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DungeonLand Review

At first glance, Dungeonland seems like the typical dungeon crawler hack and slash. A team of a mage, a warrior, and a rogue go forth to conquer a dungeon that has been filled with monsters by an evil villain. While that cliché is true, the dungeon is instead a theme park, made by the Dungeon Maestro, created to kill off the heroes.

The story to this game is very straightforward. You are the good guys and the villain made a theme park filled with evil creatures. Other than that, there isn’t really anything more. While that may sound bad, I don’t think it detracts from the fun of the game. Dungeonland is more about overcoming the challenge of the theme park as a group than participating in a storyline.

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Dungeonland is very reliant on co-op and is practically impossible to complete without some friends. Everyone shares lives, so having empty-headed, near-suicidal AI players really drags everything down. When you do have a competent, well-rounded team, however, there is a ton of fun to be had. Blazing through the trials and slaughtering monsters to the Dungeon Maestro’s dismay is extremely satisfying.

Even more entertaining than playing as the heroes is the alternate mode of playing as the Dungeon Maestro. You can summon monsters to attack the heroes and try to kill them off. In this mode you can also unleash magic attacks, traps, special monsters, and my personal favorite, pressing the “laugh” button. The laugh button causes the Dungeon Maestro to laugh manically and there is even an “evil laughs per minute” statistic at the end of the round.

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When playing as the hero, it is a true hack and slash with the familiar button mashing, but with other buttons for special abilities and attacks, but the “Be the Dungeon Maestro” mode is more of a card game. You pick cards at the beginning that consist of monsters, spells, etc. and they are drawn from the deck during the round at certain intervals. It gives the game good variety with the different gameplay and adds more fun to the total package. The alternative gameplay also makes more fair for the heroes trying to get through the theme park because they aren’t bombarded by every enemy and power at once.

Overall, Dungeonland was better than I expected it to be. Most hack and slash dungeon crawlers have the tendency of getting repetitive and lacked a story and/or motivation to continue the game, but Dungeonland is definitely an exception. Good use of co-op and a great variety of gameplay with the different heroes and modes make this game a very entertaining $9.99.

PG7_10

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Playstation 3 Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Review

Sly Cooper Thieves in Time does not have the same developer or graphics, but it is still Sly, and that’s a really good thing. Sly Cooper Thieves in Time is a stealthy platforming game with tons of content, a good story, and humor that doesn’t get old. Sanzaru’s love for the franchise really shines through, as they were able to emulate it perfectly over to the PS3 and Vita. Even though this is Sanzaru’s first game, it is a pretty darn good one.

Sly has a single player campaign, but it is filled to the brim with content. There are about 8 missions to a chapter, and each mission lasts from 20 to 30 minutes. The main story lasts about a good 15 hours, and if you want all of the clue bottles, Sly masks, and treasures, prepare to spend a lot more time with Sly. The story of the game is that the book written by Sly’s ancestors, The Thevius Raccounus, is losing the information right off the pages. Sly needs to go back in time, and rewrite Cooper history, along with his friends, Murray, and Bentley. You meet plenty of interesting characters along the way with great senses of humor, including ancestors and bosses. You can’t go 2 minutes in this game without Sly making a wisecrack or another character cracking a joke or a pun or just a funny phrase. It really adds to the game, making it less serious and lots more fun.

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Ever since the first Sly game the boss missions have been my favorite. Bentley gives you an elaborate slideshow on what you will be doing and he sends you off. You play as every character during these: the original Cooper Gang, and sometimes special guests, each with their own little task. It adds an interesting dynamic and is super fun to play. At the end, you finally face a boss. The boss has cool attacks, but they can usually be easily timed, and dodged. There are huge set pieces jump around the level a lot which you must traverse to get to the boss. They take a while to beat, and at the end it transitions very nicely to the next time period, fitting in to the story perfectly.

Even though it is a platformer, there are plenty of other things to mix up the game and keep it fresh. There are dance minigames, shoot ‘em ups, and even a whack-a-mole type of game. These are things you would never expect in a Sly game, but they just feel right. They didn’t feel like a chore and they actually added some spice to the game. If you want some more of these types of games, there is a separate package with a ton more of these minigames in the Bentley’s Hackpack PSN game for $4 dollars.

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As much as I love this game, there are still some problems; old and new. Most of the regular enemies are quite dumb. I can stand literally a couple feet right in front of them and they usually will not see me. Also, the enemies are all the same! They all have the same attacks, and it seems like they just re-skinned the enemies over and over to fit the theme of the chapter. The one last problem I had with the game was the ridiculous load times. On both the PS3 and Vita, it takes very long to load levels, missions, and even the hideout. It really got annoying, but it’s a small price to pay for the game’s beauty.

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Speaking of the game’s beauty, it is very pretty. Running through the open areas in the Japan level, and staring down at it from the tallest building, you could see all the time and effort that went into creating this game. The Vita game is still stunning, but obviously not as pretty as its console twin. The Vita version doesn’t compromise on anything but that, so the games are the exact same thing. L2 and R2 controls are moved to the touchscreen, but nothing other than that.

The trophies are difficult, if you are bad at looking for collectibles. Other than that, the trophies are given for the story, and for acing dance minicamps, and such. Also, the Vita and PS3 have separate trophy lists, so if I earn 12 trophies on my Vita, when I sync it over, I will unlock 12 trophies on PS3. It is reminiscent of Sound Shapes, if you did the “cross” features in that game. So overall, the trophies in this game are difficult but fun, and will take you a long while to achieve.

Sanzaru did an excellent job emulating the PS2 classic on to the PS3 and Vita, in both the good, and the very minimal bad parts. The story is original, the humor is great, and the gameplay is just fun. With “cross” everything, you really can’t go wrong. Even with my tiny gripes, it was still a fun experience. I had a great time playing this game, and if anyone from Sanzaru is reading this, I promise you I will be first in line to buy Sly 5. Guaranteed.

PG9_10

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Super Crate Box Review

Super Crate Box was and forever will be an excellent mobile game. The extremely short rounds make the game easy to play in short spurts, exactly what most people want in a mobile game. There was only one thing missing though: actual button and analog controls. That’s what the Playstation Mobile Vita version of this game brings.

The game is basically a 2D side-scroller, but enclosed. You play as a little guy running around the 4 different areas in the game. The main goals are to dodge the enemies and collect the boxes. Each box supplies you with a new gun, from pistols to miniguns to laser rifles. You must use these guns, because if an enemy reaches the bottom, he comes back red, angry, and twice as fast. All the while there are tons of enemies streaming out of the top of the stage. This results in very crazy, frenetic gameplay that makes the rounds only about thirty seconds long.

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There are 3 different stages all offering something new. The enemies go a different way. There are new characters and weapons to unlock, and new colors and stage layouts. The game is able to do all this, while still maintaining the fun gameplay that keeps us coming back for more.

 

I’ll admit it now. I’m obsessed with the stats screen. It gives me information on how long I’ve obsessed over this awesome game (too long), how many total crates I’ve collected, how many times I’ve killed and died from every enemy, and all of my unlocks. This is great for people like me who constantly like to check their stats.

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There is an exciting, upbeat 8-bit audio track for each stage that is exciting and fun at first, but after 30 seconds it seems like it is looping over and over. This sadly makes the audio go bland after couple minutes and then starts to become flat out annoying. I like the soundtrack I just wish there could be more, so that I’m not hearing the same thing over and over again every thirty seconds. Similarly, the gun noises sound very good at first, but after hearing that pistol blast 1,000 times, it will get annoying. The game’s art style is the wonderful pixel-art style we all know and love. The shape and polish to every detail in the game from the character models, to the bullet shapes, to the guns is superb. Even the extra character models you can collect have amazing and creative shapes and sizes.

 

This is an addictive, enjoyable game that you can pay for once and get on all your Android devices and your Vita. The Vita one is the one that improves it, adding button and analog controls. The soundtrack is good, but repetitive and the graphics are awesome. The game is only $3.49, making it almost impossible to pass up.

PG8_10

 

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Skulls of the Shogun Review

Note: Only the Xbox 360 version of the game was played in preparation for this review.

Rarely does a turn-based strategy game draw my attention. I often lack that extra psychological *thing* that it takes to plan turns ahead of time, rather than focusing only on what’s directly in front of me. But then a game like Skulls of the Shogun comes along, and presents its systems in a way that makes vanilla players—like me—can easily get the hang of it. But don’t let the game’s accessibility fool you, for–like any good strategy game—Skulls of the Shogun gradually builds on its gameplay in interesting ways to make a much deeper, and harder, intellectual challenge. It’s the kind of game I wouldn’t mind spectating a match of.

 

The first thing you’ll be hit with in Skulls of the Shogun is it’s look. It’s hand-drawn Asian cartoonish art style is a delight to look at, from it’s character art to the beautiful landscape art. The great art direction is complimented well by it’s salutes to the days of old, with it’s retro victory music and mockup CD cover loading screen.

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Skulls of the Shogun’s story doesn’t dare to take itself seriously, but still manages to be a great companion piece to it’s sometimes brutal gameplay. When General Akamoto is killed in battle just before claiming the title of ‘Shogun’, he is begrudgingly dragged into the Afterlife. You now must guide Akamoto in his slaughterfest through the Afterlife to take back his identity and seek revenge for his death. Now imagine that, but with a consistent barrage of clever dialogue and jokes that assures a great sense of lightheartedness, rather than unnecessary seriousness.

 

And while Skulls of the Shogun’s visual style and enjoyable story definitely contribute to it being a great package, both would be rendered rather moot if it wasn’t actually fun to play. And as someone who isn’t usually keen on the turn-based strategy genre, SotS’s emphasis on accessible mechanics is very much appreciated. The game is played from a 2D isometric view, with players commanding one General and a multitude of troops made up of several classes. Movement is based upon a unit’s circular radius it can travel, rather than a grid, which helps to make the game less predictable or formulaic. Infantry troops don’t have a large movement radius, but have more attack and defense, while Horsemen can move much farther, but lack the defense to take multiple blows. This is a good example of the game’s balance between units.

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A large aspect of what makes SotS’s combat a breath of fresh air in multiple ways is the importance of the stage environment itself. There is knockback when striking enemies, so a unit unfortunately planted on the edge of a cliff can be quickly disposed of, no matter the strength. Depending on the stage, there are rice pads that can be used to build up Rice–currency for purchasing more units–and Shrines used to summon those new units. The medic unit can only be acquired through specific shrines placed throughout stages, and anyone can take over that shrine to steal that medic from another, which can swiftly change the tide of a battle.

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New mechanics are always introduced at a gradual pace, which is important, because by later levels the game becomes quite deep. Playing effectively later on requires a complete grasp of everything around you, having to develop advanced strategies like deciding what shrines, troops, and medics are worth going after. But what was a constant problem was the lack of consistency between stages. At least for me, there was always a type of story mission that just ‘clicked’ and the type that I would struggle to complete for hours at a time.

 

One of the most valuable things Skulls of the Shogun has in it’s favor is it’s ability to provide the player with all of the information they need at any given time. It’s a feeling similar to last year’s Mark of the Ninja, which made stealth accessible in a way it hadn’t before with smart visual and UI design. SotS organizes it’s interface and menus in this same way to make a deep game accessible.

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While I was only able to spend time with the Xbox 360 version of Skulls of the Shogun, it is also available on Windows Phone and Microsoft Surface. But even more interesting is the cross-play functionality between Xbox and mobile versions of the game. Opposed to the normal real-time multiplayer to be expected, matches played between Xbox and mobile are played asynchronously. It’s definitely a cool feature, but I don’t really see myself actively checking in on my Xbox to see if it’s my turn to make a move.

 

I don’t often get into a turn-based strategy game—the last being XCOM: Enemy Unknown—because I don’t like feeling overwhelmed with too many options, constantly wondering if I should be doing something differently. But Skulls of the Shogun definitely helps to ease players into it’s eventually complicated systems. It’s visual presentation directly melds into the gameplay in ways that feel natural. It’s one of the freshest additions to the genre I’ve seen a while, if not a bit inconsistent with it’s difficulty at times. Not only is it an accessible strategy game, but it’s one that could stand up against some of the biggest in the genre.

PG8_10

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Angry Birds Trilogy Review

My guess is that you don’t own the Angry Birds Trilogy, but that you have played most of the content before. This is just a re-release of the first 3 Angry Birds games, the original, Rio, and Seasons on consoles and select handhelds. The thing is, this game doesn’t belong on consoles. It started as a mobile game, and should stay a mobile game. The thing is it costs 1300% more than the mobile games, yes, this game costs 40$.

Angry Birds is a simple game. You launch birds at structures to knock them over and kill all of the pigs in the level. On mobile, you drag the birds back and let go to launch the birds. You can also tap the screen to activate the birds’ special powers. On the PS3, you aim the birds with the analog stick and launch with the x button. You also use X to activate powers. It kind of ruins the fun touch screen interactivity, and the controls feel gimmicky on console.

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The entire reason Angry Birds got popular was because you could play it for only about 5 minutes and still enjoy yourself. That 5 minute aspect is gone with the console version. You can’t have that same short session experience that you can on an iPhone. You also can’t bring your progress on the go: you have to always be on the couch. Angry Birds is a mobile game, and should stay a mobile game.

The Ps3 version adds new levels: HD graphics, full animated cut-scenes, and awful Playstation Move controls. The extra levels are the exact same game though, and there are only about 15 “exclusive to console” levels. , I have to say, the graphics are beautiful, but they were good enough on mobile. The graphics are not a game changer. The cut-scenes are about 15 seconds long and not even very good anyways. The animation style is ugly, and they probably should have put more work into it.

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Don’t even get me started on the Move controls. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be accurate, in a game where you absolutely must be accurate. The cursor is shaky, and has launched birds when I didn’t want it to. I always like to zoom out to see the whole stage to see everything I need to hit, but that’s really hard in the console version. You have to hold a button, and flick your wrist up like 10 times. It is ok but can get aggravating, because it resets when you restart a level.

Finally, if you enjoy extremely difficult trophies, and have way too much time on your hands, this game is good for you. There are easy ones, but then there is a trophy: the hardest, most time consuming trophy ever. If you have ever played an Angry Birds game, you know how hard getting 3 stars on one level is. Now try getting three stars on every level across every game. It will easily take over 150 hours, and probably much longer than that.

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The Angry Birds games are fun, but not on console. With gimmicky controls, and a ridiculous price, I don’t think that the Angry Birds Trilogy is worth it, especially with all of the great games coming out in 2013. I think you should save your money for a better game that is actually a well-suited game for console, and not just a hopeless grab for money.

PG4_10

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escapeVektor Review

EscapeVektor by itself is an excellent puzzle game. But the developers at Nnooo wanted to add a story, something to push you onward, and passed with flying colors. The story isn’t just to break up the levels, the story actually means something. The puzzles, and the way you pass them, are excellent too. There is so much great content in this 10 dollar package it’s astounding.

In escapeVektor you follow the story of a man named Vektor, who has been trapped inside a computer. He wants to escape, but is held in by the evil CPU. You play as Vektor, guiding yourself out of the computer. Throughout the story, Vektor “codes” new powers from completing nodes and recovering Vektor’s memories from before he entered the CPU. You upgrade these powers by scoring high on levels. Upgrades include a larger blast radius for your detonate attack, a larger boost capacity and so on. He also hacks you wild cards, which I’ll go into detail in later. This is very creative, and shows they definitely spent a while on the game.

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To help Vektor escape, you must guide him across lines in the computer. At first this is simple, but then, the CPU “adapts” and starts to throw enemies at you. The game has an easy learning curve, starting out rudimentary, but then slowly progressing to get harder across the 150 “nodes” or levels. It starts to get crazy with laser gates, enemies that eat your progress in the levels, and alarms that make the enemies go twice as fast. These made the levels hard, but not “OH MY GOODNESS! WHY CAN’T I PASS THIS LEVEL!!!” hard. I had to retry a few times, but after a while I finally figured it out.

There also is a scoring and medal system in the game, in which you get points for filling in the levels, killing enemies, and finishing within the time limit. But the catch is; to get a gold or platinum medal, you (usually) have to use a wild card. A wild card doubles your score for the level, but can only be used once. If you die on that attempt, it is gone forever. The only ways to get new wild cards are by setting a new personal best on a level, or sometimes Vektor hacks them for you at random times.

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There are bonus nodes too, but they’re different from the rest. You can use them to upgrade your powers, or just for playing the game more. They have different rules to them, like time mode and eraser mode. Time mode is just a timed level–you have to finish in the time limit. Eraser mode is extremely difficult; if you run over a line you have made already, it disappears. You really need to strategize on these, and definitely plan out patterns to pass the node.

Nnooo has never developed for the Vita before, but you could never tell. The game has a cool gyroscope feature, great trophies, beautiful graphics, and an awesome soundtrack. The gyroscope lets you see around the level, and is cool while you are stationary. If you are in a car, or anywhere moving, it doesn’t work, but it is easily turned off. But in the right circumstances, it works pretty well.

The trophies are good and fair, like leveling up Vektor all the way, or unlocking every zone. They’re all obtainable for sure, except for one that will really give you trouble. That trophy is for finishing every level without detonating. And once you’ve played this, you’ll understand why it’s nearly impossible.

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escapeVektor is beautiful, and looks very sharp on the Vita’s OLED screen. The camera angles really show off the vibrant levels and colors well. Even the menus look good, which is a plus. The soundtrack goes with the game well. Even my dad said “Is that that the music game? (referring to Sound Shapes)” and he really likes the music from that.

escapeVektor is a must buy, and probably the best puzzle game on the Vita yet. I enjoyed the game a ton and I am going to try for the platinum medal in every level (even though that’s unlikely). Plain and simple, you should buy this game, it is a great time.

PG9_10

 

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Ace of Spades Review

What a fantastic premise for a game Ace of Spades is. A class-based multiplayer FPS with the free-formed creation and destruction of Minecraft sounds like wonderful music to my ears. Several Minecraft mods have tried to replicate this idea, but Ace of Spades is the first one to become its own game and make it onto Steam. There’s no doubt this is the type of game bound to improve and evolve over time, but for now Ace of Spades is a flawed game doesn’t live up to its promises as well as it should.

Ace of Spades very blatantly and openly draws inspiration from Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. Two teams compete in various objective modes with a collection of classes that play very differently from each other; but its real twists are its cube-based visuals (very reminiscent of Minecraft) and its emphasis on constructing and destroying the map around you to your team’s advantage. Thanks to the game’s engine, any and every part of a given map in Ace of Spades can be destroyed. This completely changes the dynamics of how a simple game of Team Deathmatch is played. Whereas a towering wall would be an obstacle in other shooters, it’s a flanking opportunity in Ace of Spades.

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Currently there are four classes: Commando, Marksman, Miner, and Rocketeer. Each one possesses unique weapons, and different preset block formations you can place in the world. The Commando wields either a mini-gun or rocket launcher. The Marksman is the sniper in the family and also has mines The Rocketeer has a machine gun and jetpack. The Miner is more oriented for mining blocks, wielding dynamite and a gun that tunnels through anything. I found myself sticking to the Rocketeer or the Miner for the majority of my playtime. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the other classes, but they are much plainer. The gimmick of having a jetpack or a tunneling rifle makes those classes far more attractive. Each class definitely has its strengths and weaknesses, but Commando and Marksman classes seem less useful in modes like “Zombie!” and “Demolition”.

Given how goofy Ace of Spade’s aesthetics make the game seem, shooting seems kind of boring. The guns control well enough, but the same concept that makes Ace of Spades stand out among the rest don’t carry over to the weaponry, which consists mostly of run-of-the-mill machine guns and pistols. The one exception is the Miner, whose tunneling gun can lead to unexpected and impressive results when traversing a map. On the plus side, as with many multiplayer PC shooters nowadays, Ace of Spades is a game destined to grow with updates. Jagex has already added a new snow launcher across all classes, and will surely be adding plenty more in the coming months.

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Game modes consist mostly of oldies-but-goodies that you would expect, like Team Deathmatch, but there are a few standout modes that take great advantage of the game’s destructive nature. One of these is “Diamond Mine”: a race to dig into the earth in search of diamonds and then deliver them to a designated point. The other is “Demolition”: both teams have a large base that must be destroyed by any means necessary.

As a game heavily inspired by games like Minecraft, it’s a wonder that Ace of Spades doesn’t yet feature a level creator. I would be incredibly surprised if such a feature wasn’t already in the making, but it seems like an obvious day one feature. That’s not to say that the included maps aren’t good, though. Maps range from gigantic castles to dense forests. The immense scale found in the maps is impressive, and leaves me eager to see what the community could do if a level creator was available.

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Ace of Spades feels unfinished. I’m sure this is true, as this is the kind of game that evolves for the better over time. The mashing of Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft is a match made in heaven, but Ace of Spades doesn’t execute on either of its inspirations well enough to achieve greatness. There is definitely fun to be had with its unique game modes, but there are few redeeming qualities once the novelty fades. If you’re playing Ace of Spades six months after this writing, you’re probably playing a much better game, but for now, Ace of Spades is a fantastic idea wrapped in mediocrity.

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Dead Pixels Review

Dead Pixels is an addictive zombie shooting spree recently released on Steam after passing through Steam’s Greenlight. It had previously been released on Desura. I am happy to report that Dead Pixels is a great game for zombie lovers; to an extent.

The gameplay is simple: run and gun. If it’s moving, don’t stop pumping it full of lead until nothing but a squishy ground remains. There are a large number of different weapons to use, but it has the problem with guns that Borderlands had. Yeah, there are plenty of guns to use, but there is almost no difference between most of them. For example, there is a double barrel shotgun, and a quad barrel shotgun. There is almost no difference between them, besides the stats, and how quickly it’ll eat up your ammo. This isn’t a flaw in game design; Borderlands proved guns which are extremely similar can still be executed correctly. However the issue with this, just like in Borderlands, is that they try to advertise the large amount of weapons while there are only four or five different types of guns.

 

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There are a variety of game modes to choose from in this game. You have survival mode, time attacks, normal Dead Pixels, and a few others. Survival mode and the regular DP game are most likely the two features that will be the most interesting features gamers will want to play. While playing the game, you will acquire money and loot from killing zombies, surviving waves, etc. which will be used in shops run by survivors. There you can purchase weapons, throw-able weapons, ammo, items, and even upgrades for your character. I was thrilled when I first went into a store and saw the upgrade category, but was quickly disappointed. Almost none of the upgrades in the game are worth the money. For example, there is an upgrade you can purchase for increasing the player’s speed. Even after I poured a large amount of money into each speed upgrade, I didn’t notice any changes in my speed, even with the upgrade maxed out!

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The game also has special types of zombies: like every zombie game out now has. There are your normal walkers, military zombies in armor which are harder to kill, fast, strong, ranged, poison; the list seems to go on and on with the variety of the infected. This brings me to one of my last points. Why are there only 5-7 gun types in the whole game, yet there are nearly twice as many zombie types?!

 

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Was Dead Pixel fun? Yes. Will it set the world on fire for great profit? Most likely not. It’s a game that you will probably play for 4-6 hours in one sitting, and then you won’t touch it for months, until you get the urge to come back to it. For only $3 bucks the game is appropriately priced. So if you want a game to burn a few hours of your life, this game is just the thing for you.

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Big Sky Infinity Review

Fast-paced “Bullet-Hell” shooters rarely provide incentive to keep playing after you’ve claimed the top of your respective friend’s leaderboard. The fundamental design of them suggests that you’re going to die, and you’re going to die a lot, but the only way to improve is to learn enemy patterns and try to make it further the next time around. And while Big Sky Infinity does mostly follow this template, it adds extensive RPG elements and a wide variety of game modes to make sure there’s probably something you haven’t tried yet at any given time.

Big Sky Infinity absolutely nails the single most important aspect of a fast-paced scrolling shooter—the gameplay. Its dual-stick shooting and consistently great framerate are crucial to the experience. The instant you start playing, you feel a great sense of control that a super smooth 60fps can allow.

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Big Sky Infinity doesn’t follow any story, and doesn’t have an end to it’s game modes. In reality, it shares more DNA with something like Dark Souls than anything. You’ll be briefed with a short tutorial on learn controls, but after that, the game just doesn’t do much to explain itself. This forces players to play a multitude of times before you know how different elements of the world play out—the random black holes, slow-motion acid trips, and perplexing bosses that you’ll surely die from more than once before you know how to hurt them. And like Dark Souls, death often comes with a new lesson—and frustration. But that’s why Big Sky Infinity’s upgrade system exists. In Classic mode, you’ll be building up Starbits after every run that you can use to upgrade a number of aspects of your ship—like shot radius, shields, reload time on heavy laser, ship speed, and many others. The way you can simply dump thousands of points into upgrades at regular intervals is strangely satisfying.

But while these upgrades are addicting to obtain, it can often be hard to see how your improvements are helping your session when the game is as opaque as it is. You feel like you just sorta have to trust the constant point-dumping is actually helping. Bosses will appear randomly during a session, each one requiring a different strategy to defeat. And once defeated you continue on your run, so you’ll often run into more than one in the same game. While each boss is challenging and varied, there are only four of them, so expect to be see the same one many times. I eventually became so accustomed to the way each boss behaved, they ceased to be a challenge.

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But probably the best argument for Big Sky Infinity is it’s asynchronous multiplayer mode found in the Vita version of the game, which is essentially a classic game of HORSE. First, one players sets the rules of the game, sets his score in that mode, sends a message to the opponent, who then plays that mode and tries to beat that score. If you don’t beat the score, you get an H. If you do beat it, the other guy gets an H. But you don’t only have to play for score—I can set the mode to be Pacifism, so you can’t shoot and can only dodge. Then I can also set it to be a game of distance, kills, Starbits, and more. Score notifications work very well, because they’re handled through the Vita’s messaging app. The message received will take you directly into the game, ready to play. And since the message is reading minimal amounts of data, you can receive and accept challenges over 3G. It’s an intelligent system that makes excellent use of the Vita’s strengths. But unfortunately, this mode is completely absent from the PS3 version of the game. In the place of it, is a four-player local multiplayer mode. This is fine, but doesn’t compare in quality to the HORSE mode.

VERDICT

Big Sky Infinity is a salute to the bullet-hell shooters of old that melds its seizure-inducing visuals and kick*ss soundtrack exceptionally well. Even better is its myriad of game modes, each one evoking a different skill. Upgradable skills found in Classic mode assure that you won’t max them out quickly, though they don’t always seem to help with all of the randomness. While buying the PS3 version gives you the Vita version for free, the multiplayer HORSE mode found in the Vita version is the most enjoyable part of the game, and led me to almost exclusively playing that version. For ten bucks, it’s kinda hard to go wrong with Big Sky Infinity. 

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

Assassin’s Creed Liberation Review

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation tries so hard to look, feel, and play like its big brother console game, Assassin’s Creed 3. It tries so hard, in fact, that it’s very often to its detriment. Liberation succeeds in establishing its own setting apart from the cities of Boston and New York in AC3, and sets up some interesting themes in its main character and the culture surrounding New Orleans. Liberation unfortunately fumbles on almost every technical front. Problems range from constant frame rate drops to unresponsive controls. Liberation lacks very crucial layers of polish that proper AC titles have always had, yet still inherits the same movement woes of said console games, making them even more frustrating to deal with.

 

Liberation has been marketed as the ‘Assassin’s Creed experience on the Vita’, and somewhat of a companion to Assassin’s Creed 3 on consoles. For the most part, this is true. Due to the Vita’s Dualshock-like control layout, it’s actually possible to pull off AC’s complicated control scheme. Any AC veteran will feel immediately at home when you first gain control of Aveline. This helps, because Liberation does not bother to explain a lot of its fundamental control systems, a similar fumble as in AC3.

 

Liberation pulls away from the northern colonial cities of Boston and New York found in AC3 and introduces you to the South; specifically New Orleans. Even though this iteration isn’t developed by the usual AC ‘A-Team’, Liberation does an impeccable job at making New Orleans feel like its own city. Going from the booming economy of New York to the more rural desperation-filled city of Spanish-occupied New Orleans instantly gives off a very different vibe.

 

There is a surprisingly clever premise attached to Liberation, both in the character you play and the justification for being in control of an Animus. According to the game, you’ve purchased an official Abstergo Animus console that allows you to relive the life of different people throughout history. Your console contains the life of Aveline de Grandpre, a female Assassin who is of French and African descent. After her mother mysteriously disappeared when she was a girl, Aveline was brought up by her father and step mother and was eventually introduced to master Agate, who then trained her to be an Assassin. Aveline fights in opposition to slavery, which was a pivotal part of the economy in the Southern colonies. Much like a masked superhero, Aveline hides her Assassin life from her family, a seemingly proper lady to them. It’s a fantastic premise at heart, though unfortunately there is very little meaningful payoff for the potential this premise holds.

 

If you’ve played an AC game before, you’ll feel right at home controlling Aveline on the Vita. Liberation features the same control enhancements found in AC3 and adds a new “one-button sprinting” mechanic that significantly improves the parkour system. Holding down ‘R’ will now put you in a full sprint that will assume you want to stay high, and will try to prevent you from touching the ground. Holding down both ‘R’ and ‘X’ will then assume that you want to take more drastic jumps. This helps to limit accidental jumps that lead to cheap deaths.

 

Likely the most unique and ultimately unrealized trick up Liberation’s sleeve is its three-persona system. As Aveline, you can freely swap between your assassin, slave, and lady guises that each provides its own advantages. Assassin robes grant access to all tools and weapons, but also come with automatic notoriety. Slave garments are easy to blend into crowds with, at the expense of most of your tools. The lady dress allows you to charm men into helping you past hostile guards, though at the same time is dreadfully slow and you’ll be without almost all tools. As seems to be a pattern in Liberation, the persona system has definite potential, but greatly lacks in execution. Missions don’t give players the options of deciding what persona they want to go in with, but rather confine you to very specific moments when each disguise is required. If my current disguise has no credence to which one I’ll actually be using during a mission, then why have the option there at all? There is basically no advantage to using anything other than the assassin guise outside of missions, which makes the entire system very perplexing.

 

The combat in Liberation is also mirrored from AC3. Combat in AC has finally found a nice balance between defensive and offensive options. Both options are now completely viable; counter-attacking and being aggressive can get the job done. There are a couple of enemy types that require more than a simple counter or swing of the sword, so a bit more attention is required, but the quality of the combat is often squandered by Liberation’s frequent bugs. The game will often not respond when buttons are pressed, specifically during combat and stealth assassinations, which will certainly ruin your day.

 

That is by far Liberations biggest and most detrimental fumble: that it’s just so darn unpolished and buggy. In theory it’s all there; the controls, the movement, the premise, the combat. However, it all feels so forced that it becomes quite apparent how little attention was spent to making sure the game ran well. The frame-rate sucks, the controls are inconsistent, and bugs are abundant. Not to mention the game’s oddly low audio quality, which for some reason resembles that of a $3 pair of headphones.

 

One of my largest complaints with AC3 is its abundance of busy-work activities that are functional, but don’t give players much incentive to do them. Liberation detracts from this issue by having little-to-nothing to do when the story is finished, creating yet another issue. The story will keep you busy for a while, especially if you’re like me running from 8-10 hours. Just don’t expect to stay long after that. There are very brief side missions centered on freeing slaves, but these are quite repetitive and frankly, they are not fun. If you’re a collectible guy, you’ll probably squeeze out a few more hours searching for useless treasures and feathers.

 

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation holds very strong concepts in a very sloppily thrown-together package. The strong story premise alone initially had me hooked, but it desperately hangs on the fragile hooks of its premise until the entire adventure decrescendos into a dry and meaningless ending. It lacks polish in every sense of the word, often feeling broken in combat while having a consistently poor frame rate-all along the way. If you can look past Liberation’s technical fumbles, there is enjoyment to be had. In fact, I think AC veterans can find plenty to enjoy when you look deep. If you’re looking for yet another excuse to jump from buildings and stab people in the neck, then Liberation does that; but if you’re looking for a great game on the Vita, go buy LittleBigPlanet.

 

Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation gets a 6/10.

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Playstation 3 PlayStation 3 Reviews Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews XBOX 360 Xbox 360 Reviews

Retro City Rampage Review

The word “retro” is thrown around a lot in this generation. By definition, Retro is typically an aged or outdated style, fashion, mode, etc. Anything from more than 15-20 years is typically considered “retro”. Sometimes ideas challenge that definition and present the question: Can a modern game with modern ideas and innovation be classified as “retro”?
Retro City Rampage is one of those games that stands up to the challenge. Does it succeed or does it fall flat like the sprites it emulates?

(Game Modes)
Retro City Rampage features a long and robust campaign mode that continuously hammers your memories with references from the 80s and 90s. Some of these references are hilarious while others are primarily designed to make you reminisce of not just video games, but pop-culture as well. I can’t count how many times I caught myself thinking about the times I first played the games that Retro City Rampage was copying.

In addition to those modes, Retro City Rampage also provides “rampage” side missions. I haven’t gone on one of these types of missions since they were last used in the Grand Theft Auto series: Vice City. Essentially, they are score chasers, which I have never been heavily into with any game. RCR, on the other hand, successfully captures what I liked with the GTA rampages. These challenges are the perfect excuse to bring your 8-bit chaos fantasies to fruition.

(Gameplay)

When you start up the game, the very first “retro” reference that you are shown is the presentation of the game. You play in a top down, over-head view similar to the original Grand Theft Auto. Occasionally the game will give you a different camera view similar to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (which is also referenced multiple times). Retro City Rampage constantly introduces new game play elements into the fray that can make the player confused. Having a brief tutorial would have been nice, considering the game tosses you into the frenzy and expects you to know what you are doing. This aspect could potentially put some gamers off of the game and that would be a shame.

Much like GTA, RCR has a wanted level system displayed by a meter where the color green means you are safe and the cops don’t care if you exist. However that meter will quickly climb as it seems that every little mistake you make (like bumping into another car when a cop is near) pushes you further towards the red, essentially meaning you are screwed. Luckily, there is a way to get rid of the wanted level. Scattered about the map (usually in alleys) are items called: “Stealth Coins” which, once you collect one, makes the police mysteriously blind to your actions for a limited time allowing you to make your escape.

Another issue that proved to be annoying was the lack of detail on the in-game map. The map places little color filled circles on places of interest on your map, but this is a little frustrating when you are cruising around or trying to find a specific shop. If you don’t remember the general location of that store, you could be forced to wander the streets until you stumble on it. I had this issue after I completed a mission that required you to wear a propeller hat. I couldn’t remember where the hat shop was, so I had no choice but to wander the streets.

When you decide to take a break from all the 8-bit violence, there is an in-game arcade that has several games waiting for you to play outside of RCR’s many mini-games. Of these arcade games, a plump, meaty, and for lack of a better word, “drippy” character makes an appearance in a game with Virtual Boy graphics. (You can draw your own conclusions from those hints)


(Sound & Visuals)

Compared to modern day titles, Retro City Rampage may not be something that spectacular, but it wouldn’t be fair to compare this game to anything other than a game from the generation that it mimics. Both the sound effects/music and visuals of RCR successfully recreate the presentation of the best games of yesteryear. The sound effects are the same that you would expect from the 8-bit era of gaming, just slightly enhanced to maintain the authenticity and to make sure that the game won’t drive you crazy from the bleeps and bloops.

One of the things that makes this game stand out is that it gives you the option to adjust graphic filters. You can apply an old time (80s’ish) TV that surrounds the screen with all of the glorious knobs that you had to turn to change the channel (unless you had one of those ugly slider cable boxes). You can select graphic filters that make the game look like it’s being played on the Gameboy’s green and black dot matrix LCD screen or you can set it up to display as classic VGA. There are a crap-ton of options that allow you to customize the game’s graphics to suit your nostalgic needs.

(Trophies)

Retro City Rampage has a total of 14 trophies and of those, you have your typical “Do this just because it’s possible” trophies: “Feeling Groggy” requires you to “get ‘sick’ off of milk.’” Not all of the trophies are that easy. You also have your collectables which consist of loot bags, pay phones and invisible walls. (I know, it sounds weird, but it works with the aesthetic.) There is a trophy called “Death Cam, No death” that requires you to complete a mission called “Death Cam VHS” without dying. The name of this mission may be stirring up some thoughts in your head right now and if you are wondering, “Death Cam VHS” is similar to the arcade classic “Smash TV”.

(Conclusion & Thoughts)

Retro City Rampage is Brian Provinciano’s open love letter to a long gone generation in our gaming history. With all of the content and constant references to the 80s and 90s, you can tell that Brian’s heart and mind belong to video games. Retro City Rampage proves that a modern game can be “retro” when it’s being developed with the creator’s love for a long gone generation as the constant focus. When you purchase Retro City Rampage from the PlayStation Network, you’ll see that Retro City Rampage is a part of the “cross-buy” program. So you get both the PlayStation 3 version AND the PlayStation Vita version all for the low price of $14.99.

 

SCORE:
9.0 out of 10
Very close to absolute perfection

PROS
The ultimate 8-bit nostalgic game available for home consoles
A ton of content and customization options
2 games for the price of one through the cross-buy program
Epic in-game arcade games

CONS
The controls can be a bit confusing at times. A brief tutorial to introduce new game play elements would have been nice
It can be difficult to find some of the shops without a map with a little more detail

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Playstation VIta Playstation Vita Reviews

LittleBigPlanet Vita Review

LittleBigPlanet Vita is a completely zero-compromise LittleBigPlanet game. It refuses to sacrifice any of what makes LBP so great with its transformation to the Vita, and feels completely natural on the system. While LBPV doesn’t revolutionize the core formula of LBP, it does have the best story mode in both level design and hilarious characters, while also implementing touch in a way that works remarkably well. It’s amazing that Double 11 has simultaneously created the best LBP game while also making the best thing on the Vita yet.

 

The most surprising thing about LBPV is how naturally it translates to the Vita. Its simple and familiar controls quickly become second nature. Anything that you want in an LBP game is here; gadgets, tools, visual fidelity, creation tool, and even 4-player multiplayer are there in full force. If you’ve never been into LittleBigPlanet before, LBPV isn’t going to sway you. There’s no doubt that it is the strongest game in the series, but it is more LittleBigPlanet and not much else.

 

In typical LBP fashion, the story consists of a new fantasy world, now Carnivalia, in danger of destruction by a fearful force, played by The Puppeteer this time around. From there you can expect to travel from world to world, each one varying from each other visually and aesthetically, and also encountering wacky characters. Although LBPV’s story is uninspired and predictable, it’s the most well done story mode yet. Each world’s level feels more cohesive than ever before, and each character encountered is well-voiced and entertaining. LBPV also puts a much larger emphasis on cutscenes than before, including more legitimate voice acting rather than gibberish with speech bubbles.

 

LBPV has the best use of the front and back touch screen on the Vita yet. You can interact with objects directly in the world, like holding down a block and letting go to act as a springboard or extruding platforms to run across. These simple implementations inevitably become more complex, but it never becomes intrusive or annoying because the game never requires twitch-accuracy. You can always take it slow and take your hand off of the screen. It’s also a nice touch that back touch blocks and front touch blocks are different colors and have specific features that make them easy to point out. But LBPV’s touch features venture far beyond platforming implementations.

 

Apart from the core LittleBigPlanet story levels; Double 11 has included an extra pack of standalone games that have nothing to do with LBP, called the Arcade. Each game takes advantage of one of LBPV’s biggest new features, the Memorizer, which now allows you to create a level in which the player can save progress to return to later. Not only are the games are very simple and serve as an entertaining distraction; they also serve as inspiration for what people could do in the creative mode.

 

A lot of LBPV’s creative mode is unchanged, though there are a few important new features like the Memorizer. The addition of touch significantly changes the flow of creating. Shapes can be reshaped and moved with two fingers. If you drag a finger while forming landscape, it really helps you to make small details. For those who are very much used to the classic creation controls, you can still use two sticks instead. There are also a slew of new in-depth tutorials to delve into, all voiced by the wonderful Stephen Fry, of course. Seriously though, the tutorials can get insane, which makes me all the more amazed at the things that the community has already made, and what it will eventually come up with. For every LBP game to date, the community has found ways to surpass the creativity of the included levels. If this is to stay true with LBPV, I can’t wait to see what the community will come up with, because we have big shoes to fill.

 

The game also adds multiplayer into the mix, unlike its PSP cousin from years past. Using the on board microphone and keyboard on the Vita makes it much easier to communicate with people you’re playing, especially when playing with headphones. It also seems (as early as it is) that server fidelity is much better than in the past LBP games. It can sometimes get confusing when figuring out who should activate a touch-compatible object when any of the four players have the ability to. I only ever had a few hitches, and when I did it had more to do with my proximity to the wireless adapter in my house. Assuming you have a good internet connection, multiplayer on LBPV is a ton of fun.

 

The soundtrack in LBP games have always been fantastic, and LBPV is no exception. This time around the soundtrack focuses much more on ambient tunes that do a fantastic job of establishing atmosphere. Not to mention that you can create music using a simple sequencer while making a level, which has already led to some really cool tunes in some community levels I’ve seen thus far.

 

While we have yet to see the true potential of the community in LPBV, I’m extremely excited to see what in the world people are going to think up. Being that it’s on the Vita, coming back to the game every once in a while to see what’s new in the Community section is easier and more convenient than ever. For those without a 3G Vita (like myself) have the opportunity to download any community level for offline use, which is easily one of the smartest things they could’ve done.

 

Who would’ve thought that more LittleBigPlanet on a more convenient system was all that was required to make the best LBP yet? With how poorly LBPV could’ve turned out being attached to a different developer and the potential of sacrifices on the Vita, it’s all that more amazing that they pulled it off. It’s not going change the mind of anyone who’s never enjoyed the floaty platforming of Sackboy, but will completely satisfy the fans. Pick it up, because it’s the best the best thing on Vita to date.

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita gets a 5/5

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Playstation 3 Playstation Vita Reviews XBOX 360 Xbox 360 Reviews

Mortal Kombat Review

 

Deadly. Eye-popping. Graphic. These are some of the words used to describe the Mortal Kombat series since its first debut in 1992. The series has spawned many sequels, movies, comic books, TV series, and a team up game with DC comics. When Netherrealm studios announced they remade the series, it rekindled a lot of M.K. fans. I had the opportunity to play the new Mortal Kombat and I’m glad to tell report a positive review to all you M.K. fans out there.

Story

The game is a contemporary retelling of Mortal Kombat 1-3. You play as different characters, throughout the story line, to see the different personalities and backgrounds. Curious about what Cyrax and Secktor looked like before they became cyborgs? Ever wonder what Scorpion’s slain family looked like? Want to know the Lin Kuei clan’s purpose for entering the tournaments? The story line answers these questions and more. The game combines cinematic story and combat seamlessly allowing the gamer to be engaged without worrying about load times.

COMBAT (or KOMBAT for the fans out there)

Mortal Kombat’s fighting system is smooth, fluid, and swift. The combo attacks, from the last four games are back, allowing chain attacks or the ability to turn the tables on your opponent. Combining these combo attacks with tag battles of special moves allows for some powerful and beautiful fight scenes. Of course, the special moves are back and better than ever. Landing attacks on your opponent reveals shocking damage through out the battle. I was locked into an intense battle that reveal one of the character‘s right arm had a bone sticking out of the skin.

The game introduces a meter bar that fills up when you land attacks on your opponent. Once full, your meter bar can add more damage to your special moves of deploy X-RAY attacks., a powerful attack followed up by an x-ray view of a character‘s organ damage or bones breaking.

FATALITIES

Yes, fatalities are back and better than ever. Each character has two fatalities (the 2ndfatality needs to be unlocked through the Krypt, but yuntwis has provided valuable info for you) and the ability to perform a stage fatality in 9 different stages. At one point, I was fighting in a subway tunnel and I held an opponent’s head against an oncoming train. I won’t spoil you with details, but fatality fans will be entertained. The game even features a fatality practice mode where you can work on perfecting or replaying a warrior’s fatal attack.

ONLINE

Mortal Kombat’s online mechanic has made some decent improvements, but there is still work to do. The online portion allows you to join different lobbies, where you can fight up to 100 different players. This feature is great, especially when you want to build up a winning streak. The lag has been the main problem. Lag slows the quick combat to a screeching halt or caused the match to end. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to pull off a fatality only to have the internet connection ended the match. Hopefully, a new patch will come along and fix this issue. I’ll give you more information on this aspect when the PSN will available.

EXTRAS

One of the biggest impressions to this new installment is the expansion to the simplest things. Practice mode can help you to focus on training, tutorials, fatalities, and even tag team mode. The test your luck mode is a creative way of playing the game with intense and random stipulations. . The game randomly selected a match that involved: no jumping, regenerating health, random missiles falling from the sky, and extra damage with combos. You can imagine the type of fun I experienced when I had to focus on a combatant, whose health regenerates, and random missiles from above. Krypt mode possesses a good amount of interactivity. You want to spend points just to see a helpless victim succumb to a horrible death.

The character deisgns have been given a fresh update, along with the stages. Looking at the stage background can be a treat. The living forest stage shows multiple victims being attacked or tortured by evil trees. The rooftop stage shows dragons and fighter planes in aerial dog fight. These little bits of interactiviy take the game to a new level that fits the next generation consoles.

Mortal Kombat revives its series in a way that lures new fans in without forgetting about the old fans. If you’re a fan of fighting games with violent deaths, then you’ll enjoy this this game.

I give Mortal Kombat a thumbs up.