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May 7, 2011
I most likely never would’ve picked up Shatter if the folks over at Steam didn’t do that week of challenges that let you unlock certain game achievements in various games that gained you an entry into winning some games on your wish list. Sad as that may be, I played a game I probably wouldn’t have looked at and I’m grateful I did.
Shatter is a modern, different spin on the brick breaker games. You know, the games where you launch a ball from a platform and keep it up in the air as it breaks the blocks above you? Anyway, what Shatter did is turn it into an actual game. It turned what was a simple game you played on your phone to an action filled, almost transforming it into a side scrolling at parts, top down at other parts shooter game, while sometimes adding a wide circle around the blocks that the ball can bounce off of.
The gameplay is simple enough as is most games like it. You launch the ball and then you keep it up and let it destroy things. However, Shatter adds a whole new spin to it with letting you launch another ball so you have more to keep up on your own, letting you push and pull the ball to maneuver it around the field to get that last brick you just can’t seem to hit usually, and also collect shards that once they fill up a meter you can use a special ability called Shardstorm that just unleashes only what can be described as a hail of bullets in front of you, easily taking care of a section of blocks. Also a section of the bar can be used to activate a shield so that the floating, debris blocks can’t hit you, but if it does it really only knocks your platform back a bit, no real harm except the possibility of missing your ball on the rebound.
The game consists of 10 single player levels, and adds boss fights that require specific parts to be hit, making the whole pull/push mechanic a helpful tool to use. After that however, there’s not much gameplay to be had. There’s a bonus mode to unlock that lets you see how long you can keep 3 balls going and see what high score you can get. The other mode to unlock is a Boss Rush mode which is pretty much what it sounds like, fight through all the bosses back to back to see how quick you can. Both the bonus mode and boss rush mode have leaderboards to compare scores to, but there’s no actual multiplier and co-op must be done on the same computer/keyboard/screen.
Graphics are fine for what the game is. There’s enough visual and shiny stuff to appeal but not breaking your system. The music however is where the game really shines. It has that electronica feel without making you feel like you’ve heard the same beats before. I don’t know, it’s really unique and just suits the game perfectly.
Overall, Shatter is a great game. I like seeing where developers take various types of games and see what spin they put on it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but Shatter breaks out on its own as a game that has to be tried.
Game: Shatter | Developer: Sidhe
April 28, 2011
I’ll be up front. I’ve played the series since number two, the first doesn’t count because that was a two player fighting game, not a hack-n-slash. Eventually you get tired of the same people, same game, same battles, same everything. So each game they try to add new aspects, which some work and some don’t. I’ve seen the series go through some changes and haven’t always liked them. The Empire series never grabbed me, Strikeforce was just….weird, Gundam isn’t even Dynasty Warriors (seriously guys Dynasty Warriors = Three Kingdoms not giant robots, get on that). Then they change the original formula and that doesn’t go over well, like Dynasty Warriors 6. However, I still picked up seven. I had to see what they did, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The game play is relatively the same. You’ll fight the same battles as you’d expect to fight with each kingdom, with a slight twist this time. One, there’s a fourth kingdom to play as. What? A fourth kingdom in my three kingdoms game you say!? Yes, you can play as Jin. In story mode, you don’t select the character and go through each battle with them, repeating this for every character, like in the past. Story mode is actually story mode, with each battle being played by a certain person who had relevance to that battle. Most missions begin with you in your camp, letting you walk around and talk to various people just to get some perspective on the current situation, or mindless banter. You talk to the one person who can start the fight, noticeable by the giant red exclamation point over their head, the gates open and you seamlessly get put into the battle. I said most missions because a couple of them you immediately start out fighting, but you can pause the game at any time to switch weapons out or put new seals on your weapons.
Seals are unlocked through using a certain weapon until you unlock that weapons seal. The seals are usually things like attack or defense boosts. Some other ones are: skill point boosts, increase your bonds with officers, walking speed increase, things like that.
Each character can equip two weapons at any time, with one weapon being their “preferred” weapon, with an Ex skill that you can do. However you don’t have to use that weapon if you don’t care about their special skill, and can see how well they can use certain weapons with a three star rating. Some weapons are blocked out for certain people while others only get a one or two star rating. With some weapons they’d have a blacked out star, meaning that character can eventually use that weapon at that level of efficiency. It’s not to say you can’t use a one star weapon, you just attack slower. Two stars means you use the weapon as-is with no penalties, with three stars letting you use the weapon’s special trick.
Throw some seals on those bad boys and go out swinging. It amuses me to see a giant, tough warrior using a harp or a flute or a tiny girl using a big hammer or axe. There are a ton of weapons to use though, and some of the later weapons you get have a mastery skill on it. For instance: Spear Master. Equipping that seal on a weapon will make you fight with the spear as if it was three stars, even if they only have a one. Options people, options!
How do we unlock more weapons to use? Partly through the story mode, sometimes there’s a weapon merchant in that camp you can purchase weapons from pre-battle. Most of the buying, though, takes place in the separate mode from Story mode, Conquest Mode. Conquest is where the free for all starts. You have a big map with hexagons –each representing a battle or a town. The town ones are fairly visible since they’re gold, but the battles can range anywhere from: increasing your fame, to new weapons, to new guardian animals you can equip (horses to ride or different animals that attack things for you), to unlocking new characters to play in conquest mode with. The only problem with this mode is that once it’s completed, like the story mode, that’s kind of it. You can play conquest mode with any character (assuming you unlocked them through their appropriate battle on conquest mode) but the progress is shared, so aside from playing each character to finish their skill tree, to unlock their voices in the gallery, or increasing your bond with officers to unlock more voices, there’s not much to go on.
Officers are unlocked after a couple bond increases to be sworn allies, meaning you can make them your lieutenant…kind of. You equip them in town at the teahouse, where you also equip your guardian animals. Afterwards, you just increase their bond fighting with them. There’s a seal that helps it increase faster but after it’s maxed, aside from different in-game dialogue to show the increased bond, there’s really no need to keep them unless you’ve done everyone.
Characters can be customized a bit. Aside from the weapon switching listed already, each person has a skill tree that you use points gotten from defeating officers to unlock things like: the fifth and sixth regular attacks/charge attacks, a skill point increase that stacks with the skill point weapon seal, a special skill related to that person, and a second musou bar and attack. Wait, a second bar and attack? Yes indeed. Gone are the days of one long bar that continuously drained as you did one attack, continually until it ran out, followed by a big boom. Now you use one bar that does a single, damaging attack. But now each character has two attacks. Variety makes me happy. There are currently only two outfits selectable for each character which really only change the color scheme of their original outfit, but word is that there is DLC coming down that adds a few of the pasts Dynasty Warrior games outfits.
The graphics are the best I’ve seen for the series so far, with the environments looking fairly crisp and clean. The slowdown that plagued the genre when too many things were on screen is gone in favor of the slow loading enemies. Which wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the archers weren’t more dangerous than the officers, at times, or the officer wouldn’t load, being right next to me. The music is typical Dynasty Warriors faire, not much to go on there. One of those if you enjoyed it in the past, you will now.
Overall, it’s another Dynasty Warriors game. Aside from the changed up story mode with the added kingdom and non-selectable characters, the conquest mode that serves as the “free roam” part of the game, the free for all with weapons, and the new characters they added add some flavor, it’s still the hack-n-slash we either love or hate. Long time fans probably already bought it, on the fence people who liked some but disliked others should rent it and people who dislike the genre for some reason won’t find a reason to like it. If you’ve never played, it’s not a bad time to try it out.
Game:Dynasty Warriors 7| Developer: Tecmo Koei
April 10, 2011
Droplitz is one of those games that you think would be relaxing to play, what with its color changing backgrounds and smooth music changing depending on how high your score/multiplier gets and also the mode you’re playing on. It lies. It’s a dirty, dirty liar. It’s a frustrating, panicky game hiding behind nice visuals and cool music. I’m on to you Droplitz.
The game seems simple. Little grey and purple balls fall out of the holes up top. They have to get into the spaces at the bottom. Your job as the player is to rotate tiles to create a path for those balls to travel down. Sounds simple, fun, easy, and relaxing right? Wrong. Oh sure, everything starts nice. Click a few tiles, hey look a path! The music playing away, you’re casually building paths. Then you realize you’re losing balls (once you run out it’s game over) because now the board has more paths that balls are coming out of and they aren’t making it because the game decided to give you a line piece when you really needed a freaking 4-way. Oh, it knows. It knows. Now it’s a game of frantic clicking trying to make a path, ANY path, work out so you can keep the game going. Then realizing you’re still losing balls because you still can make a path because the tile they gave you outside the dropper zone can’t connect to any other tile surrounding it. Then the board gets even bigger with more droppers and more tiles. Then you get frustrated, randomly click things, lose, and go cry in a fetal position in the corner. Maybe that was just me though.
The graphics and music are well done. Things changed based on your score and your multiplier and the mode you’re on. The backgrounds are all very solid but sort of….wavy? It’s a trip really. They added little graphics to it, like a snowflake or a coffee cup, to set the mood of the level you’re on. The music is relaxing. There are a few music tracks ranging from techno sounding ones, to smooth jazz influenced, to just relaxing. I don’t know how to describe it except something you’d listen to on a meditation CD or something.
For all I said during the review, it is a fun game. It’s casual enough to be fun but challenging enough to where you won’t be bored with it. Different modes to try out, leader boards for those who like comparing to your friends or trying to get a better score than the people above you, and just a generally fun game that people who enjoy puzzle games should check out. I won’t call it back though, the first date was just wrong.
Game: Droplitz | Developer: Blitz Arcade
March 24, 2011
To be honest, Dragon Age II (DA2) took me by surprise. When I played Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) back in 09, I was glad that we received another RPG in a gaming community that is more accustomed to fast paced, adrenaline filled action games. So naturally, to me, the sequel would improve on the first game. They did, and they didn’t. DA:O was built for the PC gaming crowd, while it’s console partners (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3) had to adjust to its’ more strategic combat, using a variety of camera angles and pausing to issue orders in order to get through more of the games challenging moments. DA2 was built towards the console gamers, a move that many PC gamers were not happy with. They stripped a lot of what made DA:O an RPG and turned it into an Action-RPG. For those who played Mass Effect 1 & 2, you’ll get the comparison. For those of you who have not played any of the games listed here, think of it like the old Star Wars trilogy compared with the new. Sure, everything “fits” in the same story sense, but you can’t just nudge past the feeling that something was traded away from what it was to make it more acceptable. It just feels wrong. If you have not played any of the games and did not watch any of the movies to get the comparison, then I just don’t know.
The game play is, for lack of a better word, streamlined. The world seems small, the giant city of Kirkwall seems sparse, and the locations you can visit become very familiar. Dungeon layouts re-use the same layouts, blocking off doors not in use that they would be in other quests. The same three classes are there for you to pick from; Warrior, Mage, and Rogue, with a variety of companions filling the gap. Combat has been simplified. There are barely any separate camera angles, just enough to get a very small overhead view, mostly you’ll be looking at your characters back. Unless you’re playing on a high difficulty, there’s very little need for strategy. The most strategic thing you can do with the combat at early points, and almost a need in higher difficulties is cross-class combos. Various skills cause one of three different effects based on your class, and other classes can use a skill that exploit that. For instance, a rogue uses a skill that disorients a target, a warrior can use another skill that causes 4 times the regular damage against the disoriented target but gets rid of it so it can’t be exploited continually. What this does though is makes the game feel more fluid during combat. It’s a trade off.
Customization takes a bit of a back seat as well. You can customize your main character however you wish, except you must be a human. Changing your style past the first few presets also changes how your family looks as well. The preset for both the male and female Hawke though are fairly well done if you aren’t the customizing type. You can change everything about your companion’s equipment except their armor, and to some lesser extent their weapons. Some do well with a new weapon, others never get replaced. Their appearance is what you get. The only exception here is when you finish a relationship with one of the companions you can romance, then their outfit changes to a separate one. It’s only for that one person though and if you don’t like the change, too bad. Instead of refitting your companions with new armor, you find upgrades in a variety of places; shops, crates and barrels, quests. The upgrades ranged anywhere from more armor, stats, or adding a rune slot where you can place an enchantment. The further blow to customization happens in the skill trees. You receive two companions who are warriors, three if you included yourself if you decided your main character will be a warrior. You can make any of them a tank by using a sword and shield. The problem is, only one of them is suited to be a tank since each companion has a personal skill tree. It -can- work with the other one or yourself since all three can pick up the sword & shield tree, but know one person can do it better since their personal tree is dedicated to making them a tank. The real bothersome thing is if you need a healer, you really only get one option since only one of your mages gets the tree to heal. If you dislike that person as a companion, or goes against what you’re playing as, then you either shelf them and go without a healer or be annoyed and deal with it.
The story, for what it is, is good. It delves into the politics of a city, paranoia, group oppression, and betrayal. The story is actually being told through one of your companions over three acts, who is being interrogated as to the main character’s (your) location. Each act ends and starts with your companion telling his interrogators what happened during the time you left off. Explaining why you disappeared and why this particular group is looking for you delves into the late story and is spoiler filled so just know that things blow up in an important way. The only thing that bothered me is that for all the choices you seem to be given, little matters. You can import your old DA:O save to have some minor tie-ins, but it effects little overall. Only a few things actually happen, story wise. The rest is maybe passed by in a line of text.
The sound I can’t comment much on because it didn’t really stick out to me. The voice acting is well done. As far as the ambient soundtrack goes, I actually could not tell you off the top of my head because I honestly can’t remember if the city or the other areas even had music. It was that subdued. The battle music suits fighting fine, but unfortunately mine was bugged at the time of playing (as were others judging from their forum) where the battle music only cuts in for a second and the rest of the time is just a high pitched echo playing. I know what it sounds like though and it is nice, shame I didn’t get to hear it actually in my game though opposed to having to find it outside of it.
The graphics are fairly good, even on lower settings the game looks nice so that’s a plus for those who can’t run it very high. They aren’t mind blowing but they’re modern, so you wouldn’t feel like you’re playing a game a few years back.
Overall, Dragon age II is a great game. Despite my personal feelings about the switch in gameplay, I can see what they were going for and making it a bigger market on the consoles and that’s just business. I enjoyed the game, and currently running it through a second time. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys RPGs, action or traditional based. Just if you’re coming in from the first game keep an open mind and enjoy it for what it is, not what we might’ve expected/wanted. Change keeps the industry alive, and we have to roll with it.
Game: Dragon Age II | Developer: Bioware
March 3, 2011
With the recent release of Killzone 3, which we have an upcoming review for, I thought it would be appropriate to go back and review the game that I personally consider to be the spirit of the franchise. Sure, Killzone started the whole thing on the Playstation 2, but that was one of those games that had a great thing going for it conceptually, but fumbled the ball in the actual implementation.
Killzone 2, however, fixed all the clunky controls and excessive grays of its predecessor, bringing in some starkly contrasting reds and blues to highlight important happenings on the battlefield. Essentially, Killzone 2 picks up the storyline after the original game ends. The ISA is attacking the planet Helghan in retaliation for the Helghast attack on the planet Vekta. The ISA aim to remove the Hitler-esque, but very charismatic dictator of Helghan, Scolar Visari. Honestly, even I was pretty impressed by Scolar Visari’s speeches in both the original game and Killzone 2. I would have fought for him before I would have fought for the ISA. But, that aside, the game follows you (Sergeant Sevchenko) and your squad through the campaign storyline with the aim of capturing Visari. The graphics, sound and overall ambience of this game at its release were unmatched, and I dare say they stand out fantastically well even now, years later.
Killzone 2 Intro Movie
It also had an awesome multiplayer experience, with some unique objectives and dynamic maps that easily put anything Modern Warfare ever spawned to artistic shame. The multiplayer experience involved two opposing squads of 8 players to battle in various different game modes, whether it was simply a slugfest, where the highest kill count wins, or capture-the-flag or king-of-the-hill style scenarios. It held attention, and it held it well.
Not only that, but the single player campaign ended on something of a cliffhanger. I won’t ruin it for you in case you haven’t played it, but it sets the stage perfectly for the introduction of Killzone 3 and the bigger, badder nemesis you are introduced to there. And, undoubtedly, who we will have the pleasure of fighting in the inevitable Killzone 4. And let me tell you, he’s a doozy of a villain…
Game Series: Killzone | Developer: http://www.guerrilla-games.com/
December 24, 2010
The same developer who made Monkey Island made Deathspank. That really should be enough of a reason to play it but I did not actually know that the first time I picked it up. To be honest, the real reason I bought this game (yes, I do mean bought) is because it was beautiful. I was flipping through a number of screenshots and just, on a whim, ended up looking through these. I have been proven wrong quite a few times but I still believe that no one would make a game look this beautiful, take that much time, and then give me a crappy end product. Therefore, I took a chance and bought it.
Boy, am I happy I did. Deathspank was a wonderful game filled with charmingly funny characters, interesting conversation, and a fighting system that did not bore me to tears.
Now, if you did play Monkey Island you probably expect a certain degree of humor for this game. I do not know what I would have done if the game had not been funny (I probably would have cried myself to sleep) but thankfully, we don’t have to find out. The game continues with that wit and fail that we all know and love.
Now, besides the aesthetics and the humor this is still a fantastic game. You play as a person named Deathspank (go figure), who is on a quest to find an Artifact. The way he goes about doing this is somewhat different from what you may expect from an RPG. It is not so much hacking apart a few bosses and gathering items as much as it is…doing people favors. Some of which involve hacking up monsters, but that is unimportant.
I am not entirely sure if I am disappointed that our hero in this game is not really much of a hero or if I find the change refreshing. I think, for the most part, I am glad that Deathspank is a little bit more of himself and a bit less…well, Link. Strong characters are hard to find these days but I think we have found one for sure within our hapless Deathspank.
The world that Deathspank lives in is a great wide one. You can find dozens of side quests, though they do get a little monotonous after a while, hook up with friends, or just wander around killing things. Which doesn’t really further the story but I enjoy a little mindless death from time to time, so take that evil unicorn!
Game: DeathSpank | Developer: Hothead Games
September 5, 2010
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten off my editor’s throne and actually done a review. But it’s also been a while since I’ve found a game that I really felt I needed to make a personal commentary on. Our reviewers here do a great job with everything they do, but I’ve been feeling the itch to get back into writing myself. So, when I found myself playing through Mafia II the other day and commenting on various things to my roommate, I realized that if I was going to get back into writing myself I had to do it now. And there’s no better game out at the moment to have helped me with my creative urges than Mafia II.
Before I really get into things though, it needs to be said that this game is rated M for mature, and for good reason. Prolific violence, foul language, and nudity mean that this game is NOT for children. So please, be sensible, read the label, and don’t let your kids play games they shouldn’t be playing at a young age.
The game is set in 1940’s America, following the character Vito Scolleta (you), from his early days as a young boy in Italy, through his childhood life in America, up to his days as a soldier during World War II (where the cinematics end and the gameplay begins) and through his Mafioso days after he comes home.
Visually, the game is absolutely stunning. Sure, there are some that have been a tad better, but you’d be hard pressed to find any physical errors with the way the world looks. It captures a look and feel of the 40’s better than anything else I’ve seen from the time. The “Beaver Cleaver” suburbs, the downtown business districts, the dirty slums and even the heavily industrial dock section all received equal love and care to their visual appearance. And the characters themselves are magnificent. There are parts of the game that are gritty and dark, while others sparkle with a chrome-like sheen.
Things can get pretty brutal in the industrial sector.
The gameplay is equally spectacular. The whole game is driven by a story that has various climaxes and down times, and works well to depict the underworld lifestyle of Vito and his mafioso friends. If you’re not putting the squeeze on someone for not paying their dues, you might be driving like a madman to evade police, boxing some fool who thinks he could take you, or lounging around the strip club and watching the story move seamlessly into the next chapter. The game also has it’s fair amount of open-endedness. You’re free to do as you please, the same as in most games like this. Your criminal activities might range from shaking down businesses for cash, stealing cars and sending them to the crusher for money, or running around trying to find the numerous collectable items (wanted posters and playboy bunny photos) hidden out in the world. Or, of course, any other creative ideas you might have for yourself.
But sometimes you just need to make an example out of someone.
But no matter what you decide to do with your time, if you’re into a very solid story backed up by excellent gameplay and quality graphics (and are old enough to buy the game with it’s M rating), then you really can’t go wrong with Mafia II. So far, this game looks like it could be a very strong contender for the Game of the Year award I’ve been mulling over for the site.
Game: Mafia II | Developer: 2k Czech
April 11, 2010
Hot on the heels of Dr. Zed’s Zombie Island and Mad Roxxi’s Underdome Riot, Gearbox Software has released the third (and supposedly final) DLC for Borderlands – The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.
Right at the start, you’re thrown into a mess when you discover that a bounty has been placed on your heads by Atlas Corporation. A rather sizable one at that. Never one to sit back and take it, you and your companions take on a mission to strike back at Atlas. You’re aided in this quest by some new friends and some old ones as well, including Scooter who has setup shop nearby.
Stepped Right into Trouble...
Secret Armory introduces a few changes to the game. Foremost among these is the Level Cap which has been raised up to Level 61 (a subtle nod to Spinal Tap and their amps that go to 11). The first missions start out at level 50 and believe me when I say, you need to be at Level 50 to try it. My level 45 Soldier died repeatedly until I managed to play through the original game once more to raise some levels.
Also added is a plethora of new loot (including a new type of chest), incredibly powerful weapons, new missions (and side quests), and impressive enemies that keep you on your toes throughout the game.
Like Zombie Island, Secret Armory has only one Fast Travel location and it’s far more spread out than the island. Thankfully, there are three new vehicles to take advantage of the wide open space. One of these, the Lancer, seats four. Yes, Gearbox answered their fans and came up with a vehicle that everyone can rid in. It’s a blast.
A New Ride
Graphics and Sound have not changed since the original Borderlands with the exception of new dialogue for Scooter and a handful of new characters. As in previous installments, it’s great. The voice work is well done and adds a lot of humor and atmosphere.
For just ten bucks, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is a sure bet. Pick up a copy and get blasting with your friends.
Game: Borderlands : The Secret Armory of General Knoxx | Developer: Gearbox Software
March 24, 2010
If I had to describe this game in one word it would be: im-freakin-pressive. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Trine before. This is the kind of indie game I thrive on. It’s a real testament to the fact that you don’t have to be a big company to put out interesting, enthralling, entertaining games.
To begin with, Trine has a soothing kind of fairytale telling feel to it. The art is brilliant but stand still, as if you’re looking down at a printed book. The story that is weaved before you sucks you in, and before you realize it you’re staring at a character, waiting for more to happen, and suddenly realizing it’s your turn to play. It doesn’t drag on but you can easily become engrossed in the plotline of the tale.
In Train you play as one of three characters. No, let me clarify. You play as all three characters, one at a time. You toggle based on your needs and are expected to know which character you need for the particular obstacle in your way. For the most part this is obvious. If you’re being attacked by a band of sword carrying skeletal monsters you’re pretty much guaranteed to whip out your brute (and I mean that in every sense of the word) strength warrior and get to the hacking and slashing.
The music in Trine is relaxing, which is odd because the game itself is anything but. I know all you experienced players out there are fully capable of using the W, A, S, D method for gaming but for us slow people the switch in gears can be darn frustrating. I can’t tell you how long I had to take in order to figure out how to jump properly and even so it was still a toss up on whether I would actually make it to my goal or not.
Still, with that little minor complaint I would largely recommend Trine to players of all different types and genre preference. It mixes action with puzzle, adds a little humor, and steals my breath away with stunning visuals and care. You can really tell that these people loved this game while they were putting it together and how could we, as players, do anything other than that?
Game: Trine – http://trine-thegame.com/site/ | Developer: Frozenbyte — http://frozenbyte.com/
February 21, 2010
Our Hero … Hiro
The story is as old as time – an Evil Warlord has arisen and is transforming the forest creatures into evil minions. You play Hiro, a young Ninja tasked with saving the world and rescuing your Ninja companions who have gone before you. Along the way, you’ll be aided in your quest by helpful animals and make use of a wide variety of special Ninja powers.
Coming from IO Interactive, Mini Ninjas is a sharp departure from the more realistic and gritty games the company has made in the past (i.e. Hitman series) but it’s fun and enjoyable. It does a wonderful job of bringing the world of Japan to life for an audience that is both young and old.
The graphics and art style in Mini Ninjas are excellent. In many places, it’s downright cute. Even when kicking their butts, I enjoyed how the enemy samurai bounced around while letting out high pitch chirps and squeals. On occasion though, the camera will suddenly rotate and leave you feeling disoriented. This didn’t happen too often, but when it did it was disconcerting. The designers also did a great job in capturing the feel of Japan with the audio and music.
Controls in Mini Ninjas are simple and come down to button-mashing. You can put together some combos and use Power Moves to vanquish your enemies. Speaking of vanquishing, the violence is completely cartoon and family friendly. Defeating your opponents reverts them back into the cute and fluffy wildlife creatures you’ve come to save.
Defeat Your Foes and Release the Forest Creatures
Hiro has a multitude of special powers. These include Spirit Form which allows you to take possession of nearby animals. Possessing some animals such as Boars or Bears give you different modes of attack. Additional powers come in the form of being able to throw Fireballs or Lighting bolts at your enemy.
Along the way, you’ll find flowers and mushrooms that can be collected. These can be turned into potions or other special items by purchasing recipes. Crack open jugs and other containers in a Zelda-like fashion to find items such as coins, Smoke Bombs, and Healing Potions. Magical Shrines, hidden throughout the world, give you additional powers. Need extra health? Find an apple or cherry tree and shake it until the fruit falls down for you to eat.
As stated earlier – freeing the other captured Ninjas allows you to play them. One of these is Futo, Hiro’s best friend who carries an enormous hammer and the strength to wield it. Can’t open a gate? Try swapping to this brute and knocking down those doors. Other rescued characters have their own powers and special moves.
Take advantage of Futo's strength for the big guys.
Certain areas will have hints available that you can easily access with the press of a Key. If you’re feeling lost at any time, simply press E to mediate for guidance. The method feels a lot smoother and more in-game than pulling up a world map. Besides – guidance only tells you the direction, not quite how to get there.
There’s even a few mini-games including the ever popular Fishing. This is done while sitting in your boat (which just so happens to be a large hat that you can paddle about) and using simple mouse controls. Each time you catch a fish, it’s instantly transformed into Sushi.
Even a Ninja Needs a Break
Mini Ninjas is charming, fun, and family friendly. There’s no co-op play (which would knock this game out of the park) but that doesn’t take away from how much fun it is. For it’s 8-10 hour length, the game is a bit pricey at thirty bucks, but if you’re looking for some wholesome entertainment, I’d say pick it up.
Game: Mini Ninjas | Developer: IO Interactive
February 1, 2010
The hugely popular Borderlands game continues its assault on the first-player shooting world by introducing us to the first DLC for the game – The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. The story line follows a disturbance at Jakob’s Cove and a search for answers from Dr. Ned (who is most definitely not Dr. Zed from the main game).
Upon installing Zombie Island, you’ll find that you can instantly fast travel to Jakob’s Cove. Once there, there is no fast travel (except back to the main game areas) or vehicles, but maps are small enough that you can easily complete a mission in a far flung area and return before the enemy re-spawns. Depending on your preferences, this might be seen as a bonus or annoyance. Somewhat irksome was that no matter where you ended your gaming session, you always restarted back in Jakob’s Cove.
You Always Come Home Again
The enemies are slight rehashes of those found in the main game with your standard Zombies (Bandits), Maniacs, Midgets, and Wereskags. New foes include huge Tankesnteins and Suicide Zombies who carry explosive barrels to chuck your way. Shooting the barrel has the result you’d expect. Headshots reward you with Zombie Brains that can be used for a side quest. Limbs can be blasted off as well, leading to a few surprises. After a one vicious fight, I found myself being spewed upon by an enemy I couldn’t see. It was then that I discovered that if you blow off a zombie’s legs, their insatiable appetite keeps them crawling. I kept a better eye out for torsos after that.
Along with the main story line, side quests are provided by the familiar Bounty Board and ECHO missions. No new skills are added in Zombie Island, just about forty or so new missions. Players are given the opportunity, after completing a specific quest, to purchase firearms from a special Jakob’s vending machine. Sadly, the machine in my game stopped working after I quit for the evening and I couldn’t buy from it again.
Because the game is based on your story progress and not your level, some might find it too easy. I didn’t pick up Zombie Island until after I’d finished the main quest. This resulted in fun, but not terribly challenging game play. Four player co-op with some friends at a lower level provided more of a challenge with the added bonus of pulverizing the undead with friends.
From the sarcasm-laced introduction provided by Marcus and a sweet little girl to the Jakob’s public service announcements (“We’d like to remind survivors that we are not a taxi service…”), Zombie Island shows off the same quirky humor seen throughout Borderlands. The graphics are well done with the spooky swamp atmosphere achieved by modifying the Day/Night cycle so that it never gets very bright.
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a great addition to Borderlands and for just $10, quite a bargain. Grab some friends, pick up a copy, and spend the weekend sending the undead packing.
Game: Zombie Island of Dr. Ned | Developer: Gearbox Software
October 9, 2009
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Does anybody remember the older Ghost Recon games? They were a pc series of first person shooters that did military style campaigns with a significant degree of realism. They were always fun, they were always challenging, and they were always fulfilling. I haven’t played any of the previous Operation Flashpoint games, but I was a fan of Ghost Recon, and I’ve been aching for something along that style of play to pop up sometime soon. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, brings the nostalgia back with an excellent formula for both single and multiplayer gaming goodness.
The multiplayer offers cooperative play against the computer, or competitive play against other players, either online or via a LAN. Games were very easy to find, there were plenty of servers running and players were eager to start games. I played through several maps of both the cooperative and competitive styles and had a blast, regardless of the style of map, but there was something nagging at me the whole while that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then one of my teammates suddenly started speaking, and I realized exactly what it was. PS3, unlike the Xbox360, doesn’t just out and hand you a headset along with your first controller, and that lack of communication in a game like Operation Flashpoint could get you killed very quickly. The squad leader has a list of options and commands he can issue to try to guide the team in the correct direction, but unless everybody on the team has purchased a microphone to use on the PS3, sometimes you lose track of your squadmates, or aren’t quite sure what they’re doing. I’m not faulting the game for this at all, I’m faulting Sony, but because of the obvious effect it has on the game it needed to be mentioned. So whether you’re trouncing the computer or trying to outmaneuver a real squad of opposing players, keep your squadmates in sight, or you might find yourself out in the open and drawing way more fire than you can handle. Overall though, the multiplayer aspect is both challenging, rewarding, and well paced. You never feel like you’re sitting there waiting for something to happen. On the contrary, more often than not you’re on the edge of your seat as bullets slam into the ground beside you and you pray that none of them actually hit their mark. The game’s damage system is very realistic, and it only takes a shot or so to the torso to kill you. So keep your head down, stay in cover, and make your own shots count.
Operation Flashpoint has a playstyle that almost feels more like a real life simulation than a video game. It trades the glitz and the non-stop action for the realism of intense, spur of the moment adrenaline rushes and the dramatic, nerve-wracking periods of silence in between. Visually, it’s still a pretty attractive game. The graphics aren’t cutting edge, but for a game of Operation Flashpoint’s massive scale (you have an entire island to traverse), it keeps everything well in a realistic perspective. If they’d gone overboard on the graphics, I don’t honestly think they could have fit the entire game on one cd. Sound quality is crisp, clear, realistic, and at times uncomfortably quiet. When you can’t hear anything but your own breathing, then all of a sudden someone in your squad spots the enemy and bullets start whizzing by, your own squad’s rifles are cracking away, and the groan of trucks or whopping of a helicopter adds to the tension, you really get immersed in the experience. At any given moment you’re sneaking quietly through the trees, then the next your fighting for your life as bark splinters off the tree you’re hiding behind and dirt flies up into your eyes, obscuring your view (yes, it really does this). Operation Flashpoint definitely went for a combat simulation style with the game, making as much of the game mechanics as they could as realistic as possible without going overboard on the graphics and turning it into an unnecessary gore-fest. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising brings out the fun in it’s team play, high stakes gameplay and the simple fulfillment of surviving a firefight when you’re outnumbered on a regular basis and just one bullet in the wrong place can bring you down. I recommend picking the game up without a second thought.
Check out Operation Flashpoint’s website for some really well done videos on the game.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Vids
Demon’s Souls, also for the PS3, will get a review sometime within the next couple days.
September 27, 2009
Wet – Get Ready for some Monkey Business.
Every game has to start with an idea, but it’s rare to find a game that feels like it truly started with a vision. This one most certainly does. It captures the gritty, raw feeling of emerging action cinema and combines it with the modern stylization of slow motion combat and environmental manipulation. It’s fast paced, action-packed, challenging, full of interesting options and has an artistic charm all its own. Ah, and you can’t forget the creepy cymbal smashing monkeys you can collect! In short, Wet is what you’d get if you gave Quentin Tarantino the reins behind a video game development studio. It’s fun packed in a never-say-die main character, rolled in blood, guts, and explosions, and kicked in the face for good measure. Here’s the breakdown.
The game had a vision of style that it carries out flawlessly. The graphics are excellently crafted for its design, fit the motif at every turn and purposely gritty, which adds greatly to the experience. For those looking for a smoother feel though, the film-tear is optional, and can be turned off very easily from the options menu. The sound runs in the old school action movie clique and the music creates an energized atmosphere that will rock your socks. Controls are easy to learn and work well with the environment, giving you as many opportunities as possible to use the environment to your advantage and create a genuine movie-style play on the action. On top of this all, the interface is as simple as it gets, and it works out perfectly for the game. You’ve got a health bar, an indicator of which gun you currently have equipped and it’s ammo count. Everything else is all about the visual action. Wet gets a high five in the tech department, courtesy of its own merits.
The gameplay for Wet is fun, visceral, and rewarding, while at the same time being unforgiving in the vein of any true hardcore action flick. At certain stages of the game you’ll find yourself completely surrounded by continually spawning hordes of baddies, all bent on beating (or shooting) the hell out of you until you break the entrance controls to their spawn point. At other points it plays almost like a throwback to the old Dragon’s Lair game, or more familiarly, Indigo Prophecy, where on screen cues prompt you to press certain buttons in order to survive the challenge. It also mixes up the level designs, going from close quarters hack-and slash stages to balcony jumping shootouts, car chases and even more interesting and original stages I’d rather not ruin for you. The game certainly gets you engaged. You’ll quickly find yourself empathizing with the main character’s begrudgingly frustrated attitude towards her antagonists, and occasionally even her reluctant allies. No matter what way you look at it, Wet is downright fun, and it doesn’t punish you for losing the occasional firefight. Returning you to the nearest checkpoint if you die, which is always reasonably close by, it never seems like a chore to try again. Instead, it feels like a motivating “I’m gonna get that son of a *$&@^!” challenge. It’s a rare game that can make you feel happy to be running back for more after you just got whomped, but Wet does just that. And it’s all the more rewarding when you beat it the next time around.
Any way you look at it, Wet is a hardcore work of video gaming art.
The next review is still pending, I’m working on getting a way to post screenshots of console games without having to deal with the copyright nonsense from other review sites. Did find an interesting game on steam last week though that I wanted to review immediately following its release, but some things came up, so maybe I can get it some late exposure here sometime this week.