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Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1 Review

Telltale Games has had quite the busy year so far—they finished up their newest episodic story with Tales From The Borderlands while the upcoming season finale to Game of Thrones:A Telltale Games Series is coming this November. It seems that the team at Telltale is not done yet this year as we got the first of five episodes for Minecraft: Story Mode, which is their take on Mojang’s widely known and popular creative game. Unlike the previous games they have put out—which had characters, stories, and a world to use for source material—with Minecraft there is a free range to create a unique story with original characters we have never seen before.

Even so, Telltale definitely put themselves in a tough position when they picked up Minecraft to make an episodic game for. It’s tough to imagine how a game where you basically explore a world and build whatever you want to would transition into a five-part episodic story driven game where there aren’t any characters or places you can reference.

I will say that Minecraft: Story Mode does a good job with what it was trying to accomplish, the game features the iconic crafting table which allowed you to create items to help progress through the story, and while it wasn’t at the depth of crafting Minecraft itself has it was still nice to see it put in the game.

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Minecraft: Story Mode features Telltale’s bread and butter point and click gameplay while also including a good amount of quick time events and combat. The developer’s dialog and story options return as well, though this time around they are a bit more lighthearted. Minecraft: Story Mode is child friendly and without many decisions that might have you questioning yourself or getting too emotionally invested. The game’s simplistic gameplay allows anyone to jump in and enjoy the story and have fun which, at it’s core, is what Minecraft is about.

With that being said in Minecraft: Story Mode you take on the role of Jesse who, joined by with his friends and pet pig named Rueben, is trying to win the Endercon building competition with the hopes of meeting Gabriel the Warrior, a member of “The Order of the Stone.” Gabriel and his allies are the group of legendary heroes that defeated the Ender Dragon. Things go south and our ragtag group of unlikely heroes are on the quest of a lifetime to find the remaining members of The Order of the Stone so they can help save the world.

Minecraft: Story Mode also boasts a wealth of talented voice acting. If you picked a male character for Jesse the game’s lead voice actor is the hilarious Patton Oswalt while Catherine Taber voices the female version. With the supporting casting of comedian and actor Brian Posehn as Axel, I found myself enjoying any dialog sequences involving Patton and Brian. And just like in previous TT games there are, of course, various story related choices that can result in minor changes to the game’s outcome. From getting black eye to losing your stone sword and deciding who you team up with going into Episode 2, your choices matter. But, I’ll shy away from any details as to avoid spoilers for those of you who have yet to play the game yet.

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Review: The Bridge

With more and more Indy games showing up these past two gaming generations, it takes a lot for one to stand out. Even more so for those with abstract art direction and intriguing puzzles abound, which seem to be more common lately. With games like Limbo and Braid leading the helm, The Bridge is an interesting take on the puzzle genre, which adds an M.C. Escher art style to the mix. While The Bridge was originally released in 2013 on the Xbox 360 and Steam, it will make its way to the now current-gen consoles. At first glance, The Bridge seems like a rather simple game, but adding the M.S. Escher style adds an interesting new perspective to the genre. This forces players to skew how they view the environment, right from the first puzzle and it only gets more crazy as the game trudges on.

While the plot is extremely minimal in comparison to the gameplay, there is one to be found by those who look into every detail. Both the environment and the text that appears when you beat a chapter add to the mystery of an otherwise explanation-less world. At first, The Bridge just throws you right in with no sense of what’s going on, but the more levels you complete, the deeper the plot begins to dig into your brain. While it did throw me off at first, I found myself completing levels and puzzles to try to unravel the mystery of our unnamed protagonist and this strange world he inhabits.

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The Bridge features extremely simple gameplay, using only a few buttons throughout the course of the game. However, mastering all the tools at your disposal are key to beating the puzzles. With powers such as rewinding and tilting the world, they offer better mobility to an otherwise slow-moving protagonist. With how slow the character moves, it can be kind of infuriating when you’ve rewound a couple of times, trying to find the solution. Rather than outright dying, you’re given the ability to rewind from where you died, which proves to be helpful as the game can be a bit of a trial and error for certain puzzles. While it starts off fairly simplistic, the game can and will have a rather interesting difficulty spike.

The Bridge hosts a small amount of content, with only 24 levels for the base game. Once you beat those however, you do unlock Mirror versions of those levels and that’s where the game really gets started. The regular 24 levels offer good challenges, which can be frustrating at times when the solution is not so clear. The Mirror versions however, can be downright difficult in comparison. Some puzzles will take you at most 20 minutes, while some can be done in a matter of seconds, which in turn can be a bit disappointing. While the levels are incredibly well thought out, gorgeous to look at and downright fun, it will leave most gamers wanting more, especially when the game can be beaten in a matter of 4 hours.

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As stated earlier, the game was originally released in 2013 and now re-releases with no additional content. While that is a bit of a bummer for players who have already experienced The Bridge, releasing on the newer consoles allows more gamers to discover this abstract puzzle game. I would like to have seen extra puzzles to give returning players a great reason to try the game again. Even more disappointing, it shares the same achievement list as the Xbox 360 version, which can be completed rather easily. While it offers nothing new from its 2013 version, it’s still worth checking out for fans of the puzzle genre who haven’t played it before. The Bridge is an incredible addition to the puzzle genre and one that should not be missed.

The Bridge releases on Xbox One, August 14, 2015, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on August 18th and Wii U on August 20th.
PG8_10

editors note: this game was reviewed on X-Box One
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Playstation Vita Reviews Reviews

Z-Run Review

Oh, Z-Run, I can honestly say that I was excited to get to play this game.  A nice new Indie game for my PS Vita that features zombies and a decent but simple concept of getting from point A to point B.  Sadly though it’s nothing but that, a nice concept.

So let’s start with the fact that there is no story at all.  You are just some guy or some woman running down the streets trying to avoid or kill any zombie you come across.  Not a big deal, I didn’t expect for the game to have a story anyways, so just telling you now don’t expect it.  You have no idea why you are who you are or even what the hell happened.

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Alright let’s get into some gameplay.  The goal of any runner game is a simple one; get from the start to the finish.  In Z-Run it’s no different besides the hordes of zombies blocking your path.  So in order for you to meet your objective you have to either avoid them or kill them.  To avoid them you can just try to stay away from them, but they will lunge at you and at some point you are going to have to kill some (I mean what would be the point if you didn’t?).  You will pick up weapons that will help you kill the undead horde such as wrenches and planks for melee and a handgun and shotgun for firearms.  You will also have to avoid obstacles such as barricades and cars.  Skills like jumping and sliding will allow you to jump barricades or slide under vans, semi and other obstacles.  The sliding skill is honestly the most useful skill you have because it also allows you to slide into zombies and take them out without using a weapon.  You have a health bar and a stamina bar plus your inventory at the bottom.  As you play the game your character will level up, though it won’t tell you so make sure you pay attention, and you get points to spend that you can get more items like; more health, more stamina, sliding and jumping cost less stamina, more inventory, and plenty more.  There are around 30 levels in the campaign and a survival mode that has 3 areas that allows you to run endlessly until you die.

One of my biggest problems with the game is all the levels are very very similar, other than some visual changes.  Sure they may move some obstacles around but for the most part it’s just copy and paste of the previous levels.  Only one new enemy will show up about half way through the game, and it’s just a slightly bigger zombie that you can’t slide into like you can to the others.  There is just do depth here. In my opinion they actually punish you for killing zombies with a melee weapon because when you do you get blood splatter on your screen, that’s cool and all but when I’m trying to look ahead to see the next obstacle and I can’t because I got all this red gunk blocking my view, it tends to lead to my death or at least health loss and that’s just annoying.  All of your weapons either have durability or bullets, and you need to conserve them because they don’t replenish even if you have to start the level over.

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The environment is also not well thought out.  Plenty of times I would think I could jump over something and it turns out I can’t, even though I clearly jumped over very similar items before.  So because of that, I have either lost health or died, again this is annoying.  I also got into situations where I saw some ammo in a spot where a car was close to a wall and found out that I can’t get through the gap that was there, and because you can’t go backwards I just ran into the invisible wall until I died.  The game just doesn’t work well and I found it to be way more of a task to play it than I did having fun.

Z-Run is a runner game that disappoints in so many different ways.  Sure you can play it and few out there may enjoy it. I personally did not.  The game has nothing going for it IMO other than the fact there are actually zombies in it, and they are not even good looking zombies.

PG2_10

 

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Final Fantasy X HD Review

When first released for the Playstation 2, Final Fantasy X was a drastic departure for the series.  The series was taken into many new directions.   Non-linearity was fundamental to the franchise, and it is partially the reason why so many gamers loved the early iterations, yet FFX is quite linear (For those that worry about linearity, don’t let FFXIII dissuade you from playing this gem).  Voice acting would also become one of FFX’s largest selling points.  Thirteen years, and four numbered titles later, the company has struggled to build upon FFX’s success.

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The story follows Tidus and his journey through a world where individuals named “summoners,” alongside their “guardians,” are tasked with defeating the world’s immortal enemy: Sin.  The plot seems simple enough at first, but the further you advance the story, the more you realize the grim nature of embarking on such a quest.  Twists and turns are in abundance, making it fun to squeeze every last detail from the mythology.

Despite having one of the most somber plots in the franchise, FFX is among the most visually stunning games of any generation (including the current one).  The artists, not content with reusing the more drab look of previous FF titles, decided to throw in every tropical color available.  Islands, which make up for about one-half of the environments, are reminiscent of the original Playstation’s Chrono Cross rather than more recent island based games: Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

Characters have the distinction of having some of the most outlandish outfits in gaming.  Tidus, besides being a glorified water-polo player, is also an extravagant dresser.  Metal gloves, a bright yellow jacket, net inspired shorts, mixed with oversized boots, never looked better.   It’s safe to say that the character artists really went out on a limb with some of their outfits, but it fits extraordinarily well with the world of Spira.

The gameplay is largely the same, with the addition to the international version’s sphere grid.  Turn based gameplay is not for everyone, but if you were to pick one game to try and get used to the system, FFX is that game.  Swapping characters out on a whim keeps the action flowing nicely, while allowing for some interesting strategies on the players behalf.

Prior to the game being rereleased, many fans were nervous that S.E. messed up the whimsical soundtrack of the original game.  While they have remixed some of the tracks, they are mostly for the better.  Half of the time I was so caught up in the action, I hardly noticed the differences.

One of the more quaint upgrades to the game, trophy support has to be one of the best features implemented.  If you needed a reason to revisit Spira, the trophy list will keep you there a while.   Planning on beating the game while getting the platinum? Be advised that it will easily take you around 80 to 100 hours to do so.  Granted, it will be hours well spent.

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Thanks to the remaster, the game is better in almost every regard. Yet the acting and voice-overs still have issues.  Secondary characters are almost flawless, however, the problems lie in the main characters.  Tidus is annoyingly high-pitched when he gets excited, while Yuna sounds depressed, even at times of enjoyment.  Perhaps the former issues are me being nitpicky, but it goes without saying that the most glaring of faults is the poorly executed lip synching.  It plagued the original game, and it is even more obvious this time around.

Despite some minor flaws, Final Fantasy X is the best game the series has produced in over a decade.   You can look at this and scoff at Square Enix’s inability to replicate its success, or you can look at S.E. and admire how they have created a classic that still holds up today.  I undoubtedly fall into the latter.

 

Score:  10/10

 

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Borderlands 2 PS Vita Review

Love guns? Love looting? Love Questing? Well do I have good news for you. Borderlands 2 is the sequel to the absolutely amazing FPS RPG Borderlands, released back in 2009, published by 2K Games and developed by Gearbox Software. Borderlands 2 was originally released on the 360, PS3, and PC back in 2012, but it has just been recently released for the PS Vita!

There are so many good things to say about this game, I could write a book about it, but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. Not much has changed from the first game to this one, except for the new playable characters, and a huge new world to explore. That might sound like a big difference for two games, but trust me, it doesn’t do much to seperate it from its predecessor. Borderlands 1 had a huge number of guns, estimated around 17,750,000. But Borderlands 2 has a whopping WE DON’T KNOW!!! Really, when asked, Gearbox was honest and said they don’t even know how many there are, but it’s easily twice as many in the first game. That’s at least 35,500,000 guns! Oh, and this game holds the trophy for “My favorite bad guy in a video game award”. Handsome Jack is a man that I absolutely love to HATE!

Besides the sheer number of guns to collect,loot, buy and sell, there is so much to do in this game. Want to go on dozens upon dozens of quests? BL2 is here to quench that thirst. Want to team up with up to 3 buddies online (or just 1 on the Vita version), go right ahead! There are so many challenges to complete, 72 levels to raise through (that’s after getting all the DLC though). That brings me to the DLC. Some games have some real garbage DLC: Alternate skins, maybe some maps. What does this game give you with DLC? New characters! New Maps! New stories/quests! So much more content over all, it’s mind boggling. This brings me to one of my few grips with the game though. Season passes are sold for many games, so you can save money, while getting all of the DLC packs together. Well with Borderlands 2, they were never really clear on which packs were initially included in the Pass. This lead to a lot of confusion, and a lot of people, including me, felt a bit cheated/tricked.

Now onto this week/next week’s release of Borderlands 2 on the PS Vita. I’m loving it so far, since I got the BL2 PS Vita Slim Bundle (the stand alone game won’t be released until the 13th of this Month (May, 2014). The controls however, have decided that they want to make my experience replaying this, a living hell. Since the joy sticks on the Vita don’t have a button built into them to click down, the sprint button, and the melee button, have been binded to the Vita’s rear touchpad. Because of this layout, my big meaty hands constantly slipped and hit these buttons, causing me to flail my melee weapon around. Also, with the grenade button and ability button being binded to the front touch pads, I’ve ran into the situation of killing myself with grenades quite a few times. This is a pretty big flaw in my opinion, but none the less, I’m still having a terrific time!

Borderlands 2, along with the first game, are absolute most owns for any lovers of FPS games, or RPGs. I would, however, caution on buying the Vita version. If you have a 360 or PS3 (or a PC that can run it), then get it on one of those. Only go out of your way to get it on the Vita if you can’t get it on any other port. This game is an absolute master piece, and I can’t wait for the next 2 installments, The Pre-Sequel (taking place between 1 & 2), and Telltale Games episodic point and click game, Tales From The Borderlands.

I’m giving Borderlands 2 a strong 9/10!

PG9_10

 

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Gucamelee Review

Guacamelee is “Juan” heck of a game. Drinkbox has done it again, and brought another great PSN game on to the PlayStation consoles. Guacamelee! captures the humor, art, and musical style that all of their previous games have brought. The game also has wonderful platforming elements, a great combat system, and a really good story. It has all the elements a game needs to be a great game, but Guacamelee! has a lot more than just those.

The game starts off introducing you to the main character, Juan. He is a farm boy from Pueblucho, a town that greatly respects luchadors. Juan goes to help out a man when El Presidente’s daughter is caught in a fire. Juan rushes over, only to find a skeleton by the name of Calaca, has captured her. Juan tries to fight back, but sadly, Calaca kills Juan. In the world of the dead, Juan finds a mysterious luchador mask. He then progresses out of the world of the dead, and obviously, tries to save El Presidente’s daughter from Calaca. This makes for an interesting plot line throughout the game, and is not just a complement to the excellent gameplay that comes along with it.

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Speaking of that gameplay, it is arguably one of the best platformers I have ever played. Why it is, is because it actually makes you think, and it can actually become quite difficult. At some points, I had to pull off crazy combos to get to the next platform, and after I had completed them, I felt like a luchador myself. The platforms are laid out perfectly, and I never had a problem with something being impossible or too hard to pass. As the great Goldilocks once said, “It was just right.”

Juan can also beat up baddies along the way. The excellent combat system makes that super fun. Juan can pull off awesome combos, in both the air, and on the ground. It’s fluid, and it just feels right in place with how everything else in the game works. Along with just his punches and kicks, Juan also learns some mystical attacks from a goat-man. These can be used to break objects in the environment or when battling enemies. These have great, funny names attached to them like the Rooster Uppercut, and my absolute favorite, The Dashing Derp-Derp. I just love how the combat works, and it just feels right for the game.

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The enemies won’t cause you too many problems (in the normal mode that is), but the bosses will kick your butt over and over again. These bosses will take you many, many times to figure out. Their attack patterns are all so diverse, and finding out how to stop them is even harder. Eventually, when you do figure them out, it feels awesome, and like I said before, like a real luchador.

My only real problem was that the game was a bit too short. My first time through clocked in at 4 hours, and 4 minutes. I didn’t go out of my way for collectibles, or do any of the side-missions on that run-through. However, if you were to play on hard, the game lasts longer (you will have to re-do more parts), or if you did look for collectibles and do the side missions. If you did any of those things, the game could last you 10-20+ hours. Still, I wish there was a little more content to it, even though I really enjoyed what it had.

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Humor is where Drinkbox excels the most. There are references to so many things you wouldn’t believe. On the billboards, there are ads for “Mega Hombre”, “Casa Crashers” and even an ad in Spanish for their last Vita title, Tales from Space Mutant Blobs Attack. There are also funny references to other things outside of games, like the meme, Grumpy Cat, or the movie Wreck it Ralph (they put “Bust it Bill”). All of these were hilarious, and the character dialogue and gameplay has even more references and jokes. Guacamelee! had me laughing the entire game.

The art and music are great as well, and fit with the overall aesthetic of the game. The art has a 2D beautiful surface in the front, and some kind of background that pertains to the kind of environment you are in. Like for example, the desert scene has sand dunes in the back. The game looks beautiful on both my TV, and my PlayStation Vita’s 5 inch display. The music is an upbeat, Mexican style. It fits wonderfully, and sounds especially nice when coming through headphones.

Guacamelee! is an all-around awesome game, and anyone with a Vita and/or a PlayStation 3 should pick it up. It’s one of the greatest platformers that I’ve played in a while, and it has all the elements a game needs to be great; awesome gameplay, great soundtrack, good graphics, and a fun story. Guacamelee’s got it all. It doesn’t matter if you’re broke, or don’t have any money, you need to buy Guacamelee. Believe the hype, it’s really that good.

PG9_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Machinarium PS Vita Review

Machinarium is a fun puzzle game, but it’s not without its problems. The art style is great, and the gameplay is good, but it’s a little bit hard. It’s not a good kind of hard; it’s hard in a cryptic way. The story really isn’t enough to keep you going either. Even though it is kind of hard to get through, you can still have some fun with some of the more fun puzzles.

Machinarium is a point and click adventure game; a genre which I usually enjoy playing. It controls very well, and there are many ways to control on the Vita. You can use the front or back touchscreens, or you can control it using the analog stick. All three ways are very fluent, and the game is really easy to control.

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The game is simple enough at the beginning, and only require a little of thinking to get through. By the third puzzle though, things start getting very, very hard. In that puzzle, you need to get past a police guard. He doesn’t let you through if you are in uniform; a white hat with a light bulb on top. You find a cone to use as a hat, that part is not that hard. You dip it in a white paint bucket, and there’s our white hat. Now you have to get the light bulb. You can climb up the pole, but it’s missing a rung. This is only a one screen puzzle, so there aren’t many places to look. I wandered around for about 10 minutes, only to realize that I could throw away the other cones, to find a rung to put on the pole. I don’t know if this is my deductive reasoning failing on me, or if this game is just too cryptic. Compared to the other puzzles late in the game, this one isn’t even that hard. For some people, figuring out these impossible puzzles might be super fun, but for some reason I only got past a few on my own without using clues.

I think Machinarium knows how hard it is, because it gives you two forms of clues you can look at in the game; the one-time clue and the walkthrough book. The one-time clue is self-explanatory; it’s a clue that can be used one time. However, these are always very vague, and don’t really give you a great sense of where to go. The walkthrough book is a great source, but it is always a pain in the neck to use. First off, the game makes you do a little side scrolling shoot ‘em up to just get into the book. Then, it gives you a picture by picture walkthrough of what you need to do on that screen. There is one thing that really makes it hard to use, though. Let’s say you walk into the bar part of the main square to do part of a puzzle. You open the book with the mini-game, and realize you have to walk out to get something you forgot. If you go back into that bar again, you have to do the mini-game over again. It gets extremely repetitive, and for those multi-screen puzzles, it’s an absolute pain in the neck.

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Even though most of the puzzles are really hard, some of them are still fun, like the games in the arcade level, and other little, fun puzzles scattered throughout the game. They gave my brain a well-deserved break, and were a lot more creative than the cryptic point and click puzzles in the base of the game. I probably enjoyed the mini puzzles more than the actual game, because the mini puzzles were not as cryptic, and easier to understand.

The art and ambiance of the whole game was stunning. The characters in the foreground were all designed beautifully, and the backgrounds and buildings are pretty as well. The story was okay; there really was nothing to it. The little robot you play as is trying to find his girlfriend and he is dealing with some “bully robots” along the way. I wish there was more to the story, but that’s not the reason people would want to play this game, so it probably wasn’t the priority.

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Machinarium is an okay point and click adventure with a great art style and some fun mini puzzles, but along with that comes a so-so story and some really hard, cryptic puzzles. If you enjoy extremely hard point and click adventures, you’ll probably get some fun out of Machiarium.

PG6_10

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Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine Review

I like to think that stealth games have been going through somewhat of a renaissance in the past few years. If anything, they’re getting smarter. The act of sleuthing through an environment has never been more accessible, brought about mostly by new and interesting ways to convey information in the world to the player. But there’s always a common thread with stealth games of today—their emphasis on action. Games like Dishonored or Mark of the Ninja obviously place a focus on stealth, but both games and plenty others also place emphasis on killing when things get hairy, and give you plenty of satisfying tools to do so.

 

Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine never wants you to murder. It’s a stealth game in which murder is possible, but it never pretends to be about moment-to-moment action. Rather, it focuses on a scarcely visited contrast to the “murder as you go” stealth genre. Monaco is about the heist. Get in, get the loot, get out–that is the constant beat by which Monaco operates.

The Lookout in Action

Monaco tells a classic heist story of four freshly escaped thieves, eager to get out of the country to early retirement. This proves to be a much more complicated affair, as what is originally a simple escape of the country branches out into a much messier affair. Throughout the story players will be sent on missions to rescue additional characters, each of whom has it’s own unique ability for sleuthing.

 

Monaco is played from a 2D top-down view, presenting environments in the form of building floor plans. Line of sight plays a large role in navigation, meaning that anything that your character cannot see is blocked from view. This leads to peeking through doorways, windows, and air vents to gather an understand of your surroundings. Monaco also uses sound to great effect, from subtle conversations between characters, to satisfying footsteps that help reveal guard locations when you can’t see them. Every playable character in Monaco presents its own unique ability, each of which make a certain aspect of stealthy navigation easier. The Lockpick, for example, can conquer a locked door in a fraction of the time of other characters, while the Pickpocket wields a faithful pet monkey that will automatically seek out coins.

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Everything in Monaco is done by pressing against objects. You want to unlock a door? Press against it. See a hackable terminal? Push away. It sounds so simple, because it is. It’s such a rudimentary concept that makes all the difference in practice. There are a multitude of tools introduced to the player over the course of the story to mix up the gameplay. Some early examples include the gun, which allows for a quick kill in a hairy situation, at the expense of noise. Smoke bombs are useful for making a hasty escape from multiple pursuers, and the EMP takes out all electronics in the vicinity, including alarms and security sensors. In earlier stages, you’ll only be supplied with one kind of item, often for the sake of teaching you how to use it. In later stages, you’ll be presented with plenty of choice, which provides plenty of opportunity for playing different ways.

 

Each floor of every stage randomly places coins throughout the area. These are mostly there to evoke a feeling of Pac-Man, but also serve to encourage exploration of stages. Every ten coins collected also scores extra supply of your item, be it a gun or EMP, though unfortunately that is the only way to acquire additional supplies. The game seems really bent on trying to make these coins matter–a feeling further brought about by the game’s alternate storyline. Apart from the first story told from the perspective of the Lockpick, there is a separate parallel story told from the perspective of the Pickpocket. This extended story does a good job of further fleshing out the overall narrative, which is good, because the normal storyline does not stand alone very well. Though with how necessary it is to experience the Pickpocket story, it’s a bummer that they place a sizable gate in front of players to access those missions. To unlock each Pickpocket mission, you must “Clean Out” (collect every coin) two other missions. Cleaning out missions is not always an easy task, especially when you just want to focus on the main objective. It feels like yet another way to make the coins feel important, but it just ends up the act experiencing the full story a hassle.

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And while Monaco works very well as a solo experience, you won’t see the best of what it has to offer until jumping into co-op. Co-op grants the ability to have multiple thieves at the same time, significantly increasing your effectiveness in the field. A great example is having someone play as the Lockpick to easily navigate through doors, someone as the Hacker to bring any security to its knees, someone as the Pickpocket to collect every coin along the way, and someone as the Cleaner to knock out any suspicious guards. This is an amount of power that would be plainly impossible playing alone. Levels also don’t scale in difficulty with the addition of players, so there’s never a disadvantage to playing co-op. When you can gather a few friends and effectively coordinate with each other, there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling off the perfect heist.

 

One of Monaco’s greatest strengths is its distinct visual style. But the style is not just there to be aesthetically pleasing, as it can also contribute directly to gameplay. AI guards have mannerisms that reveal their behavior, and the line-of-sight mechanic challenges the player to learn their surroundings without being able to see them.

 

Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine perfectly represents what sets stealth games apart from the pack. There’s not always a need for a game inherently about violence. You’re there to get the loot, and get out. And even though a round of Monaco isn’t one of constant moment-to-moment action, it find different and more interesting ways of delivering the same satisfying experience. Monaco achieves magic when a group of friends and I can ghost into a complex, dismantle every obstacle in our way, grab what we’re after, and make like we were never there. And while the unnecessary coin quota can hamper what is otherwise an enjoyable story, it doesn’t do much to make we want to play Monaco any less. Monaco is a simultaneous triumph in stealth, style, and game design, and one that should not be missed.

PG8_10

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Playstation Vita Reviews XBOX 360

Motocross Madness Review

To anyone who has kept up with Microsoft’s push to insert the ‘Xbox Avatar’ into games, the experiment has seldom led to anything more than mediocre kart racers and weird, often awful, indie games. There isn’t really a good reason that avatars haven’t been well-implemented into games thus far. Whether it’s been through budget limitations, general apathy for the product, or Microsoft’s crazy guidelines for how avatars must be presented in games, avatars have never been able to surround themselves in a game worth playing.

Motocross Madness is a game worth playing. ‘Surprising’ is the word that has kept resurfacing as I think about Motocross Madness. Given the low expectations I’ve had for games of its caliber thus far, it’s been refreshing to play what is not only a “good avatar game”, but a good game altogether. Above all else, Motocross Madness doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t.

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Events in Motocross Madness are broken down into four parts: normal competitive races, rival races, exploration stages, and trick sessions. The most interesting of those are the exploration stages, in which players are dropped into one of many open world terrains and given various objectives of collecting coins, doing tricks, etc. It provides a good change of pace from the other racing modes, as you’re not constrained to a time limit. Trick sessions place you the same open areas as the exploration mode as you fight against other NPC’s to see who can rack up the highest trick score in the time limit.

When you’re not on the track in Motocross Madness, you can use money earned from events to upgrade or buy new bikes, which then qualifies you to participate in higher class events. Problems arise when every new bike purchased starts out at the lowest “E” class, forcing you to repurchase all the upgrades you had on a your last bike. I found the entire prospect of buying new bikes rendered moot by the fact that the first default bike you get is more than capable to complete every event in the game. I completed every race event in 1st place with nothing but a fully upgraded stock bike.

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The moment-to-moment bike riding in Motocross Madness works fairly well, but definitely has issues. Drifting is very inconsistent, sometimes leading to a successful slide, and sometimes leading me to a complete stop. The game also tries to add an incentive to crash by giving you some XP depending how “gnarly” the crash is, but the action doesn’t stop during the crash. In this way, it’s not worth it to lose for first place position to get a few extra experience points crashing. Also, the avatar ragdoll animations are comically bad. When Motocross Madness’ driving is working though, it provides a thrilling sense of speed and a pretty enjoyable trick variation. As you gain experience and level up, you’ll gain access to new tiers of tricks to be performed in air: tricks that involve pressing in a direction while holding a corresponding face button. You’ll often have to think about which trick is necessary for the jump, as some tricks take longer than others to perform, but yield a higher boost bonus.

There are total of nine tracks in the game, spanning across three regions. The tracks themselves are surprisingly well designed and varied in terms of layout, and they look pretty great, but they do a poor job of articulating the correct path at times. Often I’d stumble off-track because there was no clear sign or terrain that indicated I was going the wrong way.

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Motocross Madness also sports a social network suite called Bike Club. Here you can see your friends’ best times on tracks, stats, medals, etc. You can also asynchronously race friends’ ghosts to beat their score, and or compete directly in real time. These features work well enough, but the entire section feels incredibly half-baked. It becomes pretty clear that Bike Club was an afterthought with its plainness and lack of creativity.

As a racing game, Motocross Madness is a well-made addition to the scarcely populated genre. It has a great variety in tracks and tricks, and provides some good, though fairly limited, replay value with the addition of Bike Club. It has a good share of quirks, no doubt, but they don’t take away too much from overall enjoyment. If past attempts at avatar-focused games have shown us anything, it is that it’s apparently tough to put out a good avatar game. Motocross Madness is easily the best argument for an avatar game to date, and also just a good ol’ racing arcade biker racer. 

PG7_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Switch Galaxy Review

Switch Galaxy is a game by former Liverpool Studios developers, and you can tell in every aspect. Switch Galaxy captures the same sense of speed and beauty that Wipeout always shined in. The music is great, along with the designs of everything from the vehicles, down to the tracks and barriers. Even the price is great. The only real major problem I have with it is that it is a little too short. When that is your only complaint, you know you got a pretty good game on your hands.

The gameplay is simple, yet wonderful. You move from lane to lane, dodging enemies and barriers, and collecting credits as you go. There are power-ups to help you pass barriers; destroy barriers, and one to steal credits from enemies. They are all basic, but can get hard to see when flying across space at the break-neck speeds you can reach in this game. It can also be a little hard to see upcoming enemies, as they sometimes can blend in with the surroundings, but I think it just adds to the little difficulty in the game.

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The “story” mode of the game lets you travel from galaxy to galaxy, imposed with a time limit. Hitting barriers and enemies will slow you down, but most of the time they are really easy to dodge. I only failed to make time once in a level in the latter half of the game. There are about 25 levels, which, if you take every path and do the challenges, equates to about a an hour or so of content. The challenges are really no challenge; they just require you to reach an easy distance on the track. I wish there was more to the story mode, it had lots of potential.

However, there is one mode that can become obsessive, and what I think is the real “meat” of the game. It is the survival mode, where it makes the game like an infinite runner. Once you get far enough, it really gets hard, and it always makes me want to try to beat my previous score. They set goals for you, but I wish there was some sort of leaderboard, so I could strive to beat other peoples’ scores. If you reach these preset goals, you get a ton of credits, which can definitely help you go farther.

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The credits I speak of are the in-game currency. You can use them to buy upgrades, new ship skins, and one time shields and such. The ship upgrades are cool, and will definitely help you with that survival mode, but everything else is just okay. However, you cannot use the barrier passes in the survival mode, which stinks, because that’s where I really need them. The ship skins are okay looking (I prefer the original), and the barrier blocks just weren’t doing it for me. The ship upgrades are the only thing I really bought, and are the only things that really did any good for me in trying to make my performance in the game any better.

Everything else about the game is awesome. To the upbeat sort of dubstep-like music, from the beautiful graphics of all the ships and the tracks you travelled on, all the way down to the minute details of the game, like giving population numbers and race percentages for each galaxy. Even though it’s a Playstation Mobile title, you can really tell that Atomicom put a lot of time, detail, and effort into the game.

Switch Galaxy is a great Playstation Mobile game, with simple yet fluent gameplay, a good upgrade system, awesome graphics, and a great soundtrack. The game captured the great sense of speed, aesthetic, and style that Wipeout nailed for years, and it has worked out amazingly. The only thing that’s wrong is that there aren’t a lot of levels for the story mode. This is a great game, and I suggest you go pick it up right away.

PG8_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Nun Attack Review

Nun Attack is one crazy game. In short, you take a group of nuns who happen to have shotguns and assault rifles to different graveyards to try to take down Mortana, the Fallen Nun. You go through 40 levels, spanning across four worlds. These levels have players running through them, destroying portals, and killing enemies at their flagged points. You can level up the nuns, and level up their guns with the in-game currency. Crazy, right?

The levels are all basically the same. You tap, drag, and release your finger to direct the nuns where to go. All the while, there are portals firing flying skulls at you. Each portal has a different skull, and a different way to destroy/block the projectiles. You destroy those portals by destroying the skull near it, which can be quite difficult and annoying in some levels. There are also flags in each level, each one starting a combat sequence. In these, the camera pans in, and you are given access to your weapons. You then move around every nun separately, the same way you do in the non-combat parts. To attack, you drag your nun’s cursor over to an enemy, and she will attack automatically. This was a problem at times, because the nuns would group up, and I wasn’t able to specify which enemies they were to attack. Some nuns would just stand there, and do nothing. After that, I would just keep swiping randomly, and lose the tactical feel of the game.

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You can’t have a game this weird without powers and miracles, right? Each nun has a special power that can be used in the battles for support. They are all  important, as you must use them if you wish to succeed in battle. The other form of powers was the miracles. These could be used at any time in the level, and are activated by drawing out a symbol in the miracles screen. These could be used for attack and support. Even though I didn’t use these as much, both are cool features, and are necessary to battles, and the game as a whole.

The boss fights are easy for the most part, just a larger version of the most common enemy in the world you are in, with advanced attacks. But, the last boss made me want to throw my Vita across the room. Let me just tell you now, that I have EVERY nun up to level 15 (the highest) and the best guns for every nun upgraded to the max. Even still, I couldn’t get the last boss under half health. There is a serious balancing issue or something, and it needs to be patched. Badly.

Speaking of the upgrades, the system is actually pretty cool. You can upgrade the nuns just by defeating enemies, and finishing levels. But, each nun has four guns which are found in golden chests in some of the levels. Each gun has 4 upgrade levels, which improves their fire rate, damage rate, etc. It can also change a bonus effect the gun has, such as poison, or burning. The upgrades are all good, but they still won’t help you beat that dreadful final boss.

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Everything else about the game is all pretty good as well. The menus are easy to navigate, and have a lot of color, making them nice to look at. The art styles along with the menus are pleasing, but in-game, everything seems to look flat. The music doesn’t play a huge role, but isn’t very good. It’s got kind of a jazzy soundtrack, and doesn’t seem to fit right with the game.

Overall, even with my gripes about the game, Nun Attack is pretty fun. It has a good combat system, cool powers, and a good way to upgrade you weapons. The games problems (such as the hard final boss fight) don’t completely ruin the good parts. I suggest you buy Nun Attack, you will have some fun with it.

PG7_10

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Mobile Playstation Vita Reviews

Ridiculous Fishing Review

When I think about endless runners on the App Store, I picture games in which I travel in one direction, avoiding obstacles and possibly picking up currency until I eventually meet my demise, and start over. That gameplay loop has always been enough for me. But Ridiculous Fishing is much more than an endless runner. It’s a welcome evolution that makes the genre feel fresh again.

A round of Ridiculous Fishing begins on your fisherman’s boat, as you tap the sea to cast your line underwater. As your line continues deeper, you’ll tilt the line to avoid fish. You continue this way until you collide with a fish, or reach your maximum line length. The fisherman then begins to retrieve the line as you now try to catch as many fish as possible on your way back up, making sure to avoid jellyfish. When you’ve finally returned to the surface, all of the fish you’ve caught along the way are flung high into the air, and you begin shooting them out of the sky, collecting their cash value as they explode. You know…normal fishing practices.

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When you’re not fishing, you can travel to the store to purchase upgrades. Upgrades range from longer fishing lines, new weapons to mix up your shooting strategies, items that give you multiple chances to collide with fish, or cosmetic clothing to pimp out your fisherman. There are plenty of upgrades to keep you busy through the game’s four fishing areas. While the first three areas have a bottom that can be reached, the final area is never-ending. This gives the player an outlet to mindlessly pursue a new “best depth” after you’ve completely upgraded yourself.

Progressing to new areas is achieved by catching and killing new species of fish. The fish themselves are satisfyingly varied, both visually and in behavior. For example, the piranha will go out of its way to swim towards your line. This is a curse when you’re trying to avoid fish, but can also be a blessing on your way up when you want as many fish as possible.

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Finding new fish requires venturing further into the depths, for which you’ll need a longer fishing line. To get a longer fishing line, you’ll likely end up grinding a bit to earn cash. I never felt like I was gaining cash too slowly, though. In fact, I was often surprised how quickly I could upgrade myself after a few short sessions. It’s a solid gameplay loop that will instantly sink its hooks in you. Sessions never lasted more than two or three minutes (at least in my case) so it’s also easy to lose yourself in the game when you need to kill a little time during the day. The tilt controls are extremely sensitive, so you won’t look like a complete fool jerking your device left and right in public.

The only aspect of Ridiculous Fishing I begin to take issue with is its price of $2.99. You’ll mostly find endless runners on the App Store ranging from free to a dollar. Though Ridiculous Fishing easily outperforms most of the competition in originality and gameplay polish, three dollars is still a lot to ask for a distraction-centric iOS game. The best argument that I can make for its price is that Ridiculous Fishing contains absolutely no micro-transactions. No shortcuts to better equipment, no buying your way through the game. When you buy the game, you get everything it has to offer. This is a refreshing return to normalcy that you don’t see too much of nowadays.

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Ridiculous Fishing is very self-aware in how ridiculous it is. Even more, it embraces it. Apart from the absurdity of brutally shooting fish out of the air, you can also yield a few quick chuckles from the in-game Twitter-esc feed “BYRDR”. Here you’ll find characters interacting with each other, cracking jokes at each other in a few words, complimenting my new fishing line, etc. It’s a very small feature, but what makes me love it even more is that you can legitimately retweet these fake tweets on Twitter. It’s just so dumb, and I love it.

That sentiment could accurately describe my thoughts on Ridiculous Fishing as a whole. It has a certain amount of polish in its varied mechanics that few games on the App Store possess. The amount of love Vlambeer has put into crafting Ridiculous Fishing is quickly apparent. And what has resulted is an excellent mix of popular mobile game genres that will likely take place as your go-to pick-up-and-play game for a while. I know it will be mine.

PG9_10

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Playstation 3 Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Zen Pinball 2: Star Wars Tables DLC Review

I love pinball and I love Star Wars. So, you can imagine how excited I was when Zen Studios announced they were making Star Wars Tables. Their first pack was released recently, having three tables: Boba Fett, Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars the Clone Wars. Some tables I like more than others, but they are all great. If you enjoy either Star Wars or pinball, you should definitely check these out.

The first table is the Boba Fett table. I don’t like this one as much as the others, but it is still great. Your ball is Boba Fett, and by hitting different lanes, you can take contracts from the Empire, or from Jabba the Hut. These are fun, and a cool part to the table. The table has a ton of other bells and whistles that other tables have, such as a multiball mode, lane combos, and some fun hurry ups. The table itself is beautiful, with its vibrant colors, and character models. The table is well branded to Star Wars, as Darth Vader and Jabba make live, spoken appearances on the table. Boba Fett will even say lines as you complete missions, and get combos. There is even the Great Pit of Carkoon from Return of the Jedi that ruins your combo when you fall into it.

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Even though this table sounds awesome, it has some flaws too. My ball seemed to lose momentum at random times, and it came off the left flipper way too fast. Also, some of the set pieces stopped my ball. I like a table where the ball can move smoothly across without it ramming into something. This is a good table, but the others are better.

TABLE SCORE: 6/10

 

 

The next table is Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Like the Boba Fett Table it looks nice and has good character models. These tables’ main missions, however, are based off the movie. If you hit the middle part of the table on both the left and right parts, you activate a movie scene. The scenes are taken directly from the movie, showing Luke tying up the AT-AT on Hoth, or the Ewoks taking back Endor from the Empire. This table is obviously greatly branded as well, with everything being taken from the movie. The only complaint I have about this table is the difficulty in scoring. This is tied with my other favorite table, the Clone Wars table.

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TABLE SCORE: 9/10

 

 

I am not a big fan of the Clone Wars series, but I am a huge fan of this table. Zen once again did a great job with visuals, character models, and branding. You can train to be a clone in this table which helps you rack up huge points and has you doing missions as the Jedi trying to take down the Sith Lords. These are all great for points, but there is one spam combo called the Liberation Hurry Up which you can use to get tons and tons of points. You hit a top-left lane multiple times to activate it, and once you do, you can hit another lane over and over for millions of points per hit. One time, I got over 20 million points in under 30 seconds with it. You can also hit the hurry up lane, where Yoda will give you quotes that I promise you will hear over 9,000 times. They got really old, and quite annoying while hitting the lane. That minor complaint aside, this table had some excellent features to it, and is another great table to add to your collection.

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TABLE SCORE: 9/10

 

 

The Star Wars tables are the best I have played in a while, and I suggest you check them out. They are well branded and designed, so even if you don’t like Star Wars you will definitely enjoy these tables. They come in one big pack, so you will have to get them all to play them, but it is well worth the $10 spent. May the force be with you.

PG8_10

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PC Playstation Vita Reviews

Super House of Dead Ninjas Review

Super House of Dead Ninjas does not mess around. The very same tightly-knit mechanics that make SHODN a ton of fun to play are the same ones that will make you lower your guard, lose a life, and curse yourself for your dumb mistake. It’s the constant sense of urgency brought on by the ever-depleting timer in the corner of the screen that will coax you into trying to brute force your way through stages in a rush. Beware, though. It is an instant death sentence. Death is essential to progressing through SHODN to help you learn specific enemy patterns and experiment with different weapons. Thanks to the game’s upgrade system, dying often means permanently acquiring new abilities, weapons, and upgrades that help you to improve your progress every time you play.

Think of Super House of Dead Ninjas as Spelunky, only if your spelunker moved with the speed and agility of Super Meat Boy and carried shurikens. That is all to say: it’s a very fast-paced roguelike. Though unlike many games of its type, SHODN allows you to begin your journey from any stage you’ve already completed. In a way this is great, because at some point there isn’t much value in repeating the first stage over and over. Every stage is randomly generated, to a point. While the stage won’t be the same every time you play it, you quickly begin to recognize tile sets that are simply placed in a different order.

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Possibly the greatest single element in SHODN is its upgrade system. Many roguelikes force the player to start each new session with nothing but knowledge, but SHODN’s upgrade system is designed to give you a new advantage nearly every time you die. New weapons, projectiles, and bomb types are unlocked by completing tasks that are usually easy to meet without trying. All of the upgrades are completely permanent, including health and time enhancements. In this way, no matter how much trouble I had along the way, I was at least going into a new session with a new advantage.

There are only four stages in Super House of Dead Ninjas, but don’t let that fool you. Each one will take many tries to complete. As for the final stage, that can only be accessed by completing the third stage on Hard mode. Considering Hard mode supplies you with one measly life, I’m not ashamed to say I’ll probably never be able to pull that off. In order to add some considerable replay value, MegaDev has included a level editor. The editor is simple enough to use, and includes Steam Workshop functionality, so you can download other players’ stages to your game.

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Super House of Dead Ninjas effectively draws the best elements from games like Super Meat Boy and Spelunky. Its fast-paced movement and tightly-wound combat excels in giving SHODN a feel all its own. It’s a roguelike that encourages you to keep trying by dangling each upgrade in front of you like a carrot on a stick. With its low barrier to entry, replay value-adding level editor, and superb upgrade system, it’s hard not to recommend Super House of Dead Ninjas to any roguelike fan. 

PG9_10

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Playstation 3 Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Germinator Review

Germinator is a cross-buy enabled puzzle game for PSN developed by Creat Studios. Their previous games were known for being fun little diversions from “heavier” games, and Germinator is no exception. Germinator is a simple puzzle game that follows the tried and true formula of pick-up-and-play accessibility. Above all else however, the game is quite simply fun.

 

In Germinator you are tasked with eliminating all germs within different environments. You do so by shooting germs at other germs. When you match germs of the same color, they absorb into each other and become a bigger gooey blob. When the germs get too big, they pop in a satisfying icky mess. The game feels very reminiscent of games such as Bubble Bobble, but Germinator does a great job of differentiating itself by introducing the absorbing and popping mechanics. This leads to some interesting light physics-based puzzle solving and a really cool visually satisfying build up of combos. Matching colors isn’t the only thing you’ll do in Germinator however, as there are also special power-ups available. After making a set number of matches, you’ll be able to super-charge a germ. A super-charged germ has special effects such as exploding all germs of the same color, or eating up all surrounding germs. Each colored germ has its own respective specialty when powered up.

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The mechanics work very well, and it’s quite mesmerizing to watch a germ grow to a humongous and atrocious size only to pop into a multicolored gooey mess. The visuals are very colorful and vibrant, and the detail in the look of the germs is charming as each germ has its own facial expression. As the germs grow their eyes pop out of their head, the expression becomes more strained, and you can see veins popping in their face. That maniacal sense of humor is nicely contrasted by the overall tone of the game. The game is very silly and full of horribly chuckle-worthy puns and pop culture references.

 

There are many ways to play Germinator. There are four modes available: story, puzzle, duel, and arcade. Story mode takes you through various environments and in between environments there are small bits of text that serve little purpose other than throwing a few more puns your way. Puzzle mode ups the difficulty a bit by limiting the amount of germs you can shoot. Both story and puzzle mode have a three star rating system that grades your performance, so if you’re a completionist, you’ll have plenty of extra work ahead of you. Duel mode is a versus-mode that you can play either with a friend locally (on PS3 version) or an AI. Unfortunately, there’s no online functionality for the duel mode just yet, but if people demand it enough that’s something that may be added in through a patch at a later date. Arcade mode is an endless survival game in which you fight a never-ending wave of rising germs. There are leader boards for story, puzzle, and arcade mode available as well.

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The variety doesn’t end there, though. Creat Studios did a wonderful job allowing players to play this game however they please. The game is available on both PS3 and PS Vita, and uses each system to its fullest. The PS Vita version allows you to use either the analog sticks or the touch pad to play. I found that using the touch pad was actually a bit more precise for the trickier shots. Similarly the PS3 version allows either Dualshock control or PS Move control. I was very pleasantly surprised by the accuracy and ease of use with the PS Move functionality, and that ended up being my preferred way to play on PS3. The only downside is that operating the menu screens is difficult with the move controller. (It’s treated in a similar fashion to the XMB move controls where you must hold the T button down and move the controller up or down.) The Playstation 3 version also boasts an additional option to record your gameplay and upload it directly to YouTube. The recording happens in the background, and uploading is quick and easy.

 

Germinator isn’t going to change puzzle gaming forever, but I don’t think that’s what it really sets out to do. Overall, Germinator is just pure silly fun! It’s very well crafted, the game play is fresh enough to remain interesting, and the plethora of options and modes will keep people coming back for more. The only downside is that there’s currently no online multiplayer functionality and the Vita version doesn’t have local multiplayer through Ad-Hoc. Other than that, it’s a great game to play while killing time on the bus or while hanging out and having a laugh with friends. If you’re looking for a profound and brain-bending puzzle game you won’t find it here. However, if you like colorful, simple puzzle games and a good laugh, you can’t go wrong with Germinator.

PG8_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Life of Pixel Review

Short, annoying, and terribly designed, Life of Pixel is a game that should be avoided. That is the best way I can describe this game. It has only 64 levels, all which can be beaten easily in under a minute by most people. The enemy patterns are all the same, the graphics and sound are just ok, and I beat the game easily in one sitting.

First of all, the platforming is the heart, and this game cannot even get that right. The character has a weird jump, and is very floaty. You can do a double jump and can usually hit the top of the stage on a regular level. This makes the platforming on some of the levels pretty easy, as you can basically float with your giant jumps across the level. The character moves a little too fast as well, making enclosed levels a real problem. The cramped levels pose another problem, with your character hitting the top, and falling down into water, lava or an enemy. The character definitely needs to be a little more grounded, and the levels need to differ in design to accommodate to the character.

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The problem is that most of the levels are often times cramped and swarmed with enemies, making them impossible. It wouldn’t be bad if the levels were genuinely hard, but the enemies blindside you, and make getting through them extremely frustrating. The gigantic levels are also genuinely awful because of one enemy who is basically impossible to pass. For example, there was one level where you had to climb a ladder, but there was one enemy who was standing directly over the ladder. This level took me literally 50 tries, until the one time I lured him away from the ladder. A level should be passed based on skill, not by the luck of the character movement patterns.

In Life of Pixel, you travel across 8 different consoles, and each console has 8 levels. The consoles are all fairly old, such as the Atari, Commodore, and the NES. The graphics and art style change, along with the music, but the one constant, is the awful level design. These levels could take a short or a long time to complete depending on the number of blindsiding enemies. Even so, I finished the game in one sitting, and it was quite unfulfilling.

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Life of Pixel was short, and not that good. Bad platforming, annoying level design, and enemies that blindside you at every corner mar what could have been a great platformer. Overall, I was disappointed with Life of Pixel. Even with its low price tag, Life of Pixel isn’t worth your time or money. This pixel should have stayed with the crowd.

PG3_10

 

Categories
Playstation 3 Playstation Vita Reviews

Fuel Overdose Review

Fuel Overdose is much more than a top-down racer. It is an excellent game that combines features from other games, and implements them perfectly. While most top down racers are just racing, ut Fuel Overdose tests your dexterity and strategies like no other racer I have played. Its combination of cars and combat provide many possibilities, and will keep you coming back for more, and believe me there are a lot. Fuel Overdose is a PSN game you shouldn’t pass up.

Let me start off with the racing mechanics, the heart of the game. The feel of it is very reminiscent of Motorstorm RC, in the way the driving controls, but Fuel Overdose has shifting camera angles. The camera won’t stay top-down the whole time, it strategically places it in the best viewing angle for the situation. This doesn’t always work well, as it would glitch and I wouldn’t be able to see my car, but those moments were few and far between.

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But where Fuel Overdose starts to set itself apart is in its combat. There are three basic weapons that every vehicle is equipped with, the machine gun, the rocket launcher, and mines. You also have bomb triggers. There are bombs on the track, and you have triggers you can use to detonate them when they are on your screen. If you have ever played Split Second, it’s similar to that. I used this very often, and it is one of my favorite weapons. One more weapon you have is your special weapons. Each character has his or her own, and are earned by building up your berserk meter to certain levels. You build up your meter by getting hit by other cars weapons. I never felt the urge to use these much, as the base weapons are powerful enough.

There is another tool fundamental to the arsenal in Fuel Overdose, the grappling hook. There are endless possibilities for the grappling hook. You can use it to turn sharp corners and give yourself a massive speed boost. But, you can also hook onto other cars, and that is where it really shines. You can use other cars to give yourself a boost, electrocute them and damage them badly, or even use them as a comeback in a race. I say that last one because if your car turns around and you are backwards, you can use the grappling hook to turn your car around and boost ahead of everyone. You don’t know how many times that grappling hook saved a race for me. Especially with the tiny car I always used.

The cars are all unique, with their handling, speed, and acceleration. I used one car the majority of the time called the Cadiz. It had good handling and acceleration, but not much speed or durability. But you can play with any strategy, and use a bulkier car with more speed and less grip, or even a big rig.

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There are 4 different game modes, free race, championship, story, challenge, and multiplayer. The free race is self-explanatory, pick your car, character, track and race. Championship is something similar to what you would see in Mario Kart, where there is a series of 5 races, and the person with the most points wins. The multiplayer is okay, but is really only good for playing with friends. It’s fun, but can’t keep my attention for a long time, because there is only one fun game mode. The driving mode is not fun, because if you start out in last, you stay in last because it is pretty much impossible to make a comeback without weapons. Also there is basic, with only your basic weapons. So there are 3 game modes, and they are mostly okay.

The story mode is also okay, there is a cool apocalyptic sort of premise, but the individual character stories are not good. The premise is that the Earth gained an asteroid satellite, and it caused some crazy disease. One group of people called the Consortium took all the vaccine, and kept it for themselves. The started an event called the “Race of Chaos” and had representatives from other clans race to earn the vaccine. You race as each character, and find out why each is in the race. This is cool, but the story cutscenes are only character models and dialogue boxes. I wish they would have done a little more for the story, it could have been great.

The last game mode is the challenge mode, and the word challenge is an understatement. The challenge mode has different kind of races, such as the no weapons we saw in the multiplayer or a mode where instead of winning; you have to wreck all of your opponents’ cars. Some of them are impossibly hard, and will take multiple tries. This is fun though, and a great addition to the game.

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The art style and music fit the atmosphere as well. The music is an upbeat kind of techno music. It is good for a racer like this, and never got boring. The art style is great too, with a look reminiscent of Borderlands , with the exaggerated black outlines and vibrant colors. The story cutscenes have an anime look, and are cool. The music or art never get old or boring, and are designed very well.

Fuel Overdose is a must buy PSN title, that will be out for only $9.99. It is unique, and like nothing I have ever played before. It also offers tons of content, and a challenge that I haven’t experienced in a long time. This is not a top down racer, it is Fuel Overdose, and Fuel Overdose is one amazing game.

PG9_10

Categories
PC Playstation Vita Reviews

A Valley Without Wind 2 Review

It’s always refreshing when someone tries to do an RPG in a different way. Doing something contrary to predictable RPG tropes like experience-based leveling and generic magic can be difficult at times, and often a risk. And if A Valley Without Wind 2 can be commended for anything, it’s unlike any other RPG you’ve played. And while its unique blend of RPG elements, platforming, and turn-based strategy has potential for greatness, no single tenant of the gameplay is executed well enough to carry the experience.

A Valley Without Wind 2 is a very odd game. Everything about it just screams ‘strange’. The art style is a weird mix of backgrounds and foregrounds that don’t often meld together well, and the platforming and level design are at times so bad it seems broken. But aside from it’s complete list of problems, I never really wanted to stop playing it.

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One of the game’s bigger selling points is its emphasis on combining the platforming combat style of its predecessor with a turn-based strategy meta-game added to the mix. The overworld map is divided into squares, each one being a stage you can enter to ‘purify’. Purifying regions consists of playing a short platforming stage that ends with you destroying a generator. Purifying more squares allows you to further explore the map. The goal is to destroy Demonaica’s citadels, and then kill Demonaica himself. You must command around your troops to different regions to gather scrap and food, and to recruit new survivors. Demonaica himself begins to roam the map eventually, and after that, most of the strategy part of the game consists of you avoiding him—as confronting him means certain death.

Leveling up is handled in an interesting way in A Valley Without Wind 2. Simply defeating enemies doesn’t yield experience, as there is no experience. The only way to level up is to find a Level Up Tower, and then defeat the boss in that tower. Leveling up gives you access to a new set of perks for your character, which range from attack bonuses to jump enhancements. After revealing enough land and leveling up to a certain point, you can travel back into Demonaica’s lair to gain the next tier of spells to be used in combat.

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The game encourages you to experiment with the different Mage classes provided in each tier, but after a bit of tinkering you’ll soon figure out which class is the most powerful and just stick with that. Stages don’t tend to vary much from each other—consisting of unchallenging platforming and combat. Though with how blatantly repetitive stages are, they don’t ever last too long, so they never become too monotonous. And because of how the leveling system works, there is no real motivation to defeat enemies. You could run directly forward jumping and shooting until you reach the end of the stage, with no skin of your back.

Arcen Games has provided the player with a Strategic Adviser to provide simple tutorials and push you in the right direction of what to do next. This is definitely helpful, but flawed. It becomes clear early in the game that you must find several abandoned Robotic Research Laboratories to gain new abilities, but you’re never told what they look like. You might be able to see a building in the distance that could be the factory, but you can’t hover your mouse over it to know for sure. This leads to spending a lot of turns and effort to reach a certain square just to find out it’s not the place you were looking for.

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The default control scheme for combat on a keyboard has you using WASD to aim spells. This works well enough for most spells, but it also limits the trajectory to eight directions. This can be troublesome at times, since enemies can come at you from any angle. In hopes of remedying this, Arcen has added the old mouse control scheme from the first game in a recent patch. This partially solves the directional issues, but it doesn’t change that the spells themselves are designed for eight directions, so the mouse control scheme doesn’t quite feel natural.

The one department in which A Valley Without Wind 2 absolutely kills it is in its soundtrack. Everything from the more ambient tones played during gameplay to the killer vocals strung in the main menu are a joy. You’ll definitely want to turn the gameplay volume down and crank the music volume up.

A Valley Without Wind 2 easily succeeds in being different. There are definitely cool ideas that could be implimented into RPG’s in the future, but ideas alone aren’t enough to carry the game. It’s a platformer with mediocre platforming, and a strategy game with poorly explained rules. But put both of them together and crank up the soundtrack, and you have a game just endearing and different enough to want to see to the end.

PG6_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken Review (Vita)

Rocketbirds is a cinematic puzzle platformer, that is definitely fun, but has plenty flaws too. Puzzles get repetitive, the story is pretty bad and often doesn’t make sense, the combat can be very frustrating, and the game is pretty short. Platforming is fun, and is the heart of the game, but the other aspects are not as good. If you are able to overlook the flaws, you can find an okay puzzle platformer in Rocketbirds. But those flaws are unfortunately very hard to ignore.

The gameplay is simple, being a platformer. The puzzles are for the most part easy, except for near the end of the game. The puzzles don’t provide the same sort of satisfaction given from games like Portal, where you feel intelligent for solving them. Instead, they hide things from you, things that often feel too hard to find. You can spend buckets of time just looking for things that blend in. The art style doesn’t help this at all. While the art style is aesthetically pleasing, it makes seeing where you have to maneuver difficult. Some of the puzzles are fun, but most are bland and repetitive.

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Combat in Rocketbirds is okay, but can get quite annoying and frustrating. When it works, it is a good and fun system, but sometimes the enemies just overpower you. For example, with this combat system, the final boss is ridiculously difficult. It took me far too many tries. There were times it worked well, and those were some really fun times in the game, but when it doesn’t work, and the level is too hard, it can get really frustrating.

The story is confusing, and with the limited dialogue, it doesn’t really explain what is going on at all. What I got out of the story is that Hardboiled Chicken was recruited by the penguins, and didn’t like that they were taking over innocent towns and people, and then quit and became a renegade soldier. He then goes and tries to liberate the town that the penguins have most recently taken over, Albatropolis. The story really does matter much in the grand scheme of things, and it didn’t get in the way much.

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The amount of content is kind of disappointing as well, as the game is really short. There are 15 missions, lasting at most about 20 minutes each. That turns out to be about 5 hours, which feels a bit short. There are 3 signs, or collectibles, in each mission, for a total of 45 signs in the game. Other than that, the only things that will keep you playing are the Co-op campaign, and that lovely platinum trophy.

Speaking of the trophies, they are mostly pretty easy. There are trophies for collectibles, doing specific things in the levels, and that one trophy that prevents you from a platinum trophy. You have to complete the Co-op campaign. That shouldn’t be very hard, except you can only play online via invite only.

As far as sound design goes, the voice-overs are not great, but few and far between. But a real plus is the music, which is pretty great. The music is done by New World Republic, and pairs up really nicely with the gameplay. It was a sort of rock-techno band, and their stuff in the game is great. Especially at the end of the game is when the music starts to kick in, and I was rockin’ out on my little Vita earbuds.

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Rocketbirds Hardboiled Chicken is a mediocre platformer, with a few too many flaws. A confusing story that doesn’t really matter, bland puzzles, not so great combat, and a lack of replay value. There are some positives, however; some decent platforming, a good soundtrack and a pretty art style. For ten bucks, you could do a lot worse, but there are plenty of better times to be had on the Vita.

PG5_10

Categories
PC Playstation Vita Reviews

Anitchamber Review

Antichamber knows you before you know it—and that’s assuming that you can ever really know Antichamber. It knows what you’re thinking—knows what you’re assuming about a game of it’s caliber. Alexander Bruce, the crazy mind behind this first-person puzzler, takes player’s assumptions about how traditional video game level design is done and turns them on their head. While at times the journey can feel aimless and confusing, letting go and trusting that the game is pushing you in the right direction is the only way to succeed. 

 

Broken down into a sentence, Antichamber is a first-person puzzle game in the vein of Portal. But that would be selling the game far too short. There is no clear objective in Antichamber, no obvious motivation. Pure wonder and curiosity dominate the senses in Antichamber. There is a sense of non-linearity in the way the game is presented. There is a of a hub world in which players can instantly access by pressing escape that displays the world map and all options for the game. Simply pointing to any location on the world map teleports you there in an instant, which makes it very easy to backtrack if you’ve lost your way.

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Yet that is one of the larger problems of Antichamber: the extensive freedom and abstract progression design can lead to aimless wonder throughout places you’ve already been to find some sort of sign that you’re on the right path. This isn’t aided much by the lack of explanation of the map itself. I was often confused by what one symbol meant against another, and for all I know I’m still wrong.

 

Antichamber does everything in its power to explain itself without explicitly telling you anything. Instead, the game is riddled with panels that reveal philosophical messages. Sometimes it’s obvious the message is meant to drop a hint to the puzzle at hand, and sometimes they’re a pat on the back after the puzzle is completed. Their inconsistency makes it hard to tell, which is surely by design.

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Puzzles in Antichamber are based around the idea of non-Euclidean geometry, or in other words, crazy-ass stuff happening with the world that you wouldn’t ever expect from a logical place. An early example is wondering down a hallway that doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere, until you turn around to find the place you had just been is now a different place entirely. Never in a game before the world change so quickly and seamlessly around you. But after not too long, you’ll encounter an item that lets you directly interact with the world, which then opens up the premise for the rest of the puzzles in the game.

 

It’s when you acquire this item when Antichamber really begins to shine. There will be many times that you discover the solution to a puzzle not out of the addition of a mechanic, but out of a greater knowledge of existing ones. My most magical moments in Antichamber were discovering a new way to use your limited tools, and using those new methods to access areas you thought you physically couldn’t. The game knows what you’re going to expect, and uses that against you in the best way possible.

 

And all of Antichamber’s uniqueness is brought together well by it’s distinct visual style. The color pallet includes a lot of simple white and ultra-saturated outlines and colors. It’s not easy to explain, but colors can play a large role in drawing your attention to an important area of a puzzle. It’s a simplistic art style that appropriately compliments the simplicity of the rest of the presentation.

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Completing Antichamber doesn’t crescendo into a gripping narrative, but rather a collective retrospective of the skills you’ve learned along the way, new and old. It’s a puzzle game that doesn’t shy away from making you get by with what you have, and subtly pushes you in the right direction, and still makes you feel like a genius. Its expertly designed puzzles, experience-based progression, and stellar visual style places Antichamber above the fold of any puzzle game I’ve seen in a long while, and one worth experiencing.

PG9_10