Jan 142014
 

Mirror's_Edge_2

Everyone is looking forward to something this year. Here are my most anticipated games of 2014.

 

 Mirrors Edge 2

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By far in my opinion the prettiest game of the last gen and a true cult game. this follow up (prequel) is very much on my to watch list. However I do not think that we will see a release this year, but some gameplay footage would satisfy me.

 

Watch Dogs 

 

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Even though this game has got a lengthy delay which should cause some concern, I am still very much getting this when I buy my next gen console (lets hope I have the money for it). 

 

Never Ending Nightmares

 

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I am so happy that this game got the funding and attention that it fully warranted.  This is more than just a game, and I fully recommend you go and check out the story behind this game.

 

The Witcher 3: wild hunt

 

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I don’t care if this game doesn’t come out for another 2 years; it looks epic and sounds epic.

 

  Paradise Lost

 

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An intriguing indie title that I come across on greenlight some time ago. Its narrative is about you playing as an impossible being escaping from a research facility.  

 

The Witness

  

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John Blow’s PS4 title looks wonderful and sounds strange, perfect! 

 

 Super Smash Bros: Wii U

 

  

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Probably the sole reason why I got a Wii U in the first place (I’m joking, I think). Cannot wait to return to the series, and I hope that there isn’t a confusing story mode or a lag online!

 

  Below

  

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Not much about this Xbox one indie title, but it looks good.

 

  Everybody’s Gone to the rapture

    

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A spiritual successor to one of my favourite indie titles dear Esther. This game allows you to explore the lives of 6 people 5 hours before the apocalypse.

 

 Mario Kart 8

     Mario-Kart-8-2

I know this is rather predictable, but as soon I saw those cars racing underneath that track I got pretty excited (Plus Mario Kart makes for some excellent drinking games) 

Well that’s my list what’s yours? 

Dec 172013
 

stick it logo1

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.

Stick it to the Man

PS3, PS Vita, PC

Contains: 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 didn’t take long for Stick it to the Man! to enthrall me with its delightful beauty. I was hooked by the cleverness of the opening shot of the introductory cinema. Ray Doewood tests hard hats – but not by some smart method. He’s the guy who lets heavy objects strike him in the head. A fleshy crash test dummy. And if that’s not crazy enough, his coworker seems even less sane.  After putting in his nine to five, he heads home – to the left – but is struck on the head by some debris falling from the sky. As a result of the impact, Ray gains a few powers from a pink, spaghetti-like arm protruding from his forehead. And that’s just the opening. What follows is a story full of laugh-out-loud humor and even more absurd characters, all wrapped in a lovely Psychonautian aesthetic.

stickit_screen5Gameplay is a mix of old-school adventure games and platforming. The “pink spaghetti” not only aids in platforming, but can collect stickers and read minds. The combination of these mechanics forms the basis for the puzzle-based adventure gameplay. Strange situations arise. Thin facades are peeled away from buildings, inner monologues are exposed, and stickers are swapped to aid in the lunacy. For instance, in the beginning, Ray’s just trying to get home. Standing in his way is a taxi driver on the verge of hanging himself. Thanks to his inferior teeth, his girlfriend left him, settling for a much older, but far toothier man. Through a series of events, and a host of equally as interesting personalities, you’ll help him find happiness in a new set of chompers and gain a ride home in the process.

stickit screenFrom start to finish, the characters and the world they inhabit thrive in this reckless absurdity. You’ll meet a psychologist so depressed that has to see another psychologist, a hook-handed guy with a pet alligator, and a balding sasquatch. And that’s not even mentioning the countless others in the insane asylum chapter. Plus, they’re all voiced by a small team of actors superbly, with a level of craziness reminiscent of Rocko’s Modern Life.

stickit_screen7To top it all off, the game looks lovely. The 2D, hand drawn art style is brilliant. There’s a lot of detail packed into every inch and colors are vivid. Much of the world is made of paper and cardboard. Even Ray himself is paper thin. This not only gives him some really nice animations, but provides for one of the best checkpoint systems in recent memory: Mr. Copy. Mr. Copy is a camera and copy printer. When Ray passes one it snatches a picture of him. If Ray dies, he’s just printed on a new sheet of paper. It’s an animation I could watch over and over again.

stickit_screen9In the hustle and bustle of the release of new systems there are bound to be some underappreciated casualties. Stick it to the Man! may be one such release. Swedish indie developer, Zoink! Games, really knocks this one out of the park. It’s chocked full of atmosphere, quirk, and quips about gaming tropes in general. As if the mind reading stance and a two-headed baby logo easter egg weren’t proof enough, it’s clear they’ve taken some inspiration from Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine. The result is a humorously creative beast that’s just as good as its influencers, if not better.

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

100
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

100
    

9.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Absurdity permeates every layer of the game.
  • Art direction and design choices mesh well.
  • Humor is laugh-out-loud funny.
  • Voice acting is superb.

Cons:

  • Jumping feels a bit imprecise.
  • Two sticker glitches forced me to reload checkpoints.
  • I’m hungry for spaghetti.

P.S. When Googling for the two-headed baby logo, be sure to preface it with “Double Fine.” The real results are not something you need to see.

Sep 262013
 

Puppeteer banner

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

Puppeteer

PS3

Contains: Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.


It has been quite some time since I anticipated a game as much as I anticipated Puppeteer. The eye-assaulting, gorgeous platformer impressed with its initial trailer and continued to astound me with each and every new detail. With a quiet release, at a budget price of $39.99, it took precedence in a very busy September, but was it worth the focus?

Puppeteer follows the story of Kutaro and the evil Moon Bear King. Rising to rule after experiencing the power of the Dark Moonstone, the Moon Beak King is stealing souls from Earth. Kutaro is his latest catch. Puppeteer artHis soul is thrown into a puppet, and his head is quickly ripped off.  With the help of the unsightly Moon Witch and a few other accomplices, he seeks to topple the new regime and bring peace back to the Moon. To do so, he must find a pair of magical scissors, called Calibrus, collect the four Hero Heads of past warriors, and liberate the pieces of the shattered White Moonstone split among the Moon Bear King’s twelve Generals.

Puppeteer 10Puppeteer is artistically arresting. Its unique and imaginative approach is simply unrivaled. Hailing from SCE Japan Studio, it opts to seek influence from traditional Japanese Bunraku theater, and excels at doing so. Ditching the strings, characters still retain a certain quaintness thanks to the decision to construct them from whittled wood. While the lead Kutaro looks lovely, this approach is really impressive on some of the larger bosses with intricate segmented bodies. Environments, which would excel in beauty even if devoid of the theatrical influences, really nail the theme with small details. Clouds are strung from the rigging, while other moving elements are held in place with sticks. Spotlights are used too. The audience even gets in on the action, reacting to play as it unfolds. Not a single element of the game is invulnerable to this theatrification. Even the pause screen is just a closed curtain with the word “Intermission.”

Puppeteer 4The game also contains quite a bit of variety within its presentation, story, and gameplay.

Environments range drastically, from dark, cold castle interiors to lush forests, underwater ecosystems, colorful favelas, and winter wonderlands. It would be hard to pick just one, but the spooky town of Hallowee Ville may be a personal favorite.

Puppeteer 5The story and characters have a delightfully vaudevillian feel, which I can’t recall in any other game. Nothing takes itself too seriously. The omnipresent narrator mimics voices as if he’s conducting a one man show. Characters – who often acknowledge their acting – are over-the-top, often bordering or crossing the line of being hackneyed. Voice over work is often absurd in the best possible way. Some characters go out of their way to speak as often as they can in bad puns and alliteration. Silly songs spring up from time to time. There’s even a rabbit magician. The whole thing is a bit reminiscent of a Disney theme park, and the beauty it carries in a child’s eyes. Children at heart will appreciate this vision, even if it sometimes overreaches and become a bit too silly.

Puppeteer 3Gameplay starts out a bit slow. The first few acts – of which there are seven in total that each contain three curtains – serve to introduce the Calibrus and four Hero Heads. While there are a hundred swappable heads overall, these four serve to introduce main gameplay mechanics. The first gives you the ability to block. Bombs, a grappling hook, and a skydiving wrestling move follow. After all these abilities are acquired the real fun starts. Platforming and the various, brilliant boss battles use these Hero Heads and Calibrus to lead to some really spectacular gameplay. No two Generals, which are represented by various members of the animal kingdom, look nor feel the same. Multi-stage battles amaze all the way up to their quick time event finishers.

Puppeteer 11As for the other hundred-or-so heads, they all serve smaller purposes. For instance in the first level, the spider head allows you to interact with the environment to unlock the levels bonus stage. Each of the 21 curtains has one, but finding and keeping the appropriate head may not always be so easy. I don’t think I even managed to find half of them. Each has a purpose. They’ll unlock bonus stages, other heads, or help with platforming and bosses. Sometimes you’ll discover heads though a single action; other times you may have to seek out or interact with multiple pieces of the environment or background. Each head also has a silly animation, which can also be viewed later in the head shadow box in the games menu. This area also gives subtle hints on how to find heads you may have missed. I only managed to obtain around half of these heads too, so most players should have plenty to go back and unlock.

Puppeteer 7Still, most impressive is the Calibrus mechanic. The tool is simply sublime. They do serve as a weapon, allowing you to rescue souls from evil Grubs, but it’s the other things they do that make them stand out. Throughout the game there are plenty of objects that need cutting: spider webs, fabrics, and a wide array of triggered 2D elements. Depending on the environment these could be plant leaves, plumes of smoke, or a deck of cards. And that’s only scratching the surface. Traversal via these means is extremely satisfying, especially since these elements are actually sliced and minced by Calibrus. There are also other on-rails cutting sections that play out like a roller coaster, featuring multiple paths, speed boosts, and jumps. All of this creates a mechanic that is always fun to use, and one of the most satisfying in recent memory.

Puppeteer 6If there’s one complaint I have with the game, it is that the gameplay and pacing can be a bit slow. A few levels also allow you to hop on various “vehicles,” like a horse, squid, or UFO, to do a bit of timed platforming. These are a little more twitch-based than the basic gameplay, much like the on-rails Skycutting sections, but still feel a bit lethargic. The basic platforming and some of the elements of the boss battles also seem to just trudge along. I’m not sure if this was a choice due to frame rate concerns, the game’s family friendly appeal, or something else, but there’s a noticeable lack of urgency throughout the experience. (This may have been a bit exaggerated since I just came off of the fast paced action of Rayman Legends.) While it did seem a bit odd, it’s definitely not worth dismissing the game for.

Puppeteer 12Overall, Puppeteer provides an extremely unique experience. It’s busting at the seams with whimsy and creativity, and follows a path unlike any other platformer I’ve played in my quarter century of gaming. It introduces new ideas that evoke emotions reminiscent of Walt Disney’s Tiki Room, Muppet movies, Conan O’Brien variety shows, and childhood in general. As GAF member MercuryLS stated a while back, “[It] out Nintendo’s Nintendo.” And it’s the reason Grand Theft Auto V will remain in its packaging for another week or two.

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

100
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

90
    

9.1

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Thrives thanks to amazing visuals, creativity, and art direction.
  • Vaudevillian influences lead to an extremely unique experience.
  • Calibrus mechanics are very satisfying.
  • Boss battles are impressive in quality and quantity.

Cons:

  • Pacing and gameplay tend to be a bit slow.
  • Sometimes it overreaches with its absurdity.
Jul 102013
 

♪ He’s Robin Jubber, and he’s gone to code. And I do not think anyone knows what we’re doing here. ♫

♫ Everyone’s got to face down the demons. Maybe today, we can put the past away. ♪

♪ I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend… ♫

Velocity UltraBack in May of last year, I reviewed a little PlayStation Mini called Velocity. Like the glass in game, my brain shattered into a million tiny pieces. I was dumbfounded that a game so small could battle it out with the big boys of PSN. My life became consumed with unlocking every secret and in-game trophy. Still, the game wasn’t perfect, so it received a disgraceful 9.6. Scores like that almost killed a man. Thankfully, a 10 from the fine folks at TheSixthAxis gave him the will to live.

Now, with a fresh outlook on life and a complete overhaul, Velocity Ultra is here to put up another fight for the perfect score, and it’s clear that it has been prepping.

To start, if you’re unfamiliar with my original review give it a read first. It explains the basic mechanics of the game. Seeing as how this iteration is a remake, there’s no point in me rehashing everything. Here I’ll just be discussing the changes and whether or not they diminished my extremely minor complaints.

Graphics and Creativity:

Velocity Ultra UpgradeMy biggest gripe with the original release was with the retro inspired visuals. Shackled by the outdated PSP Minis platform, the game didn’t look as good as it could have had it released via other means. That was its biggest disservice. Now, thanks to the Vita’s raw power and beautiful display, the game looks crisp and gorgeous. In turn, that has boosted the overall artistry of the game. Every single detail looks much better. The Quarp Jet and various enemy ships are more distinct. Lighting effects, explosions, and cannon fire are much improved. Environments, now with lovely, nebula-like swirls in the backgrounds, are prettier too. Everything just radiates a much appreciated, lovely, cartoonish art style. The artwork, that serves as the narrative, has even been completely redone, resulting in pieces that are not only more detailed, but far more vibrant. I couldn’t be more pleased with these changes.

Velocity Ultra EffectsAudio: 

Looking back, I’m not sure why I docked the audio some points. The soundtrack is infectiously brilliant. Let’s just chalk this one up to me being slightly younger and slightly more stupid. I’m sorry. I’m not the Pope; I’m not infallible.

The Rest: Still Awesome

Everything else, which was already perfect, remains perfect. Hell, some of it may even exceed perfection.

Velocity Ultra Art 2Touch to teleport, which uses the front touch, feels organic. While the muscle memory in me wanted to use the square button in many instances, I often found myself switching to touch teleport. It really simplifies the mechanic and is a blast to use when casually making your way through the levels. Its precision can really cut down on time and mistakes too. Had I evolved to have a third hand, or nose dexterity, I’d have used it all the time, but it can be a bit difficult to manage a touch screen and buttons when trying to achieve perfect ratings on some of the levels.

Velocity Ultra 2Flinging bombs with the right stick – which was included due to fan feedback much to the dismay of the developer – is also useful in some cases. While it also suffers from the I-don’t-have-enough-hands-and-my-nose-is-worthless complaint, I found it far more useful in taking out large clusters of enemies as it allowed me to stay at a distance instead of slowly inching myself toward death as I held the up directional. The same held true in bonus missions, where slight directional movements could be the difference between survival or touching an insta-death wall.

Velocity Ultra Art 1But the Ultra-fication doesn’t stop there. There are also some other great new features aside from gameplay.

For trophy lovers, the game transforms its already challenging in-game trophies into legitimate PSN trophies. This even includes a platinum, cleverly titled “Show Thumb Respect.” It’s no easy feat. To acquire it you’ll need to master the game, all the bonus missions and mini games, and unlock a few other secrets. Plus, if that’s not already enough, online leaderboards provide additional competition.

2013-07-08-182753What more is there to say. Velocity Ultra takes an already astounding game and makes it even better. It addresses and fixes all my original nitpicking, and improves on some already proficient mechanics. Whether you played the original or not, it’s essential for any Vita owner. It’s an interstellar, celestial entity that transmits artistic, addictive, arcade splendor from the deepest corners of space. And if a prog-rock-inspired sentence like that can talk you into it, just know that it is so good that it sold a Vita to a guy who hasn’t owned a portable console since his childhood with the GameBoy. Short and sweet: It earns that perfect 10.

Playstation Vita

Graphics

100
 

Audio

100
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

100
 

Offset

100
    

10

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Graphics and art style are greatly improved.
  • Touch teleporting just feels right.
  • Everything else is still as exciting and addictive as before.

Cons:

  • The petite D-pad and analog sticks are still foreign to me, and cause many deaths.
  • I’m not sure the Community easter egg made the cut this time.
  • I wish it were a sequel.
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”
Apr 152013
 

Guacamelee 1It seems like an eternity since DrinkBox Studios unveiled Guacamelee!. That might be because the announce trailer debuted in late 2011, or maybe it’s porque every tidbit of información elevated my anticipación to mucho grande. Whatever the case, el nuevo de abril está aquí. Just as expected, Guacamelee! is estupendo!

Pitched from the homesick mind of the studio’s animator Augusto Quijano, Guacamelee! pulls from the rich, vibrant world of lucha libre and Mexican folklore. That alone sets it apart, but it’s more than just something pretty to look at. Gameplay draws influence from all over the place, though it is probably best summarized as a Metroidvania brawler/platformer. Hyphenating it really doesn’t do it justice though, as both genres are executed brilliantly. Focus shifts back and forth between the two, allowing for a solid pace and very organic evolution.

Guacamelee movesOn the brawling side of things, simplicity quickly gains quite a bit of depth. Certain super moves, like an Rooster Uppercut, Olmec’s Headbutt, and Frog Slam, are unlocked with progression. Grappling moves can be purchased through the in-game store which allow seamless juggling and the ability to combo across multiple enemies. The combat really shines with the grappling and throwing. Once an enemy take enough damage, they can be hurled in any direction, further damaging themselves and anyone else that happens to be in their path.

From a platforming perspective, abilities are also frequently upgraded. What starts as a puny single jump transforms to a something far more complex. Double jumping, using super moves, and wall jumping all tweak the formula. For instance, to get to a high ledge you may have to double jump, then uppercut, and follow it with a forward dashing punch. Later, even that looks like child’s play.

The collection of these skills makes way for the Metroidvania nature of the game. Chests, which contain valuable heath and stamina upgrades, often require mastery of the platforming mechanics. Other sections are barricaded off by colored blocks, which can only be broken with their corresponding, color coded super move. Plus, there’s an even rarer set of orbs that will really test your mettle.

Guacamelee 5Did I mention there’s the ability to turn into a chicken? Yes, a chicken! This allows you to sneak into smaller spaces, or slowly peck your foes to death. While the slow pecking isn’t the most feasible – albeit hilarious – the small crevices lead to a lot new areas, and many chests.

On top of all that, there’s a phase shifting mechanic, which also plays a pivotal role in both platforming and brawling. There are two distinct realms in Guacamelee!: the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead. In some cases, platforms or hazards only exist in one realm. In others, portals shift the world or your location. This same logic carries through to the brawling. Certain enemies can only be damaged in their corresponding realm. But they don’t care about silly phases; they’ll harm you in either.

Guacamelee 13While none of the mechanics are overly complex or innovative, it’s the combination of all of these factors that creates an experience that is both unique and challenging in both genres. Later in the game, some enemies get aura-shields which can only be broken with certain special moves or multiple hits in quick succession. Adding this atop the phase shifting creates tactical challenges that can really kick your ass if you approach them without a clear vision. It’s very satisfying figuring out a tricky phase shifting platforming section, but it’s even more satisfying breaking an enemy’s shield, beating him senseless, throwing him toward an out of phase enemy, and shifting phases just in time to watch that enemy get knocked off his feet.

guacamelee charactersAs far as the story goes, it’s pretty standard for a game in dos dimenciones. Carlos Calaca is a man scorned. After a dirty deal with the devil, the evil charro overthrows El Diablo to become the ruler of the Land of the Dead. To merge his land with the Land of the Living, he tries to kidnap El Presidente’s daughter. Juan Aguacate, an ordinario agave farmer isn’t having it… but he’s quickly killed… However, thanks to the power of a mysterious mask, he’s transformed into an extraordinario luchador. On a quest to rescue his hometown princess – who is not only a childhood friend, but the most beautiful woman in the world – he must hone his skills and face Calaca and his colorful cast of cohorts.

Guacamelee 4Calaca’s posse is strong: A seductive, wavy-haired X’tabay; A reckless, flame-headed gunslinger; and an overconfident guy who goes by the name of Jaguar Javier. Each is a pleasure to interact with, and even more fun to battle. As interesting as they are, they pale in comparison to the monstrous, mythical alebrije. You meet him very early on in the game, and take him out in a great tongue-in-cheek moment, but I wish he would have been more of a focal point throughout the experience. With DLC a possibility, I’d love to see the beautiful beast make a return. There are also many interesting minions, like esqueletos of multiple sizes with various weapons, armadillos, cacti, and chupacabras that you’ll pummel all along the way. Thankfully, you’ve got Uay Chivo, the fabled goat-man, on your side. When he’s not mad at you for wrecking his statues or talking about romancing your mother, he’s teaching you those aforementioned abilities that get you one step closer to defeating Calaca – even if he does undermine their greatness from time to time with silly, goaty sounding names.

Guacamelee 11Overall, presentation is top notch. Guacamelee! has a great sense of self and a bold visual style. I say it time and time again, but it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to see why it received an IGF nomination for Excellence in Visual Art, and criminal that it didn’t win. Color is used to great effect. The Land of the Living is vivid. Amarillos, verdes, and rojos all please my ojos. Environments range from lush forests to harsh deserts. In contrast, The Land of the Dead has an appropriate darker, bluish tone. The music also reflects these differences. The Land of the Living often favors a treble rich timbre, where the Land of the Dead amplifies the eerie bass.

Guacamelee 3There’s also a really beautiful mix of new-age crispness and retro inspiration in the visuals. Many of the design choices imply a subtle 8-bit feel. Where a lot of games do this and feel outdated, Guacamelee! does it with great artistry. The forest grass probably drives this point home the best. The blocky shades of green swaying in the wind are absolutely mesmerizing. Quirky, seizure-inducing screens that play after powers are unlocked always put a smile on my face. Just as with the world’s phases, the audio incorporates some retro qualities too. The Latin tunes – which would stand on their own at face value – infuse themselves with catchy 8-bit undertones.

Guacamelee 12Guacamelee! is a gamers’ game. Every aspect feels like a love letter to the medium. And just in case that’s not clear, DrinkBox has packed the game full of clever nods to gaming’s history. Many of Nintendo’s historic franchises are represented, but so are many of the great indie titles of this generation. Without ruining any of them, anyone who’s been gaming for a decent amount of time should be able to spot dozens of witty references.

With the next generation looming, Guacamelee! may very well be PSN’s last great downloadable title before shiny new tech arrives. It warms mi corazón. The juego is simply awesome-ísimo! I don’t know what they have in the agua up in Canada, but there have been some really impressive indie games coming from them recently. Whether you prefer to play on the PS3 or Vita, Guacamelee! is definitely worth your dinero and well worthy of the exclamation mark that graces the end of its name.

Pros:

  • ¡Presentación es magnífico!
  • Brilliantly merges mechanics in all aspects of gameplay.
  • Seriously, the game’s nombre es Guacamelee!

Cons:

  • Voice acting instead of text would have been nice.
  • It makes me wish I retained more of my tres years of Español.
  • It needs more alebrijes.
Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

100
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

90
    

9.4

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

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

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 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.

Aug 302012
 

A week or so ago I reported on a news story that seemed to hint at Metal Gear Solid 5 being unveiled sometime soon. A bit unsurprisingly, Hideo Kojima has unveiled the new Metal Gear game at the 25th Anniversary event in Japan. Its name? Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. Not much is known at this point but it seems to be an open-world game.

Below are tweets from Mark McDonald (8-4) and Brad Douglas who were both at the event:

Mark: ““Demo of ‘Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes’, started w cutscene (all realtime), went into gameplay, open world, night, raining, base. AMAZING … Snake crawled @ avoiding searchlights, killed guard, rode jeep, called in heli for evac. Sounds like MG, but the scale & atmosphere… Wow.”

Brad: “Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes demo was truly amazing, running on a PC at current-gen specs. Wow”

Brad also later replied to a tweet saying that it looks like Big Boss is going to be the main character. The fact that it’s running on current-gen specs is a bit surprising but that doesn’t rule out them eventually developing for next-gen hardware.

If any more information unveils itself, we’ll supply it here.

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 152012
 

The question of whether or not Metal Gear Solid Rising would come out has been something that was up in the air for multiple years now. Hideo Kojima revealed Metal Gear Solid Rising at E3 ’09 and a new subtitle later, we finally know that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is coming out and it’s hitting store shelves on February 19th, 2013.

Konami describes Rising as having “elements of pure action and epic storytelling, all within the expansive METAL GEAR universe.  METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE introduces Raiden as the central character; a child soldier transformed into a cyborg ninja, equipped with a high-frequency katana blade and a soul fueled by revenge.”

As you know if you’ve followed Rising/Revengeance throughout its development cycle, it’s based solely on the swordplay of Raiden. This brings about the obvious issue of Rising possibly not featuring any kind of stealth, a staple of the Metal Gear franchise. Though on the other hand, some could argue that Metal Gear Solid 4 featured little stealth as well. But knowing that Platinum Games, the folk behind Bayonetta and the ridiculous third person experience that was Vanquish, gives us all a bit of confidence in the game, even if it may not reach the narrative standards set so high by previous Metal Gear Solid games.

Either way, we know it’s coming out! Are you excited? Below is a trailer for Revengeance released at Gamescom.

 

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 222012
 

You ever wish you could play an FPS game with roughly 2000 other people? How about competing in a TV game show where you are not judged on the amount of kills you have but how stylish you were when you got them? Well, Sony Online Entertainment has hooked me up with a few invite codes to the closed betas of Bullet Run and the extremely anticipated PlanetSide 2.

Well, 400 of you have visited our Facebook page and have liked our site, we are super grateful so we would like to make those wishes come true with this weekend’s Free Game Friday.

Just in case you haven’t heard, PlanetSide 2 is kind or a big deal, it is our #1 free to play game at E3. That is quite a feat considering that it was up against titles like Hawken, Core Blaze and even Neverwinter, which are all awesomely badass titles.

So to clarify, winners can get 1 of 4 codes (2 – PlanetSide 2 and 2 – Bullet Run) they will be randomly selected and distributed to the winners of this contest, winners will be selected by the same randomized system. Enthusiasm will make it way more interesting but won’t help your chances!

The betas haven’t started yet, but these codes are you foot in the door once they kick off soon!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jun 042012
 

Kratos is back and he’s blood thirsty and ready to rise his way to the top. Sony have shown some gameplay from the latest entry to the hugely succesful series, God Of War Ascension. In the footage we were once again reunited with the mans godly blades of fury as he hacked his way through a whole host of enemies. On top of all the hack and slash action against some of the more lowly enemies, we got to se some of the games more gory features in the form of simple decapitations on smaller enemies as well as one particuarly bloody execution which required well timed button hits to take the legs of one enmy and crack open the skull of another.

It isn’t just all blood and gore though, with the video showcasing some of Kratos’ other abilities primarily how to open up new areas of the map in order to progress. The obligatory visual update is included, with all the action looking more and more realistic whilst also keeping that magical look, especially when it comes to elephant headed creatures and of course the Kraken.

While we didn’t get to see Kratos dispatch the giant sea creature, we did get to see the man show of some of his agility, leaping from tentacle to tentacle before heading into the depths below to undoubtedly finish the fight with some help from the player when the game finally hits stores on March 12 2013.

Jun 042012
 

One of this years most anticipated games just got a lot more exciting, Sony have confirmed that there will be a whole new adventure to play on the Ps Vita when October 30th rolls around. Liberation will introduce a brand new, female assassin, a first for the series and will be a complete, open world adventure set during the same time frame as Assassins Creed III.

The trailer showed off what appeared to be a peasant village with the protagonist free running over thatched roofs before getting the drop on a band of unsuspecting soldiers who no doubt met a quick and bloody end. Assassins Creed II Liberation looks set to be something to get excited about with the ability to sync it with the full PS3 version of the game which will also unlock a slew of new features such as character skins for multiplayer and special weapons including the Tomahawk axe from the main game on the handheld.

As well as the game itself, there will also be a package deal which will include a copy of the game and a brand new Pearl White PS Vita, the first time the white colour variant has been available, the console bundle will also launch on October 30th.

 

Jun 042012
 

Recently, we say Quantic Dream’s tech demo Cara and many of us thought that this amazing demo would have something to do with their next game. Boy were we wrong, their next title is an interesting looking game called Beyond.

Beyond is Sony’s new IP which sits in the same genre as Heavy Rain and is set to be as in depth as it’s spiritual predacessor. The protagonist is a young girl called Jodie Holmes and the actress used for voice and modelling is actress Ellen Page. Where Heavy Rain was a more Drama/Thriller kind of story this is more of a supernatural/action tale, focusing on Jodie’s belief throughout her life that she can feel and interact with a world between ours and the after life.

The game will take place over the course of fifteen years, meaning we will get to live and experience a rather large part of this young womans life. From what we saw of the game, it would appear that someone finds Jodie very interesting, dangerous or valuable and having seen that she has the ability to manipulate something in order to cause destruction to protect herself.

The demo opens with a scene in a police office, an officer is speaking with Jodi and she looks despondent, not answering any of his questions. He offers her a cup of coffee and the tries to question her about being found on side of the road in the middle of nowhere. While he tries to help her, she continues to look despondent and the cup of coffee begins to react to something unseen. The officer continues to question Jodi but he gets slightly irritated and begins to leave when he notices scar on the back of her head. He gets close and coffee flies mysteriously against the wall, he nopes the fuck out of there and tells her he is going to his office. After he leaves, Jodi is talking in her head and she says “I know they’re coming”. Just as she says this, swat enters the police office and some flashy swat commander confronts the officer and orders him to open the door. He complies and walks back, then suddenly… Nothing happens. The demo ends.

We are then treated to numerous action sequences hinting at a spiritual powers (some sort of sheild) and possible possession abilities. After kicking Captain Badass’ face in, she threatens to kill everyone next time and then addresses Ivan, who I imagine is a spiritual companion of hers.

This is what we know of Beyond so far but we will keep you up to date if there is anything on the floor tomorrow.

Jun 042012
 

For the next three days, I have convinced myself that I won’t be getting any real work done at my job.  E3 2012 is upon us and that means three days of breakthrough announcements, upcoming title reveals, and Reggie Fils-Aime from Nintendo somehow making a fool of himself.  If you’re wondering when the big three game companies as well as the some game developers are presenting their keynote speeches, below is the official E3 schedule of when their conferences will be held.

Monday, June 4

  • Microsoft Press Conference ( 9:30 am – 11:00 am PT)
  • EA Press Conference ( 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm PT)
  • Ubisoft Press Conference (3:00 pm – 4:00 pm PT)
  • Sony Press Conference ( 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm PT)
Tuesday, June 5
  • Nintendo Press Conference ( 9:00 am – 10:00 am PT)

As you can see, it’s quite similar to that of last year’s schedule.  You can watch the conferences live on the company websites, so definitely check them out to be there when the big announcements are revealed.

Also, be sure to check the site for updates on today’s announcements as well as commentary from the staff.  The Gaming Irresponsibly team would like to wish our readers a Happy E3!

 

May 312012
 

Not much has been said about the future of Epic Games’ successful, Xbox exclusive mega series, Gears of War, and for now, that is just fine. But with the overwhelming financial gain and massive critical acclaim the series has generated over the years cannot be ignored forever. The games still remain a staple of Microsoft exclusive titles that seem to be running few and far between, so it would take a fool to expect, no matter how the last game left off, that Microsoft or Epic Games would let such a money making machine dwindle off into the distance. Will there be a Gears of War 4? Is the future of this franchise nonexistent or is there still some creative gas left in the tank? Let’s go over some of the possibilities the future of the Gears of War series may hold, and tackle some of the features and story that we may come to expect.

First we will begin with when this game might be announced or released. With Epic Games recently unveiling screen shots from its latest engine, Unreal Engine 4, it would be safe to assume that any future iterations of the Gears series would appear on that engine. Epic has no doubt been working tirelessly on this technology, and creating a game with a proven track record utilizing this technology could be a good selling point. It seems as if every game created in the most recent generation of console and PC gaming has used Unreal Engine 3, and Epic would certainly want to continue that trend with its latest creation. Seeing a Gears of War game on an updated and more polished version of a popular engine just may help Epic continue to dominate the market. This of course would most definitely require the next Gears game to be played on the upcoming generation of consoles. With Microsoft and Sony having yet to officially announce their new hardware, the transition from this generation to the next seems increasingly imminent. The game will more than likely release on one of these consoles, completely created using Unreal Engine 4. And with Microsoft seeming to be a bit short handed in the exclusives department over the past couple of years, you can bet that they will try to keep the license exclusive. But don’t count Sony out. Epic has stressed their interest in creating a popular game for multiple platforms in the past, and if Sony has anything to say about it, they will try their best to steal away another Microsoft selling point.

When we last left Marcus and the rest of the Gears, he had just removed his bandanna, took a seat on the sand and breathed a sigh of relief. The ending of Gears of War 3 left everyone feeling as if the series had reached its conclusion, much like the Halo series did with its third installment. Not so fast. You witnessed just how quickly Microsoft resurrected the Halo franchise when exclusives began dropping and you can expect they will do the same with Gears of War. With the game running on Unreal Engine 4, primed for a new generation of consoles, this game could be a great tool to use in putting more next generation Microsoft consoles into homes worldwide. Only a fool would believe that this is the end of Gears of War, as most companies will generally squeeze the life out of any popular franchise in order to make a buck. And that is exactly what Gears of War is, a money making machine. So what story can we expect from the next Gears game?

As mentioned before, the game had a pretty solid closing, leaving everyone feeling finished and satisfied unlike other popular titles (ahem…Mass Effect 3). So what might Marcus and the Gears encounter on their next go around? With the Locust having been all but eradicated, and the Lambent threat no longer existent, the likelihood of the gang facing another, much tougher opponent, seems like the best bet.  The story for Gears of War was nothing amazing, but the characters were intriguing and the main plot has lots of appeal. It was something that we had already seen, yet never seen before. Alien invasions are nothing new to gaming, but for them to come from within the very soil upon which you stand was a fresh take on a tried and true idea. You can expect the story to take a turn towards the bizarre, with fresh new enemies, and perhaps a touch of the old ones.

As for the multiplayer, Gears of War has nearly always hit the nail on the head, using nearly to describe the lackluster experience from the second installment. Gears of War 3, however, was packed full of different modes, maps and unlocks. The game was really complete in terms of DLC, map varieties and a plethora of different modes such as Horde, Beast, Co-op and your basic Deathmatch battles. Expect the next Gears to build on that even more. With the success of the additional modes like Beast and Horde, you can very well anticipate that Epic will cater to fans of these gameplay styles. More waves in Beast mode, for starters, would be a good indication of their intent to build upon a successful product. You can also guarantee that old favorites such as Gridlock and Mansion will make an appearance for those who want a little nostalgia and wouldn’t mind seeing older maps re-imagined on a brand new platform and engine.

So, there it is. The next Gears will more than likely play host to a new console, as well as a new Unreal Engine. The story will likely seem a bit out of left field, with the Epic team having to create a whole new enemy in an already existing universe, but it shouldn’t be an issue. The multiplayer will most certainly be bolstered a bit, with a larger focus on the Horde and Beast modes. Regardless of whether or not you think Gears might be done, the fact still remains that it is one of Microsoft’s very few exclusive hits. combine that fact with Sony having more and more first party exclusives, and you can ensure that Gears has yet to see its final day. Now, tell us what you think. Did we get it all wrong? Is Gears of War finished? Did we insinuate anything that you think to be completely false, or was their anything we missed? Let us know what you expect from the next Gears of War title. What are your hopes for the franchise? What do you want to see from the series. Let us know in the comments below.

 

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
Apr 252012
 

This week, the Bargain Bin is going PlayStation 3 exclusive, bitches. That’s right, we are venturing into the alternative timeline universe, where the Russians fucked up, and all of Europe has been destroyed by the Chimera. Resistance: Fall of Man was developed by Insomniac Games, published by Sony Computer Entertainment and released in late 2006. It was the must own launch title back then and won numerous awards for PlayStation 3 Game of the Year. Sales were great, but many eventual purchasers of the PlayStation 3 may have missed out on a great title. In the following year, Resistance was near the top of the charts for game sales on the PlayStation 3 platform, and earned itself among the first batch of PS3 Greatest Hits titles. The game has aged, as all games do, yet the experience is great, the gameplay is excellent, and for the prices you can find this game for, it is simply a must buy for PS3 owners everywhere.

The Story

You begin the game in 1945, as an American Soldier named Nathan Hale. The soft voice of a woman tells you of the outbreak of the Chimera, an alien race that has quickly taken over most of Europe. After the Chimera spread across Russia and into western Europe, the dug through the channel, making their way to England. This is where the story of Resistance: Fall of Man takes place. American troops are sent into England to help with support. In exchange for our troops, weapons and tanks, the Brits promised to give us something that was beyond our creative abilities. Of course you won’t find out what the details of the exchange  until later. From there, you are taken on a ride throughout the English countryside, smashing Chimera and taking all their swag. The game plays solely in the first person perspective, except for the few times you operate vehicles such as tanks.

The Gameplay

The gameplay in Resistance: Fall of Man is some of the smoothest you will ever see. The aiming mechanic is spot on, and strafing through the world seems as crisp as possible. The game features the basic story mode, as well as both cooperative play and versus multiplayer. The online versus multiplayer obviously wont garner the same amount of fun as it once had, due to the lack of players available to play with. But if you can find those players out there, you can still create clans and custom games. As of December 2008, both of the downloadable map packs for Resistance: Fall of Man were offered for free as a holiday gift from Insomniac Games in anticipation for Resistance 2, so what little experience you can have with the versus multiplayer has now been expanded free of charge.

Audio/Visual

When comparing the game to recently released titles, you can clearly tell that Resistance: Fall of Man has aged. The graphics are good, no doubt, but they are nothing compared to the likes of Resistance 3. The audio in the game seems a tad bland. It doesn’t do a great job of trying to get you into the story or the battle. It just seems like randomly generated English phrases muttered by your fellow soldiers, or insults slurred in you direction from the attacking Chimera. This is all to be expected of course as Resistance was a launch title for the PlayStation 3 and is nearly six years old.

The Verdict

Although the game appears to have aged a bit, and does not offer trophy support, it is still a great buy. You can easily find the game in the used section of your local retailer, and if not, can find it very quickly online. You can still buy new copies of the game for pretty cheap, since it was released as a PS3 Greatest Hit, but for the prices you can find them at used, it is recommended that you take that route. All in all, Resistance: Fall of Man is a great game. It has smooth controls that any first person shooter (FPS) fan can appreciate and it has a variety of multiplayer modes. You can find Resistance: Fall of Man at the following locations, online prices do not include shipping and handling.

  • GameStop – Used in-store or online for $4.99. $4.50 if you are a Pro Member.
  • Best Buy - Used online for $9.99.
  • Wal-Mart - New for $25.55, available online only.
  • New Egg - New for $27.99.
  • Amazon.com - New starting at $16.91. Used starting at $2.75.

 

 

 

Apr 132012
 

Over at GamesIndustry International, former THQ executive Richard Browne has penned a piece castigating the practices of used video game retailers such as GameStop and indicting them for damaging the “the creativity and variety of games available to the consumer” and for “the death of single player gaming.”

Browne’s harangue comes a couple of weeks after Kotaku reported rumors that the PS4 will block owners from playing used games by locking titles to their PSN accounts. He condones such measures as a necessary “Nuclear Option” from Sony and Microsoft to combat the stagnation of new game sales and notes that several developments in modern gaming — including DLC and the ubiquity of multiplayer modes — are the direct result of publishers attempting to stop the “churn” created by used game sales.

“The real cost of used games has been the destruction of the mid-tier publisher and the elimination of many an independent development studio who in the past conducted work in that space. With next generation budgets leaping yet again only the ‘mini-publishers’ – such as Epic, Insomniac, Bungie – can possibly survive externally to an actual publisher. Beneficial to the customer? No,” he wrote.

Browne isn’t the only industry voice speaking out against used games – Frontier Developments founder David Braben was interviewed by Gamasutra last month and made similar comments, saying, “The real problem when you think about it brutally… [is] pre-owned has really killed core games…. I know publishers who have stopped games in development because most shops won’t reorder stock after initial release, because they rely on the churn from the resales.”

It’s worth noting, however, that digital distribution continues to grow in popularity, and many gamers opt for preloading games on Steam the night before a release instead of waiting in line at a retailer. It’s quickly becoming a matter of when, not if, future consoles lack media drives, and we could be only years away from used games being relics of the past.

Source: GamesIndustry International