades, or increase the lethality of a melee weapon. Despite very different uses, not a single one of the supplies feels more important than the others. Instead they intertwine, forming a collection of both pertinent offensive and defensive tools.

By the end of the game, with proper scavenging, there are actually a decent amount of weapons for you to find, craft, and upgrade. At a certain point I began to max out my arsenal, allowing me to approach situations with multiple plans of attack. But even then, with storage and ammo capacities being very low, an empty clip and a swarm of Runners were never too far away.

Throughout the PS3′s lifespan, Naughty Dog has been making the console sing from a graphical perspective. It’s no surprise that The Last of Us feels like the natural progression from Uncharted. Their cinematic approach continues to amaze. Textures, lighting, and the smallest of effects give the dystopian setting an eerie sense of realism. TLoU 5I’ve always been fascinated by the idea  of nature encroaching upon society. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - a favorite of mine – also did it well, which is probably why its lead designer, Mark Richard Davies, made the jump to Naughty Dog for this title. The juxtaposition of the beauty of nature with the devastation and dilapidation of society serves as a constant reminder that life is worth living, even despite harsh times. The game’s soundtrack also accentuates both these highs and the lows. Savage beats breed anxiety, while softer sounds offer comfort and hope. Toward the end of the game, they really hammer this point home.

Partnered with this impeccable presentation, awesome flawless choices with characterization and storytelling. The journey across the country and the struggle to survive creates an epic tale. From the moment the game opens you really feel for the characters and the world Naughty Dog has carefully crafted. TLoU 6Emotions are immediately assaulted, and they never let up from there. Personalities are established, expanded upon, and sometimes even flipped on their head. There’s really nothing more to say without spoiling a bold, brilliant experience.

With a lot of love and care, and a three year development cycle, Naughty Dog has once again raised the bar on all fronts. If it wasn’t clear from their previous track record, it is now. They are one of the premier developers in the industry. Visuals, characterization, and storytelling all have a new benchmark.

It’s not over yet! Let’s talk Multiplayer.

Naughty Dog’s Multiplayer modes have always been entertaining, yet lacking. So when I heard that The Last of Us would have its own system, I was worried. Usually these multiplayer experiences are the easiest way to break the immersion of the game and since The Last of Us is all about that immersion, the premise didn’t sound good. Then I played it.

When you start the multiplayer “campaign” (long story, I’ll explain in a second) you are forced to select either the Fireflies or the Hunters as the group you belong to. After you have done this, you find out that you are in charge of your own camp and over the course of 14 weeks, you will lead parties to gather supplies to grow your camp and keep everyone healthy. These supplies are earned in the two different game types and your performance in each will impact the success and health of your camp. Each match you play takes up one day and roughly once a week you will be given a scenario that forces your to change your tactics up to earn bonuses.

Combat is constantly nerve wracking, the game is a constant 4×4 setup and teamwork may be the most important aspect to your success. Being outnumbered is always a deadly scenario and bullets are few and far between. In fact, having a double-digit amount of bullets is considered to be a luxury that is quite uncommon to come by. I spent most my time relying on crafted items to help my team and myself. Everything you do in The Last of Us’ multiplayer is important and the meta game that runs outside of combat makes me always Burning-body-TLOU-MP

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

100
 

Offset

100
    

10

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Presentation, characterization, and storytelling are all flawless.
  • The tension of survival consumes you.
  • Empathy affects your entire range of emotions.

Cons:

  • Minor pop-in issues, clipping, and odd physics can be found if you look hard enough.
  • That’s it! Move it along!
  • Actually, we could also call this “Fuck: The Game”
May 312013
 

Fuse_boxIt’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Insomniac Games. As a pillar of the PlayStation experience, they’ve been at the helm of not only my favorite franchise of all time, Ratchet & Clank, but the extremely underappreciated Resistance. Their constant stream of quality exclusives is a huge factor in why I game on Sony consoles. So when their new multiplatform IP was announced, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned.

Insomniac didn’t exactly help to quell these fears either. Initially revealed as Overstrike, the game had a charming, stylized look and feel. After a long period of little chatter, the game oddly resurfaced as Fuse. Classic internet vitriol ensued. The term ‘generic’ is a trite pejorative slung around far too often. (Case in point: Resistance has been labeled ‘generic’ despite its uniquely old-school design choices, grand extraterrestrial lore, and weaponry that can shoot through walls.) That’s why I try to avoid the term at all cost. But with this redesign, I couldn’t help but feeling that for the first time in their history, Insomniac had created something that would have trouble distinguishing itself from the pack. I even found myself wanting to join the vile scum I had once despised and label Fuse as ‘generic’. However, despite those transgressions, my confidence in Insomniac’s abilities, their satisfying gameplay, and a stellar track record kept me cautiously on board.

Fuse_charactersFuse is built from the ground up as a co-op shooter. The four distinct characters – or better stated, four distinct guns – each bring something unique and fun the experience. Dalton’s Magshield emits a protective barrier which can absorb bullets and project a wide range shotgun blast back at foes. This gives him a very brute, up-close-and-personal feel. Initially tethered to your weapon and movement, shields can later be upgraded and plopped down anywhere. Jacob’s Arcshot serves as a ranged weapon. The scoped crossbow shoots flaming bolts that can pin enemies to surfaces, engulf them in flames, and later detonate to spew liquid death in all directions. The two ladies that round out the team have more all-purpose weaponry that operate similar to automatic machine guns or rifles, and some interesting secondary abilities. Izzy’s Shattergun crystallizes enemies, pulling them out of cover for easier disposal. Its secondary fire can be used to drop a health beacon, which will not only heal allies in its vicinity, but revive downed partners to. Last but not least is Naya’s Warp Rifle. By painting enemies with Fuse, it triggers singularities. These black holes implode enemies and can be strategically chained though large groups. The Warp Rifle can also cloak Naya, allowing for a stealthy approach to many combat scenarios. Each weapon is fun to use, especially when combining or chaining kills, and provide contrasting strategy. While I found myself frequenting Naya and her Warp Rifle, I’d imagine each character will have their fanbase.

There are also additional weapons to use, but for the most part I found them to be largely dismissible. Shotguns, automatics, and a sniper seemed silly to use when the Fuse weapons served similar purposes. With the ability to leap between characters, someone almost always had some Fuse ammo, and even when I’d run out, I’d prefer to run around wildly searching for a replenishment than pull out my boring, normal-bullet-shooting pistol.

FUSE_triton_bossThe campaign, comprised of six lengthy missions was also fairly dismissible. A group of misfit operatives is sent to secure and destroy a failing experimental weapons lab. Raven – the ‘bad guy’ organization – wants to steal this technology and use it for their own evil purposes. The story that follows offers up some early shining moments, with a few solid boss battles, but fails to maintain that brilliance throughout. Varied enemy types keep things from feeling completely bland, but I kept waiting for occurrences to trump those early battles, and they just never came.

Fuse_Raven_Base_MaelstromBeing a guy who primarily plays single player, it’s almost immediately apparent that the game is not designed for me. Partner AI is more of a hindrance than a help. Many times I’d find myself awaiting revival as I bleed out, only to die, resulting in failure and the restarting of the previous check point. The leap feature, which is great for allowing you to play as everyone, is a little clunky. Sometimes, with the team working at my side, transitions were flawless. Other times, when team members strayed, or hung back in previous rooms away from the firefight, it would be disorienting. Odd button mapping didn’t help either. Upgrading characters was a bit of a chore too. Placing points in skill trees could only be done by switching between characters then entering the menus. Had the trees been more unique this would have been a little easier to deal with, but each basically offered the same attributes. Focusing on unlocking secondary powers, beefing up my Fuse grenades with tendrils, and improving Fuse weapon skills meant that I followed almost identical paths for each, despite having to play around with four disconnected menus. 

FUSE_triton_hallThere is also a wave-based Echelon mode that serves up onslaughts of enemies with mixed objectives. With 12 rounds, in my handful of attempts I don’t think I ever even made it past 10. It’s a worthy challenge that requires a lot of teamwork. Thankfully, playing with actual human beings instead of bits of data does diminish some of my former gripes. It’s hard for me to critique or compare it given how little multiplayer I play, but it does feel like a more varied, natural progression from Resistance 2 co-op.

Fuse_IndiaAs expected and feared, the visuals fail to impress. Just as with the story, there are some shining moments. An underwater bunker, a lush, tropical volcanic island, and snow covered mountains are pleasant, and offer up some nice draw distance. But with roots firmly in realism, they aren’t anywhere near as jaw dropping as Insomniac’s past otherworldly works. Insomniac did listen to some of the early critics, and added color to a lot of the drab interiors. This resulted in some bold uses of yellow, blue, and green throughout. But it’s like painting a rock: it may draw your eye for a second, but  you soon realize you’re staring at a boring, lifeless rock.

Ultimately, that’s the game’s downfall. Satisfying weaponry aside, it just lacks that certain Insomniac charm. Without their name attached to it, expectations would be a little different, but I expect more from the studio I’ve happily called my favorite for the last decade. Fuse is in no way a bad game. The gunplay, when considering the four Fuse weapons, is just as good as any of their past titles. The humor from TJ Fixman still finds a way to creep though the more serious tone and offers up a chuckle from time to time. But everything else falls flat. The story and characters are forgettable, the visuals and audio are uninteresting, and the overall experience suffers for it.

FUSE_LedgeWith the co-op emphasis, there is a market for the game. I’ve always been a firm believer that even a mediocre game becomes more fun with some good ol’ couch co-op. While I haven’t sat down for a local session, I don’t think this is going to disprove that theory. Other than that, the sad, creatively-void people who overlooked Borderlands due to its cell shaded look will probably enjoy this. Fans of militaristic shooters may find it more palatable than Insomniac’s past gems. But, with the utmost respect and the heaviest of hearts, it’s hard for me to say that the true Insomniac’s will be pleased.

If there’s one positive to take away from this, it’s that Insomniac owns their new IP. While this first iteration may have shot itself in its anatomically correct, pallid foot, there is a lot of potential for a franchise that Insomniac appears to be in for the long haul. The teaser ending shows promise. With minimal effort, new directions could be taken in both art and gameplay to make the franchise stand out. The Resistance franchise had a few missteps in its sequel, then finished out the trilogy with its strongest entry. Maybe we’re just getting the kinks out in the beginning this time. Call me crazy, but despite the lackluster arrival and disappointment, I still feel cautiously optimistic.

It’s not a horrible game; just a horrible Insomniac game. Presentation aside, its a proficient shooter. But, a seven for them is pretty bad considering all of their past efforts have been amazing in my eyes. It’s a pity since they really could have show off all their strengths and expanded their following by going multiplat. I don’t think they ever get the respect, or sales figures, they deserve. Fuse’s lack of vigor certainly won’t help.

Playstation 3

Graphics

70
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

65
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

70
    

7.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Fuse weapons are varied, interesting, and satisfying.
  • Co-op diminishes the game’s weaknesses.
  • Humor provides some quality laughs.
  • Izzy sure is purdy.

Cons:

  • Visuals are underwhelming.
  • The overall package lacks charm.
  • Solo play suffers due to strong co-op focus.
  • Shift in tone leaves a lot of questions as to what could have been.
Mar 282013
 

The Last of Us is my most anticipated game of the year, so when I saw that Sony had a thirty minute demo playable at PAX East, I was ecstatic. I was actually a little hesitant at first, wanting my first experience with the game to be when I finally get my hands on the final copy, but I ultimately succumbed to my hype for the game and decided to play it at PAX. Now before I get into my impressions, I want to make it clear that the show floor is not a very ideal place to play a game. It’s loud, there is usually lots of glare on the screen, you’re only playing a small (usually out of context) portion of the game, and you have to play standing up just inches away from the screen. The impressions I had of several games I played at PAX last year wound being way off once I was able to play the final games under normal circumstances, so keep that mind.

the-last-of-us-single-player-lengthWith all that said, after playing thirty minutes of The Last of Us, I remain just as excited for the final release as I was before playing. The biggest thing that stood out for me in the demo was the degree of challenge; the game is difficult. The thing that makes the difficulty so great is that it still feels fair. The demo starts off with Joel, Ellie, and Tess making their way through downtown Boston on their way to the Capital Building. It felt like this was very early in the game, likely the first time the three of them had been out together, and it didn’t seem like they had encountered the infected yet, but I could be wrong. You get a look at look at environments and do some light exploration and platforming before coming up to your first enemy encounter.

The game immediately makes it clear that often avoiding combat is just as valid as diving in headlong and gives you plenty of tools to facilitate this approach. The combat in the demo is limited to infected enemies, with two distinct types being present. The more advanced form of infected, called clickers, are completely blind, using sound to hunt you down. You can distract clickers by tossing bricks or bottles away from you to get them to investigate the sound. If you make too much noise they’ll be on you in no time, and the only way to kill them is either by stealth or with guns; your melee attacks are ineffective against clickers. Some of the most tense moments I experienced in the demo were having a clicker come charging at me with only one or two shots left in my gun. Once you miss, you are done for since there is no way to kill clickers in a head on encounter. I often died in these instances, but it felt fair because the reason for my death was my missed shots, not because the enemies were bullet sponges (one or two shots will take down every enemy in the demo).

originalThe other enemy type, runners, are in an earlier stage of infection and are more common (at least in this demo). They still have limited sight and rely more on that than sound to seek you out. Runners are faster than clickers and tended to be in larger groups, but are a bit easier to handle. You can dispatch runners much more easily, having the option of stealth take downs, guns, or melee attacks. With just your fists, it takes several hits to kill a runner (leaving you open to attacks by other runners or clickers), but if you have melee weapons such as a 2×4 or a brick, you can take them out much quicker. The combat in the demo felt really satisfying. It definitely felt like planning ahead and remaining undetected for as long possible was key to survival, and this game requires an element of strategy most modern action simply don’t, which is really refreshing.

As for the other aspects of the game, Naughty Dog’s production quality shines through in every second of the demo. The motion capture and voice work are unsurprisingly excellent, and the environments look fantastic. There was some weirdness with the image quality, but it seemed to me to be an issue with the TVs and not the game itself, though I can’t say for sure (though the fact that no gameplay footage shown thus far has had that issue, I lean toward it being the TV). My expectations for The Last of Us are as high as ever, and we only have to wait a few months. You can expect a review of the game from me when it hits stores this June.

Feb 262013
 

This past week, as everyone that follows games was expecting, Sony announced their next generation console; the Playstation 4. I am personally very excited about the PS4, and I can’t wait for the next generation to finally begin and to put the longest console generation in the industry’s history to bed at long last. I’ve seen many differing opinions on Sony’s press conference, some people think it was downright terrible and others think it is the best console announcement ever. I don’t fall into either of these camps, but I do feel like it was a largely successful press event and about as good as could have been expected from Sony. That’s not to say there weren’t aspects of it I had problems with though, so for these week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesdays I am going to count down what I consider the 5 worst and 5 best aspects of Sony’s PS4 announcement event. Let’s start off with the Worst aspects of the conference.

WORST

5. Blizzard

diablo-3

I’ve personally never really been a huge fan of any Blizzard games, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect them as one of the best and most successful developers making PC games. So, to have Blizzard walk out on stage at a console announcement event should have been a huge moment, but the excitement quickly dissipated when everyone realized they just announcing a port of a year old game. I have no problem with Blizzard porting Diablo III to consoles, but this was not the place the announce it. This to me felt just as insulting to the viewers as last E3′s Nintendo conference when they spent ages talking about Arkham City, another game most people had already played.

4. Lingering Questions

13.02.20-PS4_Holiday

This past week, as everyone that follows games was expecting, Sony announced their next generation console; the Playstation 4. I am personally very excited about the PS4, and I can’t wait for the next generation to finally begin and to put the longest console generation in the industry’s history to bed at long last. I’ve seen many differing opinions on Sony’s press conference, some people think it was downright terrible and others think it is the best console announcement ever. I don’t fall into either of these camps, but I do feel like it was a largely successful press event and about as good as could have been expected from Sony. That’s not to say there weren’t aspects of it I had problems with though, so for these week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesdays I am going to count down what I consider the 5 worst and 5 best aspects of Sony’s PS4 announcement event. Let’s start off with the Worst aspects of the conference.

3. Creepy Presenters

2440786-intensity

On the whole, I felt like most presenters did a great job. Mark Cerny and Andrew House, the two main presenters, were both so good I almost didn’t care that there was no Jack Tretton, almost. However, there were two presenters in particular that came off as kind of creepy, and honestly made me a little uncomfortable. The presenter from Evolution Studios introducing Drive Club was fine at first, I liked his enthusiasm about the game his studio had been making, but it quickly began getting awkward when it became clear just how much he really loved cars. Maybe it’s because cars have never been more than a tool for getting around tor me that I just don’t get fetishistic car love, but nevertheless it came off as a little over the top. However, that paled in comparison to the guy from Sucker Punch who came out and was immediately talking about the time he was teargassed and putting forth a not-so-subtle anti-police message. The fact that he was clearly talking about his real world views and not the game came off as really out of place. I am watching to see the games, not be preached to about government spying and police brutality. Infamous: Second Son looks cool though…

2. Noncommittal Features

sony-playstation-4-ps4-gaikai-cloud-social-streaming-005

Sony had a lot really cool idea to show about things they could implement using their new Gaikai technology, which was great. Unfortunately, a lot of the ideas they shared had of a lot troubling vocabulary attached to them like “we’d like”, “we may”, “someday”, “our goal”, and “possibly”. For as cool as a lot of these features sound, like streaming the entire catalog of previous generation systems, having a friend remotely take control of your game, or having the system predict what games you want to buy, I have to take them with a grain of salt considering they aren’t actually confirmed to be part of the system when it launches.

1. Square Enix

original

I honestly don’t know why Sony even bothered having Square Enix on stage. They showed a lengthy tech demo, which would have been fine, if not for the fact that WE SAW THAT EXACT DEMO A YEAR AGO. I don’t know why they would devote time for Square Enix to show something we’ve already seen, it felt like a total waste of time. Aside from that, they just basically said “we are making a new Final Fantasy game”, which isn’t really news considering how damn obvious it is. They concluded their presentation by saying, “see you at E3!”, which is what they should have waited for to say anything rather than wasting time saying absolutely nothing.

Head to page 2 to check out the best aspects of the conference.

Feb 202013
 

So begins the next generation of consoles. Today Sony unveiled their upcoming console, the Playstation 4, answering one of the biggest questions coming into the press conference called by the company near a month ago, which was what would the name be. What exactly would happen during the press conference has obviously been the other big question, would it be a standard E3 esque conference or would it simply be a get together announcing the new console and possibly unveiling a title or two? Well, the smoke has cleared and here is all you need to now regarding Sony’s PS4 and the announcements made today:

  • Press conference starts out with Sony touting the hardware specs, on par with all current high end PC’s
  • Controller design is unveiled, small screen on controller, improved rumble, head phone jack, and a bar that tracks the movements of the controller.
  • Original IP, Knack, announced, third person action game.
  • A simple button press will put the PS4 into a low power mode, making saving and loading seem irrelevant.
  • Downloading games now to be done in the background, ability to play the game as it downloads.
  • Also shown off was a “predicted” feature, where the console can predict and download the next title you may want. It seems a bit farfetched and needs more explanation but if it works the way they say, it could be something special.
  • Sony wants to make all PS4 titles playable on Vita. Knack is shown on Vita, looks worse than PS4 version but not by much.
  • No backwards compatibility, Sony says that they hope “one day” all Playstation 1, 2, and 3 titles will be playable on PS4.
  • Games begin rolling out, first up is a new Killzone. Despite the sadness of yet another Killzone, it manages to impress visually, showing a lot of color. That being said, it seems as if just another, granted prettier, Killzone.
  • DriveClub feature announced, seems like one big social item for racing games. Was too distracted by the car porn talk.
  • Infamous: Second Son announced.
  • Jonathan Blow appears and shows the first trailer for his upcoming title, The Witness. The game looks great and will be coming first to the PS4.
  • Some faces are shown off by David Cage, sadly no Beyond gameplay nor trailer.
  • Capcom unveils Panta Rhei engine, uses Deep Down (Working Title) to show off the engine. The “game” looks fantastic but I’m far from convinced that was actual gameplay.
  • Finally, what I personally have been waiting for, Watch Dogs appears and steals the show. Looks absolutely incredible and only reinforces its position as my most anticipated next gen game.
  • Blizzard appears!… And announces Diablo III for PS4/PS3. Definitely underwhelming, Blizzard’s appearance should have been more than showing a logo for an already released PC game.
  • To end the show, Bungie comes out and shows off some of their upcoming project, Destiny, which they are very happy to be releasing on both the PS4/PS3. Biggest item of note was the exclusive content announced for Sony, assuming exclusive DLC?

Those were it folks, my notes taken during the conference compressed into some hopefully readable news tidbits. Sadly, no price point nor an actual box being shown off. I’m assuming we’ll have to wait until E3 to get those two pieces of information. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more on the PS4 in the weeks to come and we will obviously be keeping you up to date with every news item we catch wind of.

Feb 112013
 

1 Sly CoverHanding your beloved franchise off to another developer has often produced unimpressive results. It has happened time and time again, and will continue to. So when it was announced that the Sly Cooper franchise – one of my favorites from the PS2 era -  would be handed off to the relatively unknown Sanzaru Games, I was a bit worried. Thankfully, countless press events and a few impressive demos quelled any fears, catapulting Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time to the top of my most anticipated list of games of 2013. After eight years of absence, does the Cooper Clan have what it takes to make it in today’s ever-changing market?

2 Sly JapanFor those familiar with the story, the game picks up right where Sly 3 left off. For those who aren’t, shame on you, but the game has an excellent introduction to get you up to speed. The team has taken some time off from their thieving ways, but are forced to reunite when Bentley discovers that the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus are disappearing. 3 Sly El JefeMaking use of the time machine that he constructed at the end of the original trilogy, the team travels through time to rescue Sly’s ancestors, foil the plans of those responsible, and right the flow of time. That’s about all you need to know for the story. It’s not the deepest, but it further develops a couple of the primary characters and serves up a few nice twists. More importantly, it allows fans to meet many of the fabled members of the Cooper Clan. That direction in and of itself is brilliant! It allows for many great opportunities. Casting such a wide net means the ancestors and villains are very diverse. Time periods vary greatly, spanning from feudal Japan, to the wild west, medieval England, ancient Arabia, and even all the way back to 10,000 BC.

Sly games on the PS2 always had a certain charm to them, much in thanks to the cell shaded graphics and superb implementation of sound. The technical capabilities of the PS3 have only accentuated those qualities. Each setting is gorgeous. Vivid colors are thrown around liberally, especially toward the end of the game. The large environments, similar in layout to the latter games, impress at every turn. It’s easy to see that a lot of love and care was put into each episode, in details both large and small. As they should, each time and place feels unique. Anthropomorphic enemies fit within the period specific framework. Background music and sound effects mesh well. Even small details, like the appearance of coins, change throughout time.

Sly CinemaCinemas have also been overhauled. While they sometimes adopt the still frame layout of game’s past, they stray on far more occasions. Most play out like delightful Saturday morning cartoons. Others opt for a hand drawn approach, often relying on humorous simplicity. I cannot recall a recent game with cinemas that impressed this much. I could simply watch them all day.

Gameplay for the main trio remains familiar, with a slew of advancements to upgrades. For instance, (The) Murray’s hands can be charged with fire or electricity, or later have the ability to confuse enemies. Carmelita, who is playable for the first time, can switch between rapid fire, charging, or a triple shot. But the real progression comes from the varied styles of each ancestor. Each historic member of the Cooper Clan brings a unique skill or two. Even their basic attacks stray from Sly’s repertoire, providing interesting new charge moves and stealth takedowns. 5 SlyOne ancestor in particular abandons the melee formula almost completely. Another has an interesting alternative to the paraglider. Costumes unlocked in each episode also allow Sly to gain some interesting abilities, mainly to aid in platforming and the unlocking of doors containing treasures.

Every bit of the game feels like classic Sly. Sadly, with the passing of time, some of the challenges and minigames – especially the sixaxis controlled ones – walk a fine line between homage and antiquity. I’m sure Sanzaru didn’t want to overtweak the formula and ruin everything, but they may have played it a bit too safe. There are moments of brilliance, like a hilarious montage with my new favorite member of the Cooper Clan, who was unmentioned in the lore until now. The majority of Bentley’s hacking minigames – which were always one of my favorite parts – are also enjoyable. The Tron-like tank parts are much improved, while the alter ego, side scrolling SHMUPs are contrastingly chaotic. Shooting galleries, which came up in a few instances, were also fun. But for every couple of these that impressed, there was another that felt stale, mainly due to the game’s overall lack of difficulty.

Sly Bentley hackIt’s also worth mentioning that a standalone title called Bentley’s Hackpack was released simultaneously. For a measly $3, it adds over 45 levels of Bentley’s hacking minigames, and 200 challenges. I haven’t got around to playing through them, but they look to be a bit more elaborate and difficult that the ones in game.

From a technical perspective, the game has a few minor issues. Later in the game, I found slight issues with the frame rate, mainly when collecting a lot of coins or evading alerted enemies. Loading times were also a bit long, but a few extra seconds is a drop in the bucket compared to eight years of waiting. While these were minor annoyances, they really didn’t impact my overall enjoyment.

Sly AncestorsDespite these few lackluster qualities, the game is pure fan service. I don’t want those minor complaints to deter you. It’s easy to see that the guys at Sanzaru love the franchise. It feels just as I would have expected a Sucker Punch sequel to feel. Clever title screens introduce each episode, making me wish all games implemented that idea. There are plenty of collectibles from all the previous entries, like the earlier used bottles and unlockable safes, as well as treasures and Sly icons (I call them slycons). References to past games, other franchises, and a few other pop culture pieces are sure to produce a smile. But most importantly, the rich lore of the Cooper Clan has been done justice. Finally developing those fabled ancestors was a brilliant choice. The Thievius Raccoonus has such a rich history of unique ancestors. Even more bold was Sanzaru’s decision to disregard that history and introduce a completely new ancestor. The entire third episode was sheer joy because of it. Quality characters, and the villains who abducted them, kept me wanting to see more. Hopefully we’ve started a new trilogy, because we’ve only just scratched the surface.

4 Sly EnglandIf there is one thing that is largely disappointing, it’s that Sony only had the confidence to price the game at $39.99. I would have been just as satisfied paying $59.99. I know that’s a dumb thing to complain about, but I’m still a huge fan of whimsical 3D platformers. It pains me to see them struggle, or be thrown to the wayside by today’s gamer. Eight years ago, they were plentiful. Now, they are few and far between. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the focus changed, but I miss them dearly. Throwing me a bone or two a year just isn’t cutting it.

6 Sly ArabiaThieves in Time clearly demonstrates that these games still have their place, even if it is a bit of a niche. Fans of the series will fall right back in love. And hopefully some new fans can hop aboard my ‘I-still-love-cartoony-platformers’ train to generate a little more noise. Thieves in Time may not be the hugest step forward for gaming, but it transports you back in time to a different period in gaming, where games were full of color, humor, and creativity. I love dismembering a Necromorph just as much as the next guy, but there’s nothing that beats the unbridled joy I experience from such whimsy.

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

100
 

Execution

85
 

Offset

90
    

9.3

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Charm and humor are unchanged.
  • The power of the PS3 allows for some breathtaking environments.
  • Music and sound effects are still phenomenal.
  • Ancestors are interesting and add progression to the gameplay.

Cons:

  • A few of the challenges and minigames feel outdated.
  • Most of the game is a bit easy.
  • Carmelita’s voice seems a bit off. ;)
  • That ugly cross buy icon ruins a lovely piece of cover art.
Jan 212013
 

Somewhere along the line, I made a horrible mistake. I’m not quite sure why, but I never paid attention to the marketing of a little game called Sound Shapes. Not long ago, Sony decided to put it on sale. Seeing it praised time and time again, I decided to purchase it on a whim, merely after watching a short gameplay video. Boy, I’m glad I did! I just wish I would have noticed it sooner.

Much of my ignorance came from a busy holiday season, and not really knowing what the game was about. I would have probably seen the error of my ways had someone simply bludgeoned me over the head and said, “Joey, you like music, right? And 2D platforming? What are you, some kind of idiot?,” (The answers to each which I would have replied an emphatic, “Yes!”) So if you’re that blissfully blind sap, here is your wakeup call: Sound Shapes is FAN-fucking-TASTIC!!!

The game plays out like your standard 2D platformer. For the most part, you control this little amoeboid ball who has to make his way – usually by traveling to the right – to and from a turntable. You can jump, stick to certain surfaces, and run to cross larger gaps. Shades of red are used to represent various hazards, which present themselves statically in the environment, or as dynamic enemies and projectiles. Some levels later in the game stray drastically from this formula, but 2D platforming is always emphasized. These mechanics are simple, but do an excellent job in serving as the vehicle to usher in the game’s overall brilliance: the music.

The campaign is made up of five distinct albums, each containing four to five tracks. These EPs are all the result of collaborative efforts between noteworthy musicians and graphic artists. Under his moniker I Am Robot and Proud, one of the game’s designers, Shaw-Han Liem, starts things off with help from Vic Nguyen for the delightful Hello, World. From there, Superbrothers and Jim Guthrie keep their classic look for the corporate office themed, CORPEREAL. Then it’s back to I Am Robot and Proud for Beyonder, with some impressive mechanical and aquatic visuals from Colin Mancer. Next, Deadmou5 and Pixeljam pay homage to classic gaming with D-Cade. And finally, Beck and Pyramid Attack bring things to a beautiful close with Cities. Some tracks stood out against others. “Aquatica” from Beyonder added entirely new mechanics that were literally jaw dropping, while “Break-a-noids” from D-Cade added a much loved brick breaker theme.

The musical element and its intermingling is the uniquely astounding component of the game. Tracks start out with minimal noise, but though exploration and coin collecting, transform themselves into hypnotic rhythms. They evolve and devolve with every passing screen, and you can custom tailor that progression by choosing what to, or not to, collect. The completionist in me opted to collect all coins, though I’m kind of curious to play back through picking and choosing. Platforms, hazards, and mechanisms bristle with life, cleverly adding to the cacophonous harmony. The experience is simply intoxicating. It only took a few minutes before I was bobbing my head like a Butabi brother at the Roxbury.

The visuals aren’t of the highest fidelity. While each level does look nice, there’s not a lot happening on screen and finer details are minimal. However, the variation of art styles makes up for it. Allowing so many creative individuals to bring their unique flavor means no two albums are even remotely the same.

Then there’s the games editor. Like a good variety of Sony’s games, Sound Shapes includes the ability to create your own levels and play others’ creations. Add that to the main campaign, the death mode challenges for each level, and the beat matching challenges and there’s plenty of content to justify the cost. Plus, there’s the promise of new DLC albums this year!

Sound Shapes is an experience like no other. It’s simply one of the coolest games I’ve ever played. If you are a music aficionado, or even remotely a fan of 2D platforming, you must experience it. If for some odd reason you don’t like those two things: First off what the hell is wrong with you! And secondly, play it anyway! It will probably change your perception. With cross-play between the PS3 and the Vita, Sony fans have no excuse not to. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Going in, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Almost immediately, I was absolutely astounded! That’s one hell of a feeling, and one that’s rare to come across.

Playstation 3

Graphics

95
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

100
    

9.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Quality collaborative efforts mesh well to form something truly unique.
  • Stellar art direction compliments the audio.
  • Simple mechanics accentuate the sensory satisfaction.

Cons:

  • Silent loading screens seem boring by comparison.
  • On rare occasions, skipped beats upon loading or death take away from the music’s flow.
  • Graphical and audio fidelity, as well as editor options, leave room for improvement.
Jan 142013
 

It’s becoming that time yet again, folks. It’s time for the next gen hardware rumors to start swirling about like a Disney Channel character’s hair. This time around the rumor is being surfaced by a group that seems to know their business, Baird Equity Research. Colin Sebastian, a Baird representative, took his time to gather up all the rumors that have been floating around for the past year and has concluded (somehow) that both Sony and Microsoft will reveal their consoles just prior to E3 in June. Here are some direct quotes from Sebastian:

“Our checks suggest that next-generation console hardware will be largely built from ‘off the shelf’ high-end PC components, along with hybrid physical/digital distribution models, enhanced voice controls and motion sensing (Kinect integration with every Xbox), and broad multi-media capabilities,” he stated.

He also said: “Moreover, a PC-based architecture (Intel chips in the case of Xbox) should have a number of advantages over custom-developed silicon: for one, the learning curve for software developers will be shorter than completely new technology. Second, the cost of production and retail price points should be lower than prior console launches.”

Also predicted was that Sony would release their console in October while Mirosoft would release the new Xbox in November. Perhaps one of the best tidbits was that both consoles are expected to be $350-$400, a price point that is significantly lower than the PS3’s original $600 price tag.

As of right now this is all one groups prediction, with no real facts to back it up, but it does seem likely in the grand scheme of things. We shall see if Mr. Sebastian is correct in just a few more months as E3 begins to slowly creep upon us.

Source

Jan 132013
 

Knytt Underground intrigued me after seeing a few screens on the PlayStation Blog, so when I unwrapped a few PSN cards for Christmas, I knew what I was buying. At first glance, it would appear to borrow a stylized silhouette look similar to Limbo or Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. However, the background detail adds so much more. There’s a fine line between brilliant simplicity and shallow boringness. Where does Knytt Underground fall?

The game is comprised of three chapters. Chapter 1 introduces Mi Sprocket, the mute protagonist who can run, jump, and climb walls. There are also power ups which allow Mi to propel herself directionally, or blaze her own trail though the air. Not much later, Chapter 2 transforms Mi into a bouncing ball, allowing much higher jumping, as well as grappling in certain instances. After that the gloves are off, as Chapter 3 plunges you into the entire 1800+ room cave, allowing you to switch between mechanics with the press of a button.

Everything about the game is simple, in a good way. The visuals are impressive. Almost every one of the rooms offers something different to look at, in hues that span the entire visible spectrum. There’s so much vibrancy that I suspect a few shades from the invisible spectrum have also snuck in. Lovely groups of trees, flowers, and plants usually fill the backgrounds, but other themes ebb and flow throughout. Industrial machines and gears, glowing lava and poison pits, miniature cities, bioluminescent mushrooms, ethereal planes – should I keep going?

If there’s one fault, it’s the story. It was a bit too quirky and esoteric for me to follow – often riddled with expletives and sacrilege thanks to one of your accompanying fairies. I’m no saint, but a lot of the brashness seemed unnecessary. Your objective is to ring six bells to stop the approaching apocalypse. Along the way, you’ll meet all kinds of eccentric characters, who’ll send you on fetch quests, rewarding you with items that will allow you to gain access to the bells. There are also all kinds of other trinkets to track down, often requiring the flawless execution and combination of all the mechanics.

Overall, Knytt Underground is a great choice for fans of atmospheric indie platformers. It tackles the idea of spelunking perfectly. Despite the simplistic nature and odd story, I felt compelled to explore every single room. The large world easily justifies the price, and the game’s simplistic nature offers up a worthy challenge. The controls may not be the tightest, but solving each puzzle was extremely satisfying, even if they sometimes took many, many tries.

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

95
 

Execution

85
 

Offset

90
    

9.1

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Visuals and sounds are beautiful and soothing.
  • Mechanics are simplistic, but tough to master.
  • Large world offers plenty to explore.

Cons:

  • Loose controls can sometimes cause frustration.
  • Story is undermined by unneeded expletives, sacrilege, and rambling.

Nov 202012
 

LittleBigPlanet was one of the best new IPs this generation. I can’t even begin to fathom how much time I’ve spent with it. The sequel – which at first, like many, I was unsure was needed – was even more impressive. ModNation Racers was also a game I picked up, largely in part to its incorporation of the genius ‘play, create, share’ ideology. While it wasn’t as astounding as the LittleBigPlanet franchise, it did establish itself as a solid kart racer with some rather robust creation tools. Naturally, when news came out that Media Molecule and United Front had teamed up to created LittleBigPlanet Karting, I thought we’d get the best of both worlds. Sadly, the game just doesn’t live up to its potential.

The Good

Infusing the world of LittleBigPlanet into a kart racer is a great idea. Sackboy and his world are iconic. All the elements that make LittleBigPlanet such a success are here. Users will instantly feel at home navigating their Pod, Pop-it, and the traditional menu system. All of this is vastly superior, and a much needed improvement, to the navigation hub and wheel in ModNation. Stephen Fry reprises his role as the witty narrator, which will leave you chuckling on multiple occasions. Cutscenes play out just as they would in LittleBigPlanet, with gibberish and absurdity. The background music is still phenomenal, combining some old favorites with new, equally catchy songs. Mechanics from LittleBigPlanet, like bounce pads, the grappling hook, and the ability to slap are also nice inclusions.

The track creator is probably the best representation of mixing the good from both franchises. Tracks are still created by simply driving the paint roller, while the terrain can be sculpted into any shape with a bit of work. To top that off, a large portion of the powerful creation mechanics from LittleBigPlanet also appear, like emitters, logic gates, and much more. Textures can also be painted on the terrain, giving even the most mundane environments that classic, whimsical LittleBigPlanet feel. All these tools and goodies breathe extra life into the tracks, easily one upping ModNation.

Crafting a simple track can be done in minutes, while creating elaborate tracks may take hours. Because there are so many toys to play with, controlling and manipulating everything is a bit complex, but that’s a testament to just how much there is to tweak. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time with the creation tools, but there’s no doubt, like all of the ‘play, create, share’ installments, that the community will create some great tracks.

[Edit: I've now spent quite a bit of time with the creation tools. My first level, Volcano Island 2.0 - a recreation of my concept from ModNation - is the result of hours upon hours of playing with all the tools. I'm having a lot of fun creating, but sadly its excellence is only part of the whole. A user on Gamefaqs was making youtube videos with his impressions, so I jumped on the offer. While he had a fair share of complaints, I think the concept and level design show how much work I put in, and what the game is capable of. Give it a look: Volcano Island 2.0.]

Also worth noting, for those of you familiar with ModNation, the loading times are exponentially improved. While this was one of my biggest concerns pre-launch, after spending some time with the game, I’d gladly take back the insanely slow loading times if it meant I’d enjoy the overall experience more.

The Bad

Despite the increase in beauty and charm provided by the influx of LittleBigPlanet ingredients, somehow the world felt hollow. I don’t know if it’s just the transition to 3D, but I was never as impressed with the visuals or ancillary characters. The flat cardboard cutouts, and simplistic creatures put together with a couple wobble bolts, were boring compared to the likes of quirky characters like Larry Da Vinci, Avalon Centrifuge, Clive, and Dr. Higginbotham. It also didn’t help that in an effort to promote online play, races were filled with a group of identical looking Hoard adversaries, then topped off with a group of generic Sackbots.

As for that Hoard story, it also just wasn’t as impressive as the Collector or the Negativatron. (Plus, while grammatically acceptable, the Hoard was referred to as a plural unit…or I should say the Hoard were referred to as a plural unit. I’ve always opted for the singular form, so this ‘were’ a minor annoyance.)

Character and kart customization, while holding true to the LittleBigPlanet universe, ironically don’t allow for as much creativity. I spend a good chunk of time creating characters and karts in ModNation. While the customization options are proficient, and there are some really nice unlockables, I can’t help thinking what could have been had I been able to further customize my Sackboy, kart, or create something entirely from scratch.

The Ugly

Track design seemed either rushed or lazy. Where ModNation had expansive tracks, with all kinds of switches and shortcuts, these tracks were often straight-forward and extremely short. Three lap races were usually completed in under three minutes. Battle mode played out the same, with three minutes of frantic chaos – and I mean that as a pejorative. Never in my wildest imagination would I have predicted that I’d have actually liked the world of ModNation better. That’s not to say the level design is all bad. Some of the optional tracks and challenges change the formula for the better. There are a few lengthy checkpoint races and a boss battle that are extremely enjoyable. Plus the RC tracks, with their aerial camera and simplified mechanics, prove that things don’t have to be complex to be fun. But for every concept or track that is great, there are countless others I could do without.

The kart racing itself also felt like a step backwards. Karts seemed lethargic and weapons have devolved. Gone is the choice to save a weapon to upgrade its power. That could have been acceptable had there been two weapon slots, but that’s not the case. This annoyance is only compounded by the fact that the independent shield from ModNation, which was linked to a boost meter instead of weapon slot, has also been abandoned. After losing multiple races due to my lack of defensive measures – which could instantly take you from a qualifying position to dead last – I decided to just hoard my weapons to protect my rear. Even then, I often found myself successfully blocking a projectile only to be hit by a second one seconds later before even being able to resupply.

All of these gripes compounded to form an experience that seemed to favor luck rather than skill. All the strategy that made ModNation great was ditched for a casual, simplified experience. Towards the end of the story, I found myself replaying levels in a desperate effort just to get third. When I finally did, I didn’t feel accomplished; I felt lucky.

I hate to be a Negativatron, but the game seemed much more like a chore than a joyous experience. What could have been a brilliant collaboration of two ideas, turned out to be inferior to ModNation Racers, and a blemish on the otherwise perfect LittleBigPlanet name. That’s not to say that there weren’t brief moments of glory; they were just few and far between. People who never played ModNation may find blissful ignorance. Others, who favor couch co-op and online multiplayer, may avoid a few of my complaints. However, repeat customers are doomed only to see the game’s regression. Had United Front simply taken the strengths from ModNation, like the solid mechanics and  level design, and merged them with the charming LittleBigPlanet universe, they’d have had a sleek, shiny muscle car. Instead, they tweaked way too much under the hood, and ended up spinning the tires on their 92 Geo Metro.

Playstation 3

Graphics

75
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

70

Creativity

65
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

70
    

7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • The charm of LittleBigPlanet is still present, even if it’s a bit inconsistent.
  • Loading times are minimal.
  • ‘Play, create, share’ mean endless content.

Cons:

  • Almost all of the great mechanics and creation tools from ModNation Racers are absent.
  • Tracks are short and uninspired.
  • Single player suffers to encourage multiplayer.
Oct 232012
 

Just as it is impossible to write a review without mentioning it, it’s impossible to create a 007 game without having Goldeneye somewhere in mind. It’s understandable as that was by far the most successful Bond game to date and one of the best N64 games during its time. But the simple fact is no Bond game will ever meet those standards, they’ve reached such epic proportions that no matter how hard a developer strives, it will never be the next Goldeneye. That being said, developers continue to try, pumping out one derivative shooter after another. Eurocom can now add their creation, 007 Legends, to that expanding list.

The premise behind Legends is to bring together multiple famous Bond stories into one cohesive experience, though cohesive isn’t necessarily how it turns out. To say that these stories are brought together sloppily is an understatement. The game begins with Bond taking a nasty dive off of a bridge and with that comes flashbacks to Daniel Craig’s yesteryears. Because Daniel Craig was in Goldfinger, right? Moon Raker? No?

That aside, the stories are neat to see retold even if it isn’t set up very well. Spotting familiar faces like Odd Job and Jaws is nice and the writers rehashed the plots well enough to where each story entertains just enough to hold your attention. An issue most should be aware of before purchase is that I completed the story in less than four hours and thirty minutes. I have been known to blaze through games but even if I was, that would still mean Legends’ runtime would only be around five hours. It doesn’t last too long and definitely doesn’t have an intriguing backstory, but the multiple stories in Legends keeps you awake; sadly it doesn’t do too much more than that.

The most recent Bond video game experience I can say I thoroughly enjoyed was Bizarre Creation’s 007 Blood Stone. It didn’t have any revolutionary mechanics but it delivered some good thrills through multiple scripted events. Legends attempts to recreate some of that magic and for most part it works,  but it never achieves the level Blood Stone held high by letting you control the sequences in some way and therefore increasing the growing angst and intensity that is rising as the scene goes on. On top of that, the visuals don’t do Legends any particular favors either.

Don’t get me wrong, when you’re standing still, 007 Legends looks pretty good. The frame rate is high, textures aren’t hideous, and there’s just enough color and variety in the environment to pique your interest. But once combat begins, frame rate drops, and with that drop comes some absolutely ugly sequences of the game. These ugly sequences become heightened when you realize things such as a complete lack of variety in the design of the enemies. There seem to be around five different models, with each occasionally changing shirts. As you can guess, the dynamic clothing really livens up the whole experience. To call 007 Legends an ugly game would be a complete lie, it looks good. But the problem is that it can’t hold its framerate up, which means the visual appeal takes a dive alongside it.

One thing that has plagued the first person shooter genre for years is its lack of any kind of innovation upon subsequent releases. Legends doesn’t do much to rectify that but the things that it does make an attempt at installing is nice,  though they never really comes to fruition. First and foremost, stealth has always been a staple of the James Bond world, and respectably enough, Eurocom recognized that and attempted to place a stealth aspect in their game. The issue is that the stealth feels mostly uninspired and unfinished. It’s in no way an offensively awful element to the game but it’s a frustrating and boring one due to lack of polish. First person stealth has never been a fun thing to take part in so that’s arguably the first frustration in the game but from there on it becomes more of a bore to fly through other than an actual exciting gameplay mechanic. The worst parts are by far are the sections that force you to be stealthy. The stealth isn’t the issue here, though, as it’s the load times that kill these sections. There were multiple times where the load times would border one minute and even go up to one and a half. It doesn’t seem that bad but once you have to experience it over and over, it begins to take away any kind of pace the game is setting up. From videos I’ve watched, this issue seems to only be prevalent on the PS3 version.

Obviously, when you’re creating a shooter, you must make the actual combat strong enough to support a whole game and Eurocom made strides to do that by installing an upgrade system that can be applied to all weapons. The problems are that these upgrades are mostly limited to simple choices such as iron sights or red dot sight. That doesn’t completely negate the customization, it’s nice to have, but it could have been so much better. That customization may not have helped though as the gunplay itself is mediocre at best. Accuracy issues are prevalent in every weapon used and never ceased to frustrate me whether I was in an open space or hiding behind cover. The saddest thing is that I see the exciting combat in my sights, 007 Legends just cannot reach out for it.

Next up was the installation of a cover system that has existed before but never exactly “worked.” The idea is to duck behind a box, wall, etc. and from there you can aim and press up on the left stick to pop your head up and pick off enemies. The idea of using the left stick obviously messes up precise aiming as Mr. Craig likes to slide to the left or right whenever you want to pop your head out. Thankfully, the cover system can quickly become irrelevant if you wish as the difficulty is never too grueling. On a side note, it’s a small element but Legends has a melee combat system comprised of multiple quick time events. This system is usually their idea for “boss fights” and although it doesn’t provide any kind of real challenge or innovation, it’s a nice change of pace and is definitely better than having a strong enemy just be a bullet sponge until he collapses over into a boneless heap.

Because 007 Legends is a first person shooter, that means it must have its own little multiplayer experience. This multiplayer experience is harmless in every way and can even bring about some excitement. Eurocom pumped multiple varied game modes into Legends’ multiplayer including fan favorites like Golden Gun. This would all work out perfectly if the combat itself was of higher quality. This issue is not prevalent in the recent Goldeneye remake (Also developed by Eurocom), however, so if you need your multiplayer fix, head that way.

007 Legends is meant to be pure fan service and visual eye candy to those who have been dying for remakes of the older Bond films. It’s far from a remake but it does recapture some of the magic those movies produced. Sadly, that magic is short lived as the bland and frustrating gameplay quickly takes over and begins to sour the whole experience. Like I mentioned previously, I can see the decent 007 game I’m craving in the distance, and it seemed like Eurocom was close to grabbing it after their Goldeneye remake. But instead, they’ve only taken steps backwards. Where shall they go from here?

Playstation 3

Graphics

60
 

Audio

60
 

Gameplay

50

Creativity

55
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

55
    

5.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Oct 182012
 

Fleshed out from a tech demo created four years ago, The Unfinished Swan is itself finished. Much like the Portal franchise, this FPS (Fresh Paint Shooter) attempts to move the first person genre in a completely new direction. Instead of spraying out chunks of lead, the player slings harmless globs of paint (lead free since 1977) in a world often devoid of detail. Straying from the norm of the first person perspective is extremely ambitious. Few have triumphed. Can the guys at Giant Sparrow paint a masterpiece, or will this project simply be too abstract?

The Unfinished Swan is a story about a young orphan named Monroe. Monroe’s mother was a painter but never finished any of her works. After her death, he was only allowed to keep one of her pieces: her favorite, a swan. One night, he awakens to find that the swan has jumped from the canvas and walked through a small, mysterious door. On his path to catch the swan by following its footprints, Monroe makes his way through an intriguing world crafted by an eccentric, perfection-craving  king. (You know a man’s a bit odd when he has a pet hippo.)

I see a red door and I want it painted black.

At the start, everything is white. To get your bearings, you splatter black paintballs as conservatively or liberally as you choose. (There’s even a trophy for only splatting three paintballs in the first area.) This mechanic is so simple, yet so fun. The paintballs also make the most beautiful splatter patterns. On more than one occasion, I found myself turning around to admire my beautiful mess. (There are slight execution problems with the paint splatters, as I found they would sometimes seep through cracks and walls or improperly bend around corners, but this can be easily overlooked – which is why I hid it.)  

As the story progresses, the visuals evolve. Not long in, shadows begin to appear, as well as a few soft color tones, which flesh out the world and allow for new mechanics to be introduced. Paintballs are replaced by water drops. After hitting a few paddle switches, vines spring to life. These vines can be trained to grow in certain directions by leading them with the water. This allows Monroe to bridge gaps and climb on walls.

In the third chapter, the game takes a darker tone. (both literally and figuratively) Set in the night, once again new mechanics are introduced as you make your way though a bioluminescent landscape. The art direction deviates quite a few times from here on out, but I don’t want to ruin anything, especially the lovely ending as you assume the role of the king in his beautifully stylized home. (Make sure to check yourself out in the mirror for a moment reminiscent of Psychonauts.)

The game can be played with various controllers. I preferred the Dualshock, but the Move controller could also be used by itself or with the navigation controller. (or Dualshock) Using the Move by itself made traversal a bit awkward, but an analog stick easily remedied this.

Overall, The Unfinished Swan, while simplistic, does some really interesting things with both its gameplay and visuals. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before. It’s 120 minutes of whimsical delight. Sadly, it ends long before I wanted it to. There are extras to unlock (including some nice concept art and an early prototype of the game) by collecting the 60+ balloons scattered throughout the game, but this can all be accomplished in two playthroughs. Despite its brevity, The Unfinished Swan is certainly worth your time, even if the price seems a bit steep.

Playstation 3

Graphics

95
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

100
    

9.3

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

 Pros:

  • Clever, unique mechanics shift throughout the experience.
  • Simplistic look is aided by beautiful art direction and creativity.

Cons:

  • Two hour length may not justify the price to some. (You cheap bastard!)
  • Ladder and vine climbing is a bit odd.

Thanks for reading.

Oct 062012
 

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

Hell Yeah!

PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Contains: Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.


It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out that Hell Yeah! is over the top. A brief glimpse at a few screenshots will reveal that there is simply nothing like it. Fans of atmospheric, old-school, Metroidvania platformers/shooters shouldn’t even need to heed my words. Still, if you seek a little reassurance, here you go.

The story surrounds Ash, the prince of Hell. A compromising picture of him, naked in the tub with his rubber ducky, leaks on the Hell-ternet. (See, Hell isn’t that bad; they have internet… even if it is probably dial up.) To seek vengeance and reestablish his awesomeness, Ash must hunt down the person responsible for the leak and dispose of the em-bare-ass-ing evidence. Standing in his way are 100 other poor saps and locked doors impeding his progress, all which must be destroyed. But honestly, who really cares about the story for a goofy 2D platformer? What about the gameplay, you ask, even after I have already typed this?

For the majority of the game, Ash rides around in a wheel covered in destructive blades. This wheel of doom aids in traversal, helps destroy walls, and even acts as a jetpack. There are also sections where Ash abandons the wheel for some traditional platforming, or enters ships and submarines. In the beginning, enemies can be dismantled merely by grinding the wheel against their faces. As the story progresses, minions and bosses get tougher. Multiple guns are made available via the in-game store. These include a shotgun, bazooka, flamethrower, Gatling gun, Holy Water shooter, laser gun,  and various grenade launchers. While ammo is unlimited for everything accept the grenade launchers, each weapon has an ammo bar that is depleted when used too quickly. This gives each gun its own strategic advantages and disadvantages that will keep you trying multiple combinations.

Draining a foe’s life bar leads to a short, gore-filled, humorous, WarioWare-like mini-game. Completing these various mini-games, finishes off each challenger, while failing them hurts Ash,  forcing him to try again. There are dozens of these mini-games, which often contain humorous homages to classic games. Most of them contain some sort of quick time events, button mashing, or require proper timing. Some, like the one containing a Mortal Kombat reference, always made me giggle. Others wore out their welcome somewhat quickly, or were nebulously frustrating until the solution was figured out. I’m still not sure if there was a point to the ‘Quiz of Doom’ game which asked a question and gave wacky multiple choice answers. More often than not, even if they did get a bit repetitive, they were still fun to watch.

The controls were a bit loose. Button configuration was a bit weird too. On many occasions, I found myself watching the Megaman-esque death animation as I landed on one of the myriad of death spikes. Albeit a great nod, it did grow somewhat frustrating since it clearly wasn’t my fault since I am a gaming god. There were also some side missions which involved doing tricks with the wheel. Just because your mascot is a squid, doesn’t mean your consumers have more than two appendages they play games with, Arkedo. Still, these were optional, so you don’t have to torture yourself like I did.

There were a couple technical issues with the game. Loading screens were somewhat lengthy considering the game’s 2D simplicity. Clever tips and statements during loading try to make light of the situation, even referencing the long load times, but I’ve had sold my soul to the Devil himself to get in the game a bit quicker. The audio in game would tend to skip slightly in some situations, but it was almost unnoticeable thanks to the often frenetic soundtrack, which often just made it sound like a remix.

While the game did have a few faults, it had plenty of great attributes. The various weapons were fun to unlock and use. There were also dozens of hidden and unlockable collectibles to customize Ash’s head and his wheel. The ebb and flow of the varied gameplay and platforming elements kept the overall experience fresh.

Most of all, the environments were stunning. There’s quite a bit of variation in Hell. Ten zones offer plenty of sights to see. The Casino Zone is sure to be a hit with Sonic nuts – as is the retro Sega logo and audio that greets you as you boot up the game. The Psychedelic Zone also really impressed. But my personal favorite was “Happy Cute” Zone with its hearts, rainbows, and an infectiously hilarious song that was simultaneously insanely awesome and annoying, just as intended. In my eyes, a platformer is only ever as good as its environments, and Hell Yeah! delivers with some beautiful, unique zones.

From beginning to end, the game is  chock-full of quirky characters and imagery. It sprung from some really creative minds. Much like the classic platforming games of yesteryear, sheer joy comes from seeing what interesting environments wait just around the corner. The video game reference, spanning decades, also keep the humor flowing. Space Invaders, Duck Hunt, Sonic, Ocarina of Time, Guitar Hero – it’s all there in humorous fashion. These qualities more than make up for my few gripes, making Hell Yeah! a title worthy of the time of any platforming fan.

PC Game

Graphics

100
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

100
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

80
    

8.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Visuals and environments are unique.
  • Music is infectious.
  • Various video game references provide ample humor.

Cons:

  • Loading times are somewhat lengthy.
  • Loose controls can lead to some frustration.
Aug 312012
 

Details for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale are leaking like a sieve. A few days ago we got a look at Evil Cole. Then, Raiden followed right on his heels. Now, new footage has surfaced, pre-PAX, that shows off the remaining characters leaked weeks ago: Nariko from Heavenly Sword and Sir Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil.

Nariko:

Each form of the Heavenly Sword appears to be present, giving Nariko attacks of all shapes and sizes. The rocket launcher also makes an appearance with guidable projectiles. She also has a devastating ground pound that lifts large swords from the ground. Her level one super calls on Kai to play a bit of twing-twang, blasting a barrel of explosive fireworks. The level 2 super places her behind a mounted cannon, shooting large incendiary projectiles across the screen. For her level 3 super, her moveset changes entirely as she harnesses the power of the Heavenly Sword. These spinning and grappling attacks have an insane range to them, that seem almost unavoidable. Monkey peaches! Nariko looks good.

Sir Dan:

Sir Dan is another character I’m sad to admit I don’t know much about. He’s a bit lumbering, but his large sword and shield make up for it, dealing major damage within a wide range. He’s got a pretty devastating looking shield bash and can throw his head at combatants to stun them. Axe, hammer, and bow attacks are also shown off in his reveal trailer. His top super summons the Anubis Stone, which also has a giant area of effect. Looks like I need to give his game a go.

Time Station Stage:

The Ape Escape Time Station stage has also been seen on a few occasions. Now it’s mash-up has been revealed: a Chimera from the Resistance franchise.

That’s it for now. The next time I mention a new character reveal, which I believe will be the Tokyo Game Show in about 3 weeks, it will be someone that we haven’t known about. I’m brimming with excitement. I’m still cautiously optimistic for Crash, Spyro, Rayman, Isaac Clarke, or a Chimera.

Aug 282012
 

Not long ago, Cole MacGrath from the inFAMOUS franchise was added to the roster of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Now – conveniently on the day of release for the inFAMOUS Collection – he’s been added again in his evil karmic state. While some of his attacks bear a resemblance to his good counterpart, many of his others appear far more devastating thanks to Nix’s fire powers. Bolts, grenades, and rockets form beautiful incendiary explosions. One of his most impressive moves is the Ionic Drain super, which can suck the life from multiple adversaries. His top tier super channels the Beast, allowing Cole to hover around and hurl combustible chaos in all directions.

I’m happy to see Cole’s evil side. I was originally unsure of the choice to make him two separate characters, but they appear to stand on their own, offering two distinct play styles. They’re as different as fire and ice, literally. Plus ,combining both forms into one wouldn’t make much sense in the spirit of the game’s karma system. Hopefully his evil encore isn’t at the expense of another beloved character.

New reveals are just around the corner, as PAX gets underway in the coming days. Stay tuned for more details. Who knows? Maybe the next reveal will be Neutral Cole.

Also, if you haven’t played though the inFAMOUS franchise, now is the perfect time! For $39.99 you can pick up the new inFAMOUS Collection, which includes not only the first two games, but the Festival of Blood downloadable title.

Update: Gameplay for Raiden, one of the two PAX reveals, has hit the net. Like Dante, he’s proficient with swords and able to string serious combos. His level two super mirrors the free slicing mode from the upcoming Revengence. For his level three super, his opponents are placed in the franchise’s trademark stealth boxes, limiting their movement but hiding them since more boxes show up than players.

Aug 162012
 
Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

Yoshi's New Island

Nintendo 3DS

Contains: Mild Cartoon Violence

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.


When Papo & Yo was shown off at E3 in 2011, I was instantly intrigued. The puzzle platformer, set in a dreamlike world, looked unlike anything else. It wasn’t until following the game’s development that I realized there was much more to the story. From the opening quote, it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t going to be your average game:

“To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom I survived the monster in my father.

Minority Media’s creative director, Vander Caballero, has been very upfront with his reasons for making Papo & Yo. What appears to be a fantastic adventure is actually an allegory of his childhood, and it’s not as rosy as you would expect from the glowing exterior. At the center of the game is a story about a boy and his complex relationship with his father, an abusive alcoholic.

Quico, a young boy growing up in the poverty-stricken favelas of South America, is accompanied by his friend and protector, Monster. This large, lumbering, ambiguous creature is addicted to poisonous frogs. When he’s not under the amphibian influence, he’s great to be around. Coaxing the docile giant around with the allure of delicious coconuts, he’ll often provide helpful assistance, like stepping on a large switch. In other instances, he’ll lay down to take a nap, allowing Quico to reach a high ledge by bouncing off his coconut-engorged belly. However, when he becomes polliwog-plastered, he’s a fiery, dangerous and destructive force that must be avoided or subdued with rarer rotten fruit.

Not long after the start of the game, Quico meets Lula, a friendly robot pulled from his reality. She functions as a jet pack, allowing Quico to jump longer distances. There are also special switches that only she can activate. She’s (almost) always there to offer advice or direction – but I don’t despise her like that annoying Navi from Zelda.

The visuals, aided by excellent art direction, are great for a downloadable title. Changes from the early design are vastly superior. I’ve never seen a shantytown look so good. Graffiti is also scattered throughout the world, which provides ample opportunities to stop and look at real world pieces of art within a virtual piece of art. (Did I just break your brain?)

The music compliments the theme well. A acoustic mix of guitars, various other strings, woodwinds, and percussion really sets the mood. These Latin rhythms can be beautifully melodic, or tribally savage. They know when to crescendo, and they know when to get out of the way. Toward the end of the game, the beauty of it all really begins to tug at your heartstrings.

The surreal, child-like fantasy setting allows for some interesting, unbridled platforming. The M.C. Escher, or Inception-like ways the environments transform are sure to throw you off from time to time. I often had a smile on my face, whether I was moving massive buildings by simply lifting a small cardboard box, or watching a building sprout legs or wings. All of this is accomplished with various chalk lines and switches that intermingle throughout the world – though calling them chalk lines is selling them a bit short since they often take on an ethereal form. The platforming and puzzles aren’t too difficult. Conquering them to see how the world will react next is the real prize. Hints, in the form of cardboard boxes that Quico places over his head, provide brief explanations of mechanics if needed.

Throughout the game, Monster’s addiction, and that dream of curing it, weighs on your mind. The threat of his wrath is ever present. Frogs – which themselves are beautiful – often appear or impede your progress. A few hours in, you’ll be hastily smashing them against the wall to avoid Monster’s rage.

If there is one problem with the game, it’s with a few technical issues. There is a noticeable amount of screen tearing, and some very minor texture pop-in. The frame rate also seems to chug on a few occasions, mainly when the autosave kicks in. There’s a fair amount of clipping and collision detection could be a bit more precise. Because of it, animations often come off somewhat stiff. Also, while fleeing from Monster, the camera tends to pan behind the hulking beast, making it difficult to see Quico.

Still, those minor annoyances aren’t enough to ruin the gravitas of the game. While you may notice them, they are but an errant brush stroke on a much larger canvas.

Lately, especially in the downloadable space, there have been many games that straddle the line between video game and art. Often times they seem to favor the art, and let gameplay go by the wayside. Because of that I often find the comparison a bit pretentious. However, Papo & Yo is a brilliant mix of both that is clearly worthy of the title. I applaud Vander for his strength to expose such vulnerability and pain. The video game medium moves one step forward because of it. Never have I felt so emotionally attached to a game. I’ve smiled during games; I’ve laughed during games. I’ve even gotten angry from time to time. But never has a game had such a cathartic release. Papo & Yo elicits a response that until now had only been reserved for music and movies: tears. For that alone, the game is worth experiencing.

Playstation 3

Graphics

90
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

100
 

Execution

75
 

Offset

100
    

9.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Unrivaled emotional storytelling
  • Whimsical surrealism never ceases to amaze
  • Music enhances the entire experience

Cons:

  • Minor technical issues with the Unreal Engine keep the game from achieving perfection
  • Animations are a little rough around the edges
  • Little to promote replayability other than 25 collectable hats

Full disclosure: I am an insanely awesome individual. The even more awesome team at Minority recognized this and rewarded me (and two others) with a free copy of the game for submitting winning pictures in their Button Contest on Facebook. I’m glad to have even the slightest interaction with them, because the game had such a profound impact on me. Thanks again, Deb.

Aug 102012
 

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, the over-the-top game from Arkedo Studio, hooked me months ago the moment I saw the in-your-face teaser trailer. Details have been somewhat scarce, until today.

Violently break open your cute piggy bank with a sledgehammer and set aside $14.99. Then begin futile preparations in an attempt to avoid the inevitable face melting and voiding of your bowels when the game arrives for download September 25 on Playstation 3, September 26 on Xbox 360, and October 3 on PC. Fans across the pond can look forward to a £9.99 price point, and simultaneous release on all platforms also on October 3.

The game looks like the result of a bar fight between a children’s cartoon, a gang of neon signs, and an Iron Maiden album cover. For more information about vicious gameplay and humorous story, check out Matt’s impressions from PAX. I could post my own sentiments, but they’re really just going to mirror his so much to the point that it would just look like plagiarism. Work smarter, not harder.

Jul 162012
 

At Comic-Con, two new characters were announced for Sony’s upcoming brawler. This time they are less of a surprise. Both options come from critically acclaimed franchises from some of Sony’s best first party studios. Still, they are great to officially see.

Cole MacGrath, the superhero from Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS, was a shoo-in for the Comic-Con announcement. His basic electrical attacks are all there. Electrokinetic bolts, grenades, and missiles create a lovely light show. Electromagnetic powers, like a modified Induction Grind, shield-like Polarity Wall, and Lightning Tether are also present. I think I saw a bit of telekinesis too. Even with all these superpowers, Cole isn’t afraid to get in there and swing his Amp around. His top super unleashes an Ionic Vortex, which even wreaks havoc on some of the level. Cryokinetic abilities, borrowed from Kuo, are shown once. Cole appears in his positive karma attire, and is only seen using blue electricity. Whether he has access, or the option, to switch to his more devastating red attacks, or Nix’s fire powers, is still unknown. While ‘Good Cole’ has plenty of awesomeness to keep me satiated, the option for ‘Evil Cole’ would really take him to the next level. An appearance from the inventor of the Dunbar Beam would also be welcome.

Jak and Daxter, Naughty Dog’s titular duo from the PS2 era, were also revealed. My biggest question about Jak concerned his appearance (an issue Cole was also familiar with leading up to his sequel). SuperBot has favored the more mature, aggressive look from Jak 3, which is probably the right choice considering the juvenile Jak from the first game had far fewer moves in his repertoire. Plus, early Jak was Pecker-less. Who doesn’t love Pecker?… The Morph Gun appears as Jak’s main method of attack. Many of the gun’s upgrades are present, like the ricocheting Beam Reflexor, the devastating Needle Laser and Arc Welder, the turret-releasing Gyro Burster, and the enemy-freezing Mass Inverter. Jak can also evade with his hover board. Daxter even provides some melee assistance from time to time. Dark and Light Eco powers are also at Jak’s disposal. For his top super, Jak assumes his Light Eco form and flies around the screen shooting projectiles.

That’s two characters off my list. Once again, execution seems near flawless at reproducing two diverse characters. I can’t wait to give them both a spin. Now I eagerly await the announcement of my main, Ratchet & Clank, and cross my fingers that Sony ponies up the dough for the rights to their original icons, Crash and Spyro. Plus, I’ll be praying to the gaming gods for some third party support from Rayman.

Jul 062012
 

Today was a good day for fans of the upcoming PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. To start the day off with a bang, the game got a street date for October 23rd… but the details didn’t stop there. The pre-order bonus was also announced, which includes alternate costumes to the already revealed 9±1 characters (depending on when you read this post).

So far, the bonus costumes are as follows:

  • Kratos’ brother Deimos, prominently featured in Ghost of Sparta
  • Sweet Tooth’s rift energy infused Outcast skin from Starhawk multiplayer
  • Sly’s Robin Hood-like costume from Thieves in Time
  • Col. Radec’s heavier armor set (Forgive my ignorance on this one and feel free to set me straight.)
  • Fat Princess’ pirate-themed costume from the Fat Roles expansion pack
  • PaRappa’s space suit from UmJammer Lammy
  • Nathan Drake’s winter attire from Among Thieves
  • Big Daddy’s plush doll version that the Little Sister has in Bioshock 2

An exclusive costume for each of the characters in the game will be available to all those who pre-order. Plus, characters will also have multiple unlockable costumes.

Later in the day, Heihachi Mishima from Tekken and Toro, Sony’s catlike mascot from Japan, were added to the roster. Gamplay for each character was brief. Toro had three stances: a close-range Justice form, a ranged Torobi form, and a wide-area Oni form. He also received some assistance from his black cat buddy, Kuro. Heihachi did use his level 2 super move to summon his pet bear, Kuma, while his level 3 straps opponents to a launching rocket. Each of their bonus costumes were also shown. Heihachi dons his alternate costume from Tekken 3 while Toro goes business causal. Even that wasn’t all of the new information though. A new stage set in Chop Chop Master Onion’s Dojo was briefly shown, which included a Metal Gear mech in the background.

This game continues to ooze with fan service and I’m stoked! I hanging on every word of every announcement. Now I begin the agonizing wait until July 15th, when two more characters are announced at Comic-Con.

Jun 262012
 

Amazon has decided to spit out some rather impressive video game deals today. Though two are already expired (Spider Man: Edge of Time for 10 bucks and a Turtle Beach Ear Force X32 headset for 65 bucks) one that is still going and will be going until 4 o’ clock eastern time is the deal to pick up The Witcher 2 for 47 dollars. For the ridiculous amount of hours you could spend with that game, 47 dollars is far from a bad deal.

Another deal that will continue on until the end of the day is Max Payne 3 being sold for the low, low price of $39.99. Some could argue that with the mediocre multiplayer Max Payne 3’s eight hour campaign may not warrant a 40 dollar purchase but you can make that decision yourself.

 

Also appearing in the deals today appear to be multiple Playstation Vita accessories, the special edition of the Game of Thrones game, and another headset for PS3. If you only pick up one thing out of all this, though it isn’t a huge markdown, it’s hard to argue with The Witcher 2.

Jun 192012
 


The decisions are in, the best games at E3 have been announced! The process was quite difficult for many of the categories, every game nominated is an amazing one and each should get their own recognition. Below you will find our winners for each category, followed by the runner up. What do you think of the choices? Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comment section, we’d love to talk more about them!

Best of Show:

*Winner* Tomb Raider (360, PS3, PC)

Runner up: Watch Dogs (360, PS3, PC)

Best Wii U Game:

*Winner* ZombiU

Runner up: Pikmin 3

Best Playstation 3 Game:

*Winner* The Last of Us

Runner up: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Best Xbox 360 Game:

*Winner* Halo 4

Runner Up: Forza: Horizons

Best Portable Game:

*Winner* Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)

Runner up: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (Vita)

Best PC Game:

*Winner* SimCity

Runner up: Hawken

Best Console-Based Downloadable Game:

Guardians of Middle Earth (PS3, 360)

Runner up: Quantum Conundrum (360, PS3, PC)

Best Downloadable Content:

*Winner* The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim – Dawnguard (PS3, 360, PC)

Runner up: The Walking Dead: Episode 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

Best Indie Game:

*Winner* Hawken (PC)

Runner up: Natural Selection II (PC)

Best FPS/TPS Game:

 

*Winner* Borderlands 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

Runner up: Crysis 3 (PS3, 360, PC)

Best Role-Playing Game:

*Winner* Torchlight II (PC)

The Last Story (Wii)

Best Fighting Game:

*Winner* Persona 4 Arena (360, PS3)

Runner up: Injustice: Gods Among Us (360, PS3, Wii U)

Best Sports Game:

*Winner* Madden 13 (PS3, 360, Wii U, Vita)

Runner up: NHL 13 (PS3, 360)

Best Family Title:

*Winner* Skylanders: Giants (360, PS3, 3DS)

Runner up: Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PC, 3DS, Vita, 360, Ps3)

Best Action/Adventure Game:

*Winner* The Last of Us (PS3)

Runner up: Assassin’s Creed III (360, PS3, PC)

Best Free to Play Game:

 

*Winner* PlanetSide 2

Runner up: Hawken

Best Technology:

Astro A50 Wireless Headphones (PS3, 360, PC)

Runner up: Sphero (Mobile)

 
Jun 122012
 


It was our first E3! After losing our nominee ribbons in transit to L.A. (My airline still says they have no idea where they went) we decided to give out the nominations digitally this year. With so much going on at E3, we wanted to make sure we we covered all viable areas of interest. We went with 10 nominees for the Best of Show due to the intense competition, but every other category was limited to 5 to 6 nominees. Some games didn’t make it on the list due to the fact we didn’t see them at E3, fair is fair. Winners will be announced this weekend but without further ado, here are the nominees:

Best of Show:

Tomb Raider (360, PS3, PC)
Hawken (PC)
Dishonored (360, PS3, PC)
ZombiU (Wii U)
The Last of Us (PS3)
Torchlight II (PC)
Watch Dogs (360, PS3, PC)
Assassin’s Creed 3 (360, PS3, PC)
Borderlands 2 (360, PS3, PC)
Halo 4 (360)

Best Wii U Game:

Pikmin 3
New Super Mario Bros Wii U
ZombiU
Scribblenauts Unlimited
Rayman Legends

Best Playstation 3 Game:

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
The Last of Us
God of War: Ascension
Beyond: Two Souls
Book of Spells   …Nope, just kidding
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Best Xbox 360 Game:

Halo 4
Forza: Horizons
Gears of War: Judgment
Deadlight
NBA Baller Beats

Best Portable Game:

Retro City Rampage (Vita)
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (Vita)
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (3DS)
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)

Best PC Game:

Neverwinter
Natural Selection II
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
Hawken
SimCity
PlanetSide II

Best Console-Based Downloadable Game:

Guardians of Middle Earth (PS3, 360)
Quantum Conundrum (360, PS3, PC)
Retro City Rampage (360, PS3, Vita)
Super T.I.M.E. Force (360)
Magic: The Gathering – Duels of The Planeswalkers 2013 (360, PS3, PC, iOS)

Best Downloadable Content:

Portal 2: In Motion (PS3)
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim – Dawnguard (PS3, 360, PC)
League of Legends – “Draven” (PC)
The Walking Dead: Episode 2 (PS3, 360, PC)
Battlefield 3 Premium (360, PS3, PC)

Best Indie Game:

Natural Selection II (PC)
Hawken (PC)
Torchlight II(PC)
Retro City Rampage (PS3, 360, Vita)
Super T.I.M.E. Force (360)

Best FPS/TPS Game:

Borderlands 2 (PS3, 360, PC)
Crysis 3 (PS3, 360, PC)
Halo 4 (360)
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PS3, 360, PC)
Medal of Honor: Warfighter (PS3, 360, PC)

Best Role-Playing Game:

Torchlight II (PC)
The Last Story (Wii)
South Park: The Stick of Truth (360, PS3, PC)
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
Divinity: Original Sin (PC)

Best Fighting Game:

Dead or Alive 5 (360, PS3)
Injustice: Gods Among Us (360, PS3, Wii U)
PlayStation All-Starts Battle Royale (PS3, Vita)
Persona 4 Arena (360, PS3)
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (360, PS3)

Best Sports Game:

FIFA 13 (PS3, 360, Wii U, Vita, 3DS, PC)
Madden 13 (PS3, 360, Wii U, Vita)
NHL 13 (PS3, 360)
Forza: Horizons (360)
NBA 2K13 (PS3, 360)

Best Family Title:

Dance Central 3 (360)
Skylanders: Giants (360, PS3, 3DS)
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PC, 3DS, Vita, 360, Ps3)
Just Dance 4 (PS3, 360, Wii U)
New Super Mario Bros Wii U (Wii U)

Best Action/Adventure Game:

Tomb Raider (360,PS3, PC)
Watch Dogs (360,PS3, PC)
Metal Gear Rising: Revegeance (360, PS3)
Resident Evil 6 (360, PS3)
The Last of Us (PS3)
Assassin’s Creed III (360, PS3, PC)

Best Free to Play PC Game:

PlanetSide 2
Hawken
Core Blaze
Neverwinter
Age of Wushu

Best Technology:

Sphero (Mobile)
Astro A50 Wireless Headphones (PS3, 360, PC)
SteelSeries Sensei: MLG Edition Mouse (PC)
SmartGlass (360, mobile)
Gree Mobile Gaming Platform (Mobile)
Battlefield 3 Razer BlackShark Gaming Headset (PC)

 

Jun 042012
 

Playstation All Stars Battle Royale is one of the most interesting fighting games we have seen, drawing on all of Sony’s most famous characters to create the Sony version of Super Smash Bros. and it doesn’t dissapoint. The game focuses more on score than just a straight out fight to the death, with timed rounds and the highest score wins. The demonstration included both consoles.

The play seems flawless between both consoles, more than likely thanks to the large and familiar size of the Vita which makes it feel more like a PS3 controller with a screen added. During the demonstration there was very little difference between how all the players played, everyone seemed closely matched suggesting that the controls across both platforms are very easy to switch between and well matched.

The environment of the games is constantly changing up, sometimes introducing environmental hazard which can lead to death should you make the wron move or hang around. Some of the special abilities which can be acquired are particularly impressive, particularly Sweet Tooth’s level 3 special attack giving him use of a full size mech with which to wreak havoc on his opponents.

On top of all this beat down goodness, the showcase finished with announcement of two brand new characters in the form of Nathan Drake and Bioshock’s Big Daddy.

Gaming Irresponsibly will be bringing you updates as they are made available for the duration of E3. Stay tuned for more news and happenings from the industry’s largest convention here at GamingIrresponsibly.com! You can also follow our updates on Facebook and Twitter

 

Jun 012012
 

Over the course of the past two months or so, the gaming industry has played host to a number of various push backs, deadline failures and delays. The reason for each of these varies between wanting to put out a quality product or not meeting specific goals within their alotted time frame. Delays are nothing new to the gaming industry, and they are something that will always be present. It is easy to say, learn to live with it, but that seems like a terrible way to look at the situation. A better way to look at it would be to learn to love them. Here, we will list a couple of reasons that delays help benefit the consumers, as well as, the developers, and why having delays is really a good thing in the long run.

For many of the delayed projects, the reason boils down to nothing more than the developers not being happy with the current build of the game. This could mean unappealing gameplay, massive bugs or glitches, or even going a different direction artistically. Regardless of why they are delaying the project, it is to the benefit of both the gamer and the developer. The developer wants to create the best gaming experience for their customers. If they are not interested in that, then they are not a very good developer. By wanting the best experience for the gamer, the developer sometimes needs to make a bold decision. This decision is something as simple as stepping back, looking at the project and the direction it is heading, and telling everyone, “hey, this is not what we want”, then making the appropriate changes. What this really means is that the developer, no matter what, wants the best experience and does not believe it is possible to achieve given the current situation. This is a good thing, a very good thing.

Imagine if every game that had ever been delayed was forced to release at the time it was originally quoted. Think of BioShock, Metal Gear Solid 4, Twilight Princess, just to name a few. These were some of the greatest games to come from this generation of console gaming, but would they have been if it weren’t for critical delays in the creative process? Would BioShock have been the powerhouse AAA series it is today without going through some necessary bumps and bruises along the way? Absolutely not, just ask the developers. They thought it would take more time, people moaned and groaned, and after it was all said and done, the gaming community was given an amazing title worthy of numerous awards. By saying to all the excited and rabid fans, “hey, you are going to have to wait another six months”, they aren’t telling them it is going to be bad. They aren’t telling them it isn’t going as planned, they aren’t telling them it isn’t even going to come out. What they are telling them is that they want you to love their game, and if that means a few more months of hard work, sacrifice, and the occasional hurtful comment, then so be it.

Game developers want people to love their games. It is true that some games should be delayed, but due to certain circumstances (i.e. games released in conjunction with popular movies, cookie cutter annuals), they are not. Battlefield 3 should have been delayed a month or two, perhaps if that had happened, they may have avoided a poor start and a long lasting bug problem. Diablo III might have also benefited from a week or two delay, just to insure that the servers were ready to handle the millions of fans that had waited over a decade for the popular title. The cases are isolated and debatable at best, but you get the idea.

It used to be that when I was younger and heard about a game I had been waiting to release for sometime, I would be enraged. I would curse to the skies as if the developers were looking down at me, laughing as if they only delayed the game to piss me off for their own amusement. But eventually I came to realize that by delaying the game, I wasn’t so much guaranteed a perfect game. What I was guaranteed was that the people making my game want me to love it, they want it to be perfect. These guys that are spending endless hours slaving away at art design, story writing and coding were just as excited to finish this game the way it was intended to be finished, not the time it was intended to be finished in. They wanted me to wait, because by waiting, they believe that I will have a more enjoyable, memorable experience. Then I began to love the delays. I would say, “great, that game got delayed, it must not be ready to come out yet. Take your time and make it amazing”. I feel as though most people are in the same boat as me, but you cannot help but noticed the mod of angry internet users that bombard message boards with profanities.

Basically, learn to love delays. They are there to make sure you aren’t pissing away sixty bucks on a piece of garbage that you thought you wanted. So what if Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry, Aliens: Colonial Marines, South Park, BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light have been delayed until 2013. I say we all just sit back, relax, and use our income tax checks to purchase a slew of great titles lined up for early 2013.

 

May 232012
 

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

Starhawk

PlayStation 3

Contains: Blood, Language, Violence

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.


Warhawk was an early Playstation 3 exclusive that, along with Resistance Fall of Man, sported high online player counts and showed that the Playstation Network could compete with Xbox Live, at least in a strictly gaming sense. Starhawk is a sort of spiritual sequel, taking the action from modern day to the far flung future, while maintaining the same sort of mix between on-foot, land vehicle, and air combat seen in the online play of Warhawk. My biggest concern about Starhawk was whether it had enough to differentiate itself in the crowded market of online shooters available today, given that Warhawk had much less competition on PSN during the height of its popularity, but Starhawk definitely has something unique to offer.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat, the campaign is not the reason to play Starhawk. Which is interesting, since the addition of a campaign, something Warhawk did not have, has been something the developers have been pushing prior to release. That’s not to say the campaign is bad by any means, but it just didn’t really do much for me. The biggest problem with the campaign is the story and the means by which the story is told. You play as Emmett, a man who has been partially infected with “rift energy”, a new energy source. Emmett and his partner are basically mercenaries, but the good kind who take jobs to protect rift energy shipments or defend small towns from “scabs”. Scabs are the enemy faction, and they are basically humans who have been infected with rift energy to a point where they lose their identity. If you’re wondering why Emmett isn’t a scab despite his rift energy infection, join the club, as the game never explains this.

The biggest problem with the story is that it is all over the place, and simply not told very well. Most of the cutscenes are very stylized 2D animation, and they look decent enough, but this makes the story feel disconnected from the gameplay, even more so than games that use pre-rendered CG cutscenes. There are many instances where something big is about to happen, and the game cuts away from the real time gameplay to show an animated cutscene, and it can kill the flow. It doesn’t help that the world isn’t very fleshed out. The game has a “space western” thing going on, but there is no indication of why people decided to build saloons and general stores when they colonized other planets. It feels to me like the developers really like Firefly (and honestly, who doesn’t?), so they wanted to do something like that. However, where as the universe in Firefly feels like it could really be a direction society might go given the proper circumstances, the world of Starhawk doesn’t. These failing could be forgiven if the core narrative were interesting, but it is unfortunately not. Even at only 6 hours, I had a hard time keeping myself interested or even paying attention enough to follow the thread toward the end of the game.

Despite the poor story, the campaign is still worth playing due to the strong gameplay and interesting blend of strategy and action elements. From a core gameplay perspective, Starhawk is very similar to Warhawk, in that it is a third person shooter with a strong focus on both land based and air based vehicles. Where Starhawk differs is the addition of real time strategy elements, namely base building. When you’re on the ground in either single player or multiplayer, you can build structures like walls, sniper towers, vehicles bays for several types of vehicles, turrets, and armories. You simply pull up a radial menu with all the available structures on it, select one you can afford (currency in earned by killing enemies or completing objectives), select the spot you want to call it down (pretty much anywhere with open terrain is fair game), and the structure is dropped from orbit and immediately assembles itself. This feature changes everything, and so many concepts and ideas you get used to in shooters go right out the window. While the campaign isn’t very compelling from a story standpoint, it is excellent at introducing all the different structures and vehicles to you and showing you how to use them. If you look at the campaign as a primer for the multiplayer, it is a great way to learn the game before you take it online.

Given the connection to Warhawk, it is of little surprise that Starhawk is best played online. The game boasts 32 player servers, with 10 multiplayer maps across 4 game modes. The modes aren’t really anything too unique, with standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and a territories type mode. Even though the modes are standard fare, the combination of huge maps, all the vehicles, and the strategy element makes Starhawk feel unique when compared to pretty much any other online shooter. For one, anyone that has found themselves sitting on a runway waiting for a jet to spawn in Battlefield or camping the sniper spawn in Halo will certainly find the way the Starhawk handles these things a great change of pace. If you want to fly, just build a launchpad, if you want to snipe, build a sniper tower, and so on. This means you can really play the game however you want, though I definitely found myself in games where there were like 10+ Hawks in the air at a time, which can make things a bit hectic. From a pure gameplay point of view, Starhawk is quite good. Whether you’re on foot, in a vehicle, or flying through space, the game controls great. The weapons feel nice and vehicles have a great sense of speed.

I must say though, if you don’t have a team of players communicating, things can devolve very quickly. There were many times when I was playing where everyone was flying and no one is even bothering with objectives. This game is certainly not Call of Duty, and playing as a lone wolf will yield nothing but poor results. There is obviously the free-for-all mode, but this game is definitely at it’s best when you have a group of several people you know communicating with each other. There is also a cooperative mode, though it is your typical wave based survival mode. However, the base building mechanics add an extra layer to this mode, almost playing like a tower defense game.

On the presentation side of things, Starhawk is a bit of a mixed bag. Visually, the game doesn’t do much to stand out. The texture work is below average and the character models are unimpressive. The 2D animation does looks nice and overall the game has a nice art style. I didn’t encounter any performance issues either, with the game always playing very smoothly. However, the best aspect of the presentation is without a doubt the music. The game has a nice mix of very Firefly inspired western sounding music to go along with some big sweeping scores when the moment called for it.

I can say with certainty that fans of Warhawk will absolutely love Starhawk. For everyone else, I can recommend it with a lot of caveats. If you’re looking for a solid campaign and aren’t particularly interesting in multiplayer, Starhawk is not for you. Even if you are looking for a fun muliplayer shooter, you should consider other factors before picking up Starhawk. This is a very team focused game, and if you don’t have a group of friends planning on getting the game as well, I don’t quite know how much you are going to get out of it. However, if you and your group of PSN friends have been awaiting the next great mulitplayer game for you all to get, Starhawk is an excellent choice.

Playstation 3

Graphics

70
 

Audio

90
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

75
 

Execution

75
 

Offset

80
    

7.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Fantastic Multiplayer
  • Solid Gameplay
  • Excellent Music
  • Base Building Adds A Welcome Layer of Strategy

Cons:

  • Poor Campaign
  • Uninteresting Story
  • Solo Players Will Not Have A Great Time
May 202012
 

The mod and customization market is certainly a growing aspect of the gaming community. Evil Controllers is one of many companies that offers the kits necessary to perform these type of upgrades and with the massive amounts of options you can apply to your controller, they absolutely have something for everyone. While some of the controllers from Evil Controllers use mods, such as rapid fire or burst, there are also kits designed specifically for the cosmetic aspect. EC sent us over a digital camo kit with Evil Sticks and bullet arrowpad buttons, we put it together and took it for a spin.

Putting the controller together:

The Evil Controllers Kit uses the guts of a standard controller while adding on a few extra pieces. Fortunately, I had a busted controller that was laying around that could absolutely have used a makeover. The process was fairly simple and the directions were straightforward as well. The kit included a torx tool which is what you need to actually open the controller up. The entire process, which you can see in the video, took me about 18 minutes in total, which also included a few minutes of searching for a hidden screw that kept me from opening the controller. Realistically, the entire process is quick and easy, which is great because someone with limited knowledge of putting things together like this could still do it without much trouble.

Putting it to use:

One of the first things that stood out when I started to use my new and improved Evil Controller was the new thumbsticks. The Evil Sticks are convex and a bit softer than than the traditional 360 thumbsticks, much like a Playstation 3 controller. I liked the extra grip since it gave my a little more control over my movements. The new bullet-style dpad buttons worked as advertised, since they are really meant to be used in games like Call of Duty, they provided a precise selection of skills without hitting a direction in between the cardinal points. They didn’t function the best for fighting games or anything that utilized the dpad exclusively but anything else (such as Skyrim) worked like a charm.

Overall:

I am a sucker for aesthetics when it comes to controllers. I want a controller to have a little weight to it but also look sharp as well. Evil Controllers’ entire upgrade library offers everything you would possibly want to create your dream controller. The modular nature of the controller kits will allow you to make any changes that you would need to make quick and easy as well. In the time since I have assembled the controller, it’s been dropped, stepped on, chewed on and thrown. During this time, there hasn’t been a single issue with the durability of the controller. The upgrade kits are simply a cost effective way to customize your gaming experience without dropping serious amounts of money of something that doesn’t fit your style. If you are looking for a way to get a badass looking controller, hit Evil Controllers up, the modded solutions even offer a little something extra for those FPS players as well.

We give the Evil Controllers Custom Kit a 5/5. It is a cost effective and stylish option for those that want to add some personality to their gaming experience.

May 162012
 

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

Velocity

PS3, PSP, PS Vita

Contains: Alcohol Reference, Mild Fantasy Violence

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.


About six months ago, I decided to become a Playstation Plus member. One of the perks of doing so is getting free games from time to time. These can vary from digital versions of retail releases, to classics from former consoles, or Minis. Originally designed for the PSP, Minis can now be played on the PS3 and Vita. Much like portable and mobile gaming, these titles are smaller in scope and lack the visual fidelity that home consoles provide. So, as a person who spends a ridiculous amount of time on his PS3 and lacks a smart phone, I’ll admit I treated Minis like the red-headed stepchild of gaming. Occasionally, when I had nothing else to play, I’d give one a look but quickly delete it. Then along came a trailer for a game called Velocity and I was dumbfounded. Could an ‘inferior’ Mini actually be good? The results are in, and they’ve surprised even the harshest critic.

Velocity is a upward scrolling space shooter that starts out with a very simple premise. A star has exploded, sending out an electromagnetic pulse that has immobilized all technology. The star then begins to collapse, forming a black hole that will inevitably consume and destroy everything. You must pilot the Quarp Jet, an experimental craft capable of teleportation, to rescue pods of survivors before they are stretched into thin strings, ripped apart at a subatomic level, and sucked into the void never to be seen again. (I may have made that sound a bit harsher and more scientific than the game makes it out to be.)

Gameplay relies on four main abilities. Scroll boosting is the first, allowing you to increase the speed at which the level comes at you (or speed up the ship depending on your view of relativity). Not much later, the pulse cannon is introduced. In the early levels it is primarily used to shatter glass obstructions. As the game progresses it can be upgraded with power ups, destroy turrets and enemies, or trigger circuit breaker switches to deactivate force fields. A while later, the more devastating bombs are explained. They serve the same purpose as the cannon, but can be deployed forwards, backwards, and to the sides. So far I’ve just explained a solid shoot ‘em up, but the best is yet to come. The main mechanic is teleportation. A short range teleport is introduced early on that allows you to avoid blockages and enemies, or get to survivors off the beaten path. After becoming acclimated with that, the long ranged teleport is unlocked, allowing you to place a limited number of telepods which can be warped to at any time by bringing up the level map. These are important because many of the levels contain branching paths or switches that need to be triggered in certain sequences. The game does a great job of integrating all of these abilities one by one, allowing you time to understand each before moving on to the next. Once everything is at your disposal, the real fun begins.

The game’s main story features 50 levels of increasing difficulty. The first fifteen serve as the tutorial for the aforementioned abilities. After that the gloves are off. Each level is graded on several criteria: survivors collected, time, and overall score. Complex medals are rewarded and the experience gained unlocks the later levels. Collecting all survivors and satisfying the gold time limit gives you the ultimate gold medal with three bars. Doing so without losing any of your three lives also gives you a perfect rating. Rescuing all the survivors isn’t all that difficult as long as you look around, but doing so is detrimental to your time. In some of the later multipath stages, efficient use of the boost and telepods are crucial for satisfying the gold standard. I started off getting a few golds, but quickly began to accept the three-barred bronze. This was more than enough for me to unlock all the levels, but left a lot of room for improvement. There are also a few simpler stages where time requirements make you rely heavily on boosting. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the fluidity of using scroll boost in conjunction with the other abilities. Proper timing results in exultation; screw ups result in fiery deaths. There are also 20 tokens scattered throughout the game that unlock 20 bonus missions. These missions include difficult time challenges, minigames, and even a space-themed version of FuturLab’s past game, Coconut Dodge. These tokens are often hidden in remote areas that can only be reached with flawless use of teleportation. I looked around for them quite a bit, but only found about half of them my first playthrough.

I’m convinced this is an elaborate ruse. This can’t be a Mini. The game is its own black hole, containing an infinite amount of mass in an infinitesimally small amount of space. There is absolutely no way that all of this awesomeness is packed into just 77 megabytes. The only explaination is that I myself have teleported to a different dimension where space and time are freed from their currently theorized limitations. Either that or the guys at FuturLab became versed in some kind of dark magic when they sold their souls to the devil. Never in a million years did I think I’d review a Mini. If you would have asked me if it was possible I’d ever enjoy a Mini, I’d have laughed at you. If you’re like the old me, I know this idea may be hard to grasp. Trust me.

Velocity shatters the negative bias of Minis. It’s an incredibly addicting, innovative game that combines the great elements of traditional shoot ‘em ups, a little bullet hell, and a rhythmic quality reminiscent of the music genre. Just like the music genre, it’s easy to pick up, but hard to master. Whether the console of your choice is a PS3, PSP, or the Vita, it’s a game you simply shouldn’t miss. If you are a Plus member you may still be able to download it for free. If not, at $4.99 it’s worth every penny.

If you see one movie this year, make it whatever the hell you want. I honestly don’t care. However if you play one Mini, make it Velocity. I absolutely cannot wait to see what FuturLab’s next project is, whether it’s another Mini or a larger scale release.

Playstation 3

Graphics

90
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

90
 

Execution

100
 

Offset

100
    

9.6

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Visuals and audio often make me forget this is really just a PSP game.
  • Rhythmic, arcade-style gameplay is fun and addictive.
  • Later levels combine every concept to form fun challenges.

Cons: More Pros:

  • Medal system encourages replayability.
  • Built-in versions of Minesweeper and a calculator allow you to have more fun and/or manage your finances.
  • Amount of content is well worth the price.
Apr 272012
 

There’s an elephant in the room, so let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is Sony’s attempt to create a game similar to Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers franchise for the PS3. It was also one of the worst kept secrets. That being said, the second footage hit GameTrailers TV, I flipped out. Quite a few details were released. As GiR’s resident Daniel Kayser lookalike, I’m here to not only have awesome hair, but keep you informed. Instead of you looking all over, I’ve perused the net and compiled a list of as many details as I could. I’ll attempt to touch on everything and mention a few things I noticed.

The Studio:

SuperBot Entertainment is a new studio. The concept for the game began about two and a half years ago within Sony Santa Monica. From there, a team was assembled with the intent on designing this game. Prior to yesterday I was a bit scared at the idea of a new studio tackling this ambitious of a project. I thought it would be hard to combine some of my favorite whimsical, fantasy characters with the more mature franchises. It’s now clear the game is in perfectly capable hands.

The Gameplay:

Unlike Smash Brothers, the game does not have life bars. Kills are only achieved with special moves. Throughout the fight, players will accumulate AP to unlock three increasingly devastating specials. Players can also lose AP through various means. Instead of focusing on staying alive, your primary objective is to build your special meter as quickly as possible and make efficient use of your specials.

Normal attacks are mapped to three buttons: square, triangle, and circle. Combining these with the directionals can give each character around two dozen moves. There are also the abilities to block, roll, air dodge, and grapple. Combos also seem to play a large role.

Like Smash Brothers, there are various pickups in the game. Some of the ones shown include the Spear of Destiny from God of War, the Hedgehog Grenade from Resistance, the RPG-7 from Uncharted, and a gravity shield from WipEout. There were also a few spots where a rain-like energy fell from the sky, but I wasn’t sure if that was triggered by a pickup. I’m sure we’ll be seeing many more of these too.

The Setting:

Levels pose an interesting dynamic. They are all a mash-up of two different worlds. They appear to start off normal, then merge into these beautifully odd combinations. So far, four were shown.

In the Underworld, Hades looms in the background, viciously pounding the ground from time to time. The Patapon warriors appear a little later, sending a hail of arrows into the level. When the two aren’t causing mayhem to the players they are fighting each other.

Metropolis, from the Ratchet and Clank universe, seems fine, until the Hydra from God of War decides to show his ugly heads, devouring hover cars and fighting with Captain Qwark. Exploding crates, conveyer belts, and a trap add to the chaos.

The LittleBigPlanet level starts out as a blank canvas. Over time, the Popit menu adds detail. Eventually Buzz, the trivia game mascot, pops in and players have to answer questions based upon various Playstation franchises. Wrong answers result in being hit with a pie.

I was a bit unsure about the only other level, which appeared to be a mash-up of Hot Shots Golf and Sandover Village from Jak & Daxter. It didn’t seem to be as interactive, except for the fish at the bottom. I may have seen the portal activate once too.

Overall, the levels seem to provide interesting mash-ups, which is something I was disappointed Playstation Move Heroes failed to do. Plus, there are plenty of hazards to keep things interesting. The music is also supposed to follow this mash-up approach, so I look forward to hearing it.

The Cast:

This is what everyone cares about. Sony owns a rather large collection of first party studios and franchises. So far, only a handful of characters (technically a handful plus one) were mentioned. These include some obvious choices and a few interesting ones. Kratos, Sly Cooper, Sweet Tooth, Radec (from Killzone), PaRappa the Rapper, and Fat Princess round out the first six fighters. Here’s a look at some of their characteristics.

Kratos seems to have his entire arsenal. In addition to his traditional blades, I managed to notice the Blade of Olympus, Barbarian Hammer, Spartan spear & shield, Nemean Cestus, and wings of Icarus. I also heard mention of the Bow of Apollo and one of the dismembered heads, although I wasn’t sure if it was similar to Medusa’s Gaze or the Head of Helios. His second special is a magic cyclone ability, and the third special results in Kratos donning the Armor of Ares, granting him a boost in both size and damage.

Sly Cooper is agile and stealthy. Instead of a traditional block like all the others, he becomes invisible. His first special allows him to recruit his brawny buddy, Murray, to unleash his trademark Thunder Flop. His third special uses his Binocucom to take pictures of the players in a first person mode. Anyone caught in the frame is toast.

Sweet Tooth relies heavily on guns and explosives. I saw him planting mines on a few occasions. It was also mentioned that he has a chainsaw and can breathe fire. Hopefully he can freeze people; the combination of fire and ice could be a lot of fun. His ultimate special has him transforming into a huge mech and firing off all kinds of artillery.

Radec also relies heavily on guns and explosives, but does so more from afar. He’s got a sniper rifle that delivers some serious knockback. His ultimate special brings him into first person mode through the use of his jetpack, allowing him to gun down anyone he can get in the crosshairs.

PaRappa is still a bit of a mystery to me, especially since I never played the franchise. He has a boombox that drops AP balls and stuns others, and his specials often incorporate a skateboard. I didn’t get to see it, but apparently his ultimate special plays out much like the old games, and ends by wiping everyone out.

Fat Princess uses all her loyal subject to do her dirty work. In a few situations I saw her riding a chicken too. Her first special was described as hastily running toward a piece of cake, obliterating anyone in her path of destruction. Her ultimate special consisted of an onslaught of her soldiers and mages attacking in every direction.

Within these six characters there seems to be quite a bit of variety. SuperBot also seems to have really put the time in to make sure each character stays true to their universe. As a huge Playstation fan, I’m impressed with the execution and subtle details I’ve seen thus far. There are plenty of characters I anticipate seeing, but I’m really interested to see who they reach out to for third party support (Fingers crossed for Isaac Clarke, a Big Daddy, and Rayman.) With the amount of quality characters from Sony, and third party companies, I’m sure not all of the characters on my wish list will be checked off. Thankfully DLC is a possibility.

I’m already sold. The amount of fan service is right up this Playstation fan’s alley. There were plenty of reveals that already had me smiling, like the inclusion of the Hedgehog Grenade and the fight between Qwark and the Hydra. My mind is racing with the infinite possibilities that leave me anxiously awaiting more details and the day this releases this holiday season.

Apr 192012
 

As E3 approaches, more and more pieces of news will continue to trickle down to the media.  After all, E3 is one of the biggest gaming events of the year. Therefore, in order to have big reveals for the show, there has to be extensive preparation on the part of those participating in it.  This of course, leads to the infamous press leaks.  The most recent leak is a trailer for Kratos’ latest adventure, which is titled God of War: Ascension.  I’m sure a lot of fans are going crazy over this.  I’m not.  Basically, this upcoming title features Kratos (duh!) and takes place during his service under the Olympian gods.  Yes, it takes place before the original God of War.  No, it is not God of War: Ghosts of Sparta for the PSP.  This is another prequel.

So far the God of War series has 3 main titles, 1 mobile game and 2 portable games.  If we exclude the mobile game, then Ascension becomes the sixth title in the series.  That’s a lot of titles for a series that started in 2005.  Don’t get me wrong, the God of War series is a testament to the quality of games that can be played on the Play Station.  However, I wonder why there is more excitement and coverage on a leaked trailer for an existing franchise on an existing console, than say Pikmin 3, which is a relatively new series on a brand new console.  Why doesn’t Pikmin get any love?  Is it because it doesn’t have a trailer yet?

Every console right now has a great line up (well except the Wii who is headed towards the chopping block) and each console has their signature games.  It is foolish to think that there won’t be any more God of War, Halo or Mario games.  These franchises are money making machines and are here to stay.  Then why do we act surprised when we see franchises returning time and again?

Is there another action/adventure console-exclusive title as popular as God of War III on the Play Station 3?  No, I believe there is not.  So why do we even doubt that there will be any more installments to the series?  Take a look at Nintendo, this company survives on the charity of third party developers and a back bone of strong first party titles.  It is not a question of whether there will be a Mario game, but when.  The same goes for the Xbox’s Halo series.  Master Chief’s original trilogy might be concluded, but how can Microsoft pass up on the idea of bringing back the franchise that single-handedly  made Xbox a household name?

But in this industry it doesn’t matter that we keep rehashing the same news over and over again.  It matters who get’s the news piece out first.  It is not about content, it’s about speed.  So there you have it, new announcement for God of War.  Here’s a shocker:  There will be a Zelda game for the Wii U!  Also, the moon orbits around the earth!  I know, things are getting wild in here.