Reviews by CrimsonWizard
Returns Brought Shadowrun Back, Dragonfall Solidifies ItCrimsonWizard | March 28, 2014 | Review of Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall DLC
Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall is a DLC campaign for the base Shadowrun game, taking us away from the familiar Seattle setting to the politically turbulent Berlin. Mega corps, gangs, and shadowy figures are all waging war for a piece of the pie, and through it all a dark conspiracy plays out. You on the other hand begin as just a small time Shadowrunner, called back by a friend for a job that twists into the grey underbelly of the city.
The gameplay itself is largely unchanged except for some extra customization options for appearance and some new guns, spells, and cybernetic implants, so let's talk about the story. While the base Shadowrun Returns had a decent enough story and mystery, most of the characters were kind of flat and didn't stick around for long. Dragonfall rectifies this mistake, giving you a team of fellow Shadowrunners to command and interact with throughout the whole game. Unlike Returns where you would routinely hire random Shadowrunners to fill out your party for a mission, in this DLC you get a loyal group consistently if you don't feel like hiring characters who don't even get speaking lines. Your loyal Shadowrun team is filled with some great characters too, reminding me of the delightfully motley crews you build up in games like Mass Effect. I don't want to spoil too much here, but it's pretty easy to get to like and care about your team, even if first appearances are deceiving.
The story itself is also a really nice tale, making the ultimate threat and villains grey rather than out and out evil like in the base Returns campaign, which I appreciate. It makes the choices you make a bit harder to decide on, leaving you to wonder if you did the right thing in the long run. Watching the mystery unfold and the turns it took was a great ride, and was boosted with the great cast of the characters that are forced to fight through it all. Despite being a DLC, it's basically as long as the main campaign as well, so it will last you quite a while.
Honestly, it's hard to talk about how good this DLC is compared to the main game without getting into spoilers so I'll just say this. If you liked the original Shadowrun Returns, but wish there had been some stronger characters at your side all the time, this delivers in spades. The combat maintains the fun of the main game, but having a loyal team of Shadowrunners to command makes it more special than just "Okay, I'll hire Decker B and Shaman C to back me up." So in short, yes buy this if you have the main game and liked it, it's worth completely worth it.
A Colorful Slice of CyberpunkCrimsonWizard | March 28, 2014 | Review of Shadowrun Returns
Shadowruns Returns was the successful Kickstarter game made by some of the original developers of the series. While like other games in the series it has made some concessions from it's shift from the tabletop to the PC, as a game on it's own, it's a fantastic throwback to turn-based strategy RPGs like Fallout 1 and 2. While it doesn't have the shiniest of graphics, the art design is really nice, and the characters stand out really well, helping you to delve into the Shadowrun's mix of cyberpunk and fantasy.
The game starts you off by letting you customize your character for the campaign and to their credit, you get quite a few options with the five races available (human, dwarf, elf, orc, and troll) with plenty of looks and designs to pick from whether you play a male or female. Level progression takes the same approach since while there are predetermined classes you can optionally take, you're also free to pursue no class and spend points as you like. Either way, the rest of the game lets you spend Karma (experience points) as you like, give you a chance to branch off into different powers as you progress through missions.
The base campaign included "Dead Man's Switch" is a fairly good story, giving you a taste of Shadowrun's setting of shadowy figures, sudden twists in the mystery, and lots of grey choices. Fans of the series including fans of the older video games will be pretty happy with some of the cameos and supporting characters in the game as well, but even if you're new the game does a good job of introducing you to the world.
As for general gameplay, it's a turn based strategy RPG which in many respects mirrors the newer X-Com: Enemy Unknown's combat system with cover and overwatch mechanics being a big part of the game. I'd say the "magic" skills are a bit more useful in Shadowrun though whether you're blowing people up or supporting your heavy with extra turns and accuracy. There are a few more options compared to X-Com where you can build yourself to be able to summon allies to boost your party's numbers either with drones or spirits. The game also has a second world mechanic of sorts as well with deckers being able to delve into computer systems to invade electronic security systems or to steal precious data. While this is a neat idea, I'd say combat within the Matrix is a bit lacking and samey, unfortunately. Thankfully while it can be useful, it isn't necessary most of the time if you end up nothing being a big fan of decking either.
Overall though, is it worth it? Yes indeed, especially if you're a fan of Shadowrun or just turn based strategy RPGs in general. In the time since release a lot of the issues such as auto-saves and whatnot have been fixed, it's a lot closer to being like the tabletop game, it looks and especially sounds great, and most importantly is just some gritty fun. Give it a go if you've ever wanted to punch out a troll with a cybernetic arm! Also give a look at the DLC campaign Shadowrun: Dragonfall which is an excellent companion to the base game.
A New Chapter of Human RevolutionCrimsonWizard | March 21, 2014 | Review of Deus Ex: The Fall
Deus Ex: The Fall was originally a mobile exclusive game set around the time of the recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution game, but also ties in a few references to the original Deus Ex as well. With the PC release, Eidos have adjusted the controls and some game balance and overall, I say it works.
The best way to describe this game is like a DLC episode that was developed on some inferior hardware. I don't mean this as an insult however, it's more to tell you to curb your expectations a little since the game sadly isn't quite up to the quality or length of Human Revolution. The controls aren't quite as refined, some of the supporting NPCs don't look as good as our hero Ben graphically, and most of the game takes place in one town. That said, if this was about the experience people got on the iPad, I'm rather impressed. Most companies tend to release rather cheap games on the mobile market due to the hyper competitive prices, but The Fall actually does like to a degree like Human Revolution. You have Praxis Points you can earn to upgrade yourself, you can be as non-lethal or deadly as you want, there are alternate routes and strategies you can take, and of course there's conspiracies abound.
Honestly, if they had taken a little extra time to refine some of the graphics and controls, I'd call this a good first episode in a DLC series. Which sadly is also the game's biggest fault. I don't mind so much that the game was only about 7 hours long if you included meticulous exploration, but I wonder if we're going to get some continuation of this story. We end on a bit of cliffhanger as if they planned on a Part 2, but I haven't heard anything about that.
Alright though, overall, The Fall is okay. If you're a big Deus Ex fan, or just wanted an excuse to get the original Deus Ex (which is being given out for free with The Fall as of this review), then I say give it a try if you have some bucks to spend. It's not perfect, but you know, it is a nice new little taste of Deus Ex while we wait for the next full sized game in the series. The stealth works well for the most part, you get a nice array of weapons and gadgets, and Ben is a likeable hero as you play through the game. So give it a go if you're hungry for more Deus Ex.
Warped, Wacky, and WonderfulCrimsonWizard | March 7, 2014 | Review of South Park™: The Stick of Truth™
South Park: The Stick of Truth is Obsidian's long awaited RPG adventure based on the hilariously dark cartoon. People tend to be wary of licensed products of an established property, but I can honestly say that The Stick of Truth feels like an episode of the TV show, almost like a second movie considering the length of the adventure. The creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone voiced their usual roles and wrote the script for it, and it shows. I had plenty of laughs among the brutal comedy and bizarre scenarios you're forced into. Obsidian pulled a lot of the weight too, doing an excellent job recreating the show's look, and also developing a fun battle system beneath it all that manages to stay interesting and develop throughout the game.
The Stick of Truth starts out simply enough. You're The New Kid, some little fellow you can customize in many, many ways as your avatar in your quest to make friends. As you meet people, you're quickly drawn into this pretend war over The Stick of Truth, an artifact that can let the user control the universe! Two teams compete over the stick, Cartman's band of heroic humans and Kyle's crafty elven forces. Things quickly escalate however, with the game calling back to some plot points in previous episodes before the real trouble starts brewing. For RPG fans, it's easy to get an Earthbound feel from this game, but South Park fans should be more than familiar with how situations quickly go out of control in what should be a small Colorado town.
As you go forth on your quest for friendship and supposed universal power, you must fight "like in olden times". The Stick of Truth uses a turn based RPG system that fans of Paper Mario might recognize. However, Obsidian merely used it as inspiration for it's own blend of action command combat. It starts out simple enough with your basic action commands to attack and block, and slowly builds on this with multiple blows and defenses along with your special attacks. You get to choose a class at the beginning of the game to determine those special attacks you get while leveling up, but don't worry too much whether you go for Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew, all of them are viable options and have some useful quirks. The Thief for example is excellent at hitting powerful enemies that hide behind their underlings and bleeding them, while the Jew becomes more powerful as he gets hit and can boost the whole party. Stick of Truth keeps building up on these simple ideas, giving you many different equipment options along with "Strap-ons" kind of like modifications or badges to further improve it. With all of these options, it's pretty easy to find a set up that plays to your preferred style. You can spec toward regeneration, or elemental attacks, or defense, or many other strategies, giving the game a decent amount of complexity as you level up and further explore the town of South Park.
I played the game on Normal and found it a decent challenge, but fair. The game likes to mix and match enemy types and weaknesses often, but thanks to the ability to scan an enemy for free at any time, you can see what you're up against. It's almost like making every battle a puzzle. Even bosses and the powerful unique enemies have their weaknesses, giving all the elemental attacks and status effects a chance to shine and be useful. I'd almost call the almighty summon attacks less useful since they can only be used on non-boss fights, but seeing Jesus mow down your enemies with his guns is worth a nice laugh.
Speaking of laughs, that's the other critical key to this game. Fans of South Park will really appreciate all the little references and gags to the show in the game, but the game also does a nice job on expanding on it to fill out the 15 hour game. Those damn Mongolians get their own mini-dungeon early on, call backs to major plot points like the grey aliens help to develop the story and to ramp out the ridiculous and brutal humor. Even many of the items and vendor trash you find are cute little references to episodes or jokes of the show. Some might call it a little too much at times, but I see the game as a celebration of everything the show has gone through by giving this cast of kids one more over the top situation to deal with.
I've heard some criticisms from the major game websites about The Stick of Truth being short or buggy, but I can't disagree more. The only annoyance I ever had was the short loading times when entering houses to look for loot or sidequests, but it was hardly a problem on PC. I didn't encounter any bugs at all. As for the length? Yes, it's not some super massive adventure like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto, but it makes up for it, but having a lot of heart and charm woven through the whole town. Nearly every little place feels a bit special, and the game doesn't waste your time to bloat out the adventure too much. A few collectibles and secrets can be found, and accessed quickly thanks to the quick travel points, but the game wants you to enjoy the story first and foremost. It also doesn't ask you to grind for hours since the game will naturally give you enough fights throughout the main story to reach maximum level before the end. Stick of Truth also doesn't ask you to just swing a sword around the whole time, it asks you to think of strategies or even use the level's environment against your opponents. If I were to criticize the length, it would be to say I wish there was more of this awesome game, rather than there wasn't enough. Obsidian and South Park Studios knew what they wanted to do and cut out most of the fat to give both fans of RPGs and South Park an excellent experience.
That's why, I can write here that yes, South Park: The Stick of Truth is worth it! If you love RPGs like Paper Mario or Earthbound, you'll find this game to be a real joy. It's a twisted, sometimes perverted joy, but a joy none the less. And if you love the show, you'll appreciate how so many of these bizarre and funny moments mentioned or played out on TV are somehow woven together. It's nice finally seeing where everything is in the town as you fight to protect it. It was a long time coming, but I'm glad to say we finally have a South Park adventure that captures both the spirit of the show and a great game together.
Thief Steals Its Own FocusCrimsonWizard | March 2, 2014 | Review of THIEF (NA)
Thief (2014) is the reboot of the innovative Thief series that helped introduce and spread the stealth genre to young fledgling 3D game market of the 90's. It would be difficult for any game to bring that kind of an impact, whether it was good or bad, so when I played Thief my expectations were to have a fun time.
I thought maybe it would be something in the line of Dishonored which in itself was a Thief inspired game. And well, Thief does feel like a Thief game, sometimes. Sometimes it wants to be like Assassin's Creed, or the newly rebooted Tomb Raider, or even Dishonored itself oddly. And that is the major problem.
Playing through Thief is like playing through a mess of modern gaming cliches thrown on top of the bones of the original Thief games. For instance, many times in the game you're stuck going down linear corridors or narrow level design, or stuck on some scripted climbing or escape sequence. Cinematic cut-scenes and orchestral stings pepper the game. It's a real shame too since when the game decides it wants to be Thief, it actually is fun, especially during the first half of the game. Sneaking through large houses, knocking out guards while plundering the place is a lot of fun. Well, until you've stolen about your 50th pen, and then things start getting a little repetitive.
Repetition in fact is another big issue with this game. You'll find yourself eventually wishing for some way to speed Garrett up as he goes through the same scripted opening animations over and over again, while trying to hide from the guards in The City. The same could be said about the combat.
While sneaking around and your distraction techniques work fairly well in this game, getting into direct combat is basically a punishment. If you're playing with a controller, you're limited to one button for dodging and one button for attacks with your blackjack. Pray you only end up in a fight with one enemy or you're pretty much screwed, but even when it is a fair fight, direct combat is a chore. Granted direct combat in the original Thief wasn't the best, but it didn't feel like a slow, plodding slap fest. So if you want to have fun, sneak around and use the trick arrows. Smacking a watchman between the eyes with an arrow, or knocking them out from behind are far better options.
Speaking of sneaking, this is clearly the game's strong suit thankfully with each chapter usually giving you at least two paths to progress through a stage, even when it gets more linear. Some paths are littered with more treasure while other paths give you better vantage points. The game is also fairly balanced with this design with shadows everywhere to hide in. Even if you don't bother buying upgrades or supplies with your gold, the game is navigable even on Master Thief difficulty if you take advantage of the level itself.
Unfortunately for Master Thief Garrett, his story has about the same jumbled structure of modern ideas thrust upon it as the gameplay. In the reboot, Garrett is established as the veteran thief on a run with a young, headstrong thief. No wait, now the game is about a weird life energy that runs through The City like Final Fantasy VII. Ah, but now we have a struggle between the overzealous Watch and the chaotic revolutionaries. Thief bounces around all these plot threads, but doesn't focus enough on one to let it fully develop.
Unfortunately, this applies to the characters as well. Your fellow thief Erin is basically a walk plot device dressed in emo designs and behaviour, and Garrett is a bit more plain in this Thief game, with his witty remarks amounting to stating the obvious half the time. Hell, even the guards feel undeveloped with most of their conversations you hear while traveling around amounting to "By the Baron, I love kicking these people when they're down!"
Sure, The City is full of unsavoury figures, but I'd like to imagine at least some of these people are human, even if they're forced to be hard during this peculiar plague afflicting The City. The most damning part though is the ending, which to try and not spoil anything fails to explain and tie together everything that's happened or the impact of your actions.
It would be easy for me to say to ignore the story and the modern game cliches to enjoy the solid thieving levels early on, but the game continues to thrust both problems in your face, making the experience a mess. It truly is a shame too because the game is such a well built mess. The team that ported to PC did a great job, making the game run smoothly, and work well with a keyboard or controller. There are some odd audio bugs where you overhear conversations through other rooms sometimes, but otherwise the game does fine work making it appear like you're treading through a big dreary city.
If you wish to take a break from the main game, you may be happy to know there's also a challenge mode as well. Challenge mode is best described as a thieving version of Resident Evil's arcade-like Mercenaries mode. Basically, you choose one of three levels and scoring systems and then run around, stealing as much loot as you can while avoiding guards and keeping your theft combo up to get the highest score possible. It's pretty fun actually, distilling some of the best parts of the game into a competition of sorts.
At the end of the day, is Thief worth buying? I have to say no, at least not at full price. Long time Thief fans will be annoyed at the modern cliches and linear second half that litter the stealth foundation. Meanwhile, more modern stealth fans will probably be annoyed by the boring combat, and the slow, methodical stealth style the game uses. There's no flying around like Batman or blinking around the field like in Dishonored. It's a disappointment, especially since the developing studio was responsible for reviving Deus Ex with Human Revolution which was an excellent game with stealth elements. Thief aspires to be like so many other big budget games, and juggles so many big story ideas that it doesn't payoff by the end of the experience. I had some fun early on and with challenge mode, but grew soured by the end. In short, pass over Thief, there's other games with potential on the pipeline.
A City in Ruin, and not a Mousetrap in SightCrimsonWizard | Feb. 13, 2014 | Review of Dishonored
Dishonored is one of the latest stealth action games where you play as Corvo, former bodyguard of the empress who's death you've been falsely attached to. Not that it really matters that much since you're a silent protagonist, and most of the characters are fairly wooden and simple in their overall motivations. Thankfully, the game has a lot of charm in both it's overall setting and gameplay.
The game honestly makes me think of a Bioshock game with way more stealth elements because you're jumping around a rather industrial region of the past with special powers provided from a dubious source. That said, it's not a bad thing because the game works so well with that setup. Being able to spend points for teleporting, or slowing/stopping time, or summoning and/or controlling creatures among others gives the game a lot of flexibility in terms of how you can deal with each mission and resolution.
Unfortunately like Bioshock or to be more accurately Deus Ex Human Revolution, the game has a simplistic moral choice system. To be fair, some of the instances make sense. For example, non-lethally knocking out guards is good because you still need the corrupt City Watch to fight off the rat plague ruining the city. However, I fail to see why directly killing the assassination targets or shuffling them away forever should have impact on morality since you're either sending them on a fate worse than death or just killing them outright. They're not even the ones fighting the plague down below anyways. The worst part about this is, while there are many fun and interesting methods for killing your targets and enemies, you actually have a limited skill set for non-lethal means. 10 little sleep darts you'll bleed through fast, a non-lethal choke which depends on the guard NOT flipping around at the last second, and some spells for vision, speed, and positioning. Would have been nice for example to have non-lethal aerial takedowns like Batman, or maybe the ability to use the magic rat swarm to just distract and not kill guards.
That said, the game controls really nice on the PC with keyboard or controller, and it's a fun take on a Bioshock sort of game if it was more stealth oriented. My frustrations are just with the limitations, because when it does shine, it really does shine. For example, in the middle of the game, you get to sneak into a fancy masquerade ball which has several paths in, and then you have to figure out who your target is by either sneaking around for clues or mingling with the other guests all under the rich splendor of high Victorian-like society.
So overall I give this a good recommendation. While there are some annoying trends seen in other games of it's style like limited moral choices and your options for acting on them or the lifeless characters, the overall bleak setting and fine mechanics still make it fun to play through. Give it a go if you're looking for something stealthy to play until the next Thief comes out.
Over the Top OutlandishCrimsonWizard | Feb. 10, 2014 | Review of METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE
Metal Gear Rising is yet another spinoff game of the long storied Metal Gear series, but is basically a sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4, starring everyone's favorite punching bag from the second game, Raiden! Of course, if you've played past MGS2, the developers have worked to turn Raiden from being the pretty boy annoying rookie into the one eyed metal death machine you see in Revengeance. I admit, the game does a very nice job of using that fact to give the game a more energetic and speedy action mood with Raiden executing between ninja runs, swift sword combos, and brutal Mortal Kombat-like kill moves.
The game though is a bit indecisive at times on what it wants to be. The game's initial set up works really well with Raiden being a part of a security detail before the job goes bad, and he swears revenge on those who killed his employer. You get to slice open some baddies and even get a fun fight against a Metal Gear Ray at the end of the first level, at least keeping a connection to the giant mechs even if the huge build up to them is over. However, the game quickly delves into darker subjects, some familiar in Metal Gear such as the horrors and real costs of war, but also really focuses on the innocent children sucked into the system. Despite these legitimately unsettling and gut-wrenching moments, the game can quickly delve right back into comedy and high action with the series use of over the top hammy bosses and even Raiden himself at points, and some of the silly codex exchanges between you and your team. It's not bad, but does make me wonder sometimes if the makers of the game were going for awesomeness, a dramatic thriller, or a mix of the two into a dark comedy. If nothing else though, the game does a great job of keeping things interesting. Between the ridiculous ninja sword action, the quirky exchanges and cutscenes between you and all the characters in the game, and the over the top scenarios Raiden forces himself through, Revengeance is great way to kill about 10 hours. There's even more if you play around with other difficulties, the free DLC in the PC version, or the VR missions.
Speaking of the PC version, it works really well and makes me happy to see more Japanese games getting PC ports like Dark Souls 2 in the future. I had no real issues with either control scheme. I admit the camera could be annoying at times, but that seems to be more of a flaw of the game itself. It looks and sounds really great too, you'll be treated to some really energetic boss themes straight from a power rock and roll album, matching the awesome portions of the game really well. The developers did a fantastic job making it look good on PC, especially when they get out of the urban environments and play around with color like the Japanese garden level.
So final thoughts on the game? It's a lot of fun, but has some little issues like the camera and the tone of the game jumping around from serious to zany, but I was rather entertained. The combat system works fairly well, though the bosses might give you the fits at times. Also, I really wish this game had a quickfire button for sub-weapons like the grenades, that sluggish bit of control feels so out of place in an otherwise fast paced game, but I guess they don't want you to spam them perhaps? In any case, MGR: Revengeance is fun and even if it's a little short (if you cut out the cutscenes and codex messages), there's plenty of content after the main game. At the reduced price on PC and the free DLC missions, it's a great deal, and I highly recommend it, even if you weren't a fan of the stealthier Metal Gear games.
Imagination is a Dangerous Thing to WasteCrimsonWizard | Feb. 3, 2014 | Review of Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
Scribblenauts Unmasked is the latest in the "Create Anything" series where you solve puzzles or problems with your magical notebook, only this time with the spin that you can tap into the DC universes wide array of superheroes and villains. Thanks to the adjectives you can apply, the game is a great way of setting up "What if?" super hero fights. Giant Superman versus an evil crazed miniature Green Lantern. Sure! A good Darkseid up against Brainiac? Completely possible.
The plays out like it's immediate predecessor Scribblenauts Unlimited where you have several levels based on iconic DC universe locations where you have several problems presented to you upon entering. This time however, Starites (needed to complete each world) are only handed out for story missions while helping out people or solving puzzles awards you with reputation points. These are pretty handy since you need them to unlock new stages as well as buy costumes for Maxwell to give you natural powers (handy when you some quick power without having to type it in first).
That said, I have some issues with this game. Compared to Unlimited, Unmasked is a bit shorter, offering only a dozen locations while Unlimited had several other stages to play around in after the main game was over. While the randomly re-spawning puzzles is a nice touch when you re-enter a stage, it does leave me yearning for a few more locations to play around in. Perhaps a Mars stage for the Martian Manhunter or Titans Tower for the Teen Titans, or some more of the villains worlds for Darkseid or Sinestro. Considering how much it feels like Unlimited, I would call Unmasked almost like a quick DC expansion to that game.
Overall, would I recommend it? Yes, but perhaps when it's a bit cheaper. I feel while this game is nice and would be great for a fan of the DC Universe, or is a big fan of Scribblenauts in general, I honestly think Unlimited is the better game, and is much better at showing off what was great about the old Scribblenauts games on the Nintendo DS. That said, if you've never tried the series before and you want to use your imagination with some super heroes running around, Unmasked is a good choice.
There May Be Unforseen ConsequencesCrimsonWizard | Jan. 31, 2014 | Review of The Cave
The Cave is a Platform Adventure game starring seven (technically eight) characters who seek out the title dropping cave in their quest for their greatest desire, or perhaps redemption. The Double Fine team did an excellent job in keeping things ambiguous enough with the story to give The Cave some mystery and intrigue while still helping you understand the motivations and backstory of the characters you choose. The humorous wit of Ron Gilbert is in full effect here from the snarky comments from the narrator who voices the cavern itself, to the colorful supporting characters along the way.
In terms of gameplay, The Cave plays like a mix between LucasArts' classic adventure Maniac Mansion and Blizzard's (from long long ago) Lost Vikings. Both titles gives you a team of three characters to navigate puzzles using each hero's unique ability, using Maniac Mansion's humor while Lost Viking's level based structure and platform elements are used in lieu of one interconnected area you click around on. It's a good idea to mix, but The Cave doesn't do either particularly well with the platforming rather basic, the puzzles being decent, but nothing that's going to test your brain too hard, and it's overall a bit short.
It also pulls another page from Maniac Mansion that's hurts it a bit. Since you can only go through the adventure with three characters, you only get to see three of the interesting stories play out at a time. That means to really see everything, you need to play at least 3 times. One could argue that this is part of the reason the game is shorter, so that you can replay with the new characters to experience more of the stories. It's rather tedious though when only certain levels are changed for the characters, but others are completely the same as the first play-through. Also, the fact that each character has a unique ability is mostly wasted. Outside of their unique level, each character only really gets to use their special ability once or twice total in other stages. In contrast, other puzzle platformer games like Lost Vikings or the Trine games require constant teamwork to navigate each stage. While I'd argue that The Cave trumps both games in story, it's sorely lacking in terms of gameplay.
On a good note, one thing I can compare The Cave to with Trine is that this game looks really nice. Despite being in a cave, Double Fine did a great job making every area unique and adding little details to make their world stand out, adding to the mystery and the stories of the characters. While the music is forgettable ambiance, the voice work of The Cave's narrator is well done, really hitting you right at home when you've acted on something.
Overall, this game feels like a Double Fine game. What does that mean? It means that they've managed to build up a very unique world with great visuals, interesting characters with dark pasts, good voicework to add to the mood, and gameplay that sounds good on paper, but doesn't execute as well as you'd hope. It's not bad, and the sum of it's parts is great, but The Cave leaves me with the same feeling I had with recent titles the developer made like Costume Quest where I wanted to like it more than I did. It's no Psychonauts, but if you're looking at The Cave as an story experience with some simple puzzles to vary the pattern, then give it a go. If you're looking for a game though with meatier gameplay while still retaining some wit and fantastic graphics, try out Trine 1 and 2 instead.
Survival is Grim? Who Knew?CrimsonWizard | Jan. 26, 2014 | Review of Don't Starve
Don't Starve comes from the makers of Mark of the Ninja and Shank, placing us in a world inspired to some degree by Tim Burton with that Gothic cartoon style. That said, the game doesn't quite have same whimsy as you're dropped off in a randomly generated world with the only clear goal "Don't Starve". Nice when the the title is upfront about it all.
Unlike some other random world survival games I've played like Minecraft and Terraria, Don't Starve is a bit more brutal and harder than those. Supplies quickly become scarce near you if you don't understand what you're doing, hunger is a constant concern, and the darkness is certain doom. You'll really have to be smart in order to have a chance, especially since one slip up, one death, and you lose everything without any chance to recover anything. All you get is some experience that can go for unlocking different characters with various abilities and/or equipment.
I'm going to admit, Don't Starve is a hard sell if you're not already a fan of the genre. While it looks cool and feels different than its brethren, it's also rather difficult. The game is high quality and is getting constant support through updates, but I would honestly try out something like Terraria or Minecraft first to see if you like these sorts of games before getting Don't Starve. If you like those, then give this one a shot. You'll definitely feel more accomplishment out of it when you do start figuring out how to endure the wild in this one.
What is a Hero Anyways?CrimsonWizard | Jan. 26, 2014 | Review of Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line is a third person military shooter that based on the box art and first few missions leads you to believe it wants to be a stupid fun action movie. Three soldiers are sent in to do recon on a Dubai assaulted by colossal sandstorms. Then the game pulls a cloak and dagger on you, stabbing you with questions about what you're actually doing when you go into a place you're not welcome and slaughter all in front of you. There are good reasons why the story is praised by many, Spec Ops is one of the few titles I can think of that really deals with the hell soldiers have to deal with. The pain, the psychological suffering, and most importantly the consequences of one's actions. There are no quick cutaways from the carnage inflicted, and the story does a great job at putting you under the same stress the main character, Captain Walker is enduring. Speaking any more about the fantastically weaved story would do a disservice, you need to experience it, period.
As stated, the game originally sets out as a standard military shooter, thus you have your typical cover shooter mechanics and simple squad commands at your disposal against the enemies set before you. I could criticize that other games have done this and were more interesting about it like Gears of War or Mass Effect, perhaps that's the point. For the story, being a standard military shooter is the perfect medium for getting down to the raw horrors of war.
In a point in it's favor though, even within the standard military gameplay, Spec Ops does offer a few nice tweaks to the formula. The game is actually rather colorful when you aren't assaulted with sand with Dubai's luxurious buildings full of color and detail rather than the whole game being a muted brown color palette. Sand plays a role in the combat as well as there are several points where you can use the environment to bury enemies in it by breaking windows or use grenades to kick up a sand cloud to blind people. It controls rather well too whether you use the mouse and keyboard or a controller.
There's also a multiplayer mode, but honestly, the community is mostly dead at this point, it's rather average thanks to the game mechanics themselves, and it goes against the questions the single player game asks. Considering this part of the game was tacked on by a different developer thanks to the publisher 2K, I believe the original developers didn't wish for this to be a part of the experience anyways.
Spec Ops: The Line is a very rough game, but in a good way. It will punch you in the gut with its look into human nature and suffering, and if our actions are really worth the consequences. Though the campaign itself only lasts about 4 hours or so, the game is very effective at telling a story in that time, making much more of an impact on me than other recent story driven games like Gone Home or Dear Esther. I can't recommend this game enough, but I will say that you should prep something cheerful or get a damn ice cream when you're done. You'll need it.
Cubed CatastropheCrimsonWizard | Oct. 25, 2013 | Review of Doom 3
Doom 3 was the long in development shooting game bringing us back to that world of demons invading the sci-fi world of the near future. It might be more accurate to call it a reboot of the series than a sequel, but hey, I don't make the titles. The premise is still the same underneath the story though, you're a marine, shoot your way through demons to the end of the space station, etc.
For 2007 the graphics and lighting effects were amazing, but the game is showing a bit of age that the BFG edition may of fixed, but we're going off of the base game here. Unfortunately, in showing off the lighting effects, the game forces you to switch between a gun and a flashlight rather than having the two combined like most shooters going back to Halo. It's for horror effect and it works early on when you're weaker and less apt to defend yourself, but later on it becomes more of a chore with dealing with the hundredth jump scare that just so happens to be behind you. Even Jason X didn't pull that trick as often. Even as you collect new guns and fight a few new enemies, the game just kind of drags as you go on.
Thankfully for you, thanks to the strong modding community, there's much you can do to improve the game as you like, and if you enjoyed the base Doom 3, there is a BFG edition that sets out to improve some of the flaws of this base game. So should you get it? Perhaps if you can get it on sale, it's not a bad game, and a decent hold over while Doom 4 takes another X amount of years to produce. I'm not sure it really catches the magic of the first two Dooms however.
The New, and Improved Co-Operative Quest for LootCrimsonWizard | Oct. 25, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2 (NA)
Borderlands 1 was a decent co-op game that played with mixing the elements of RPGs and shooting games along with some pretty cell shaded graphics. Unfortunately it had almost no story, and needed the DLC to have more than just dusty deserts and towns to fight through. Borderlands 2 sets out to improve on all of that, giving you one of the greatest co-operative games of this generation.
The game is so rich and packed full of content it's hard to cover everything, but it really has just about everything. You and up to 3 friends form a group of Vault Hunters that sets up to get as much loot and experience as you can...while trying to save the world from game's villain, Handsome Jack. Yes, this time we have ourselves a story, and while it isn't all that original, the funny characters and situations do a great job of driving it along.
As for the guns and class powers, you have several options. Your guns can have several elements that have their strengths and weaknesses, exploiting those will make your journey a lot easier later on. Strip someone's shield with a shock gun and then burn them alive, or so on. The classes are fun to play with, with each having their strengths or weaknesses, and with DLC classes available, you can expand your options. You can tear someone inside out with a Phaselock, or go nuts with dual wielding Gunzerker, or you cloak yourself and then tear your enemy apart with a sword swipe for example.
Most importantly though, it's a great PC port of a fun game with plenty of control options for you from keyboard and mouse to controllers. The cell shaded graphics look great, even if you don't have the strongest machine, with the large variety of environments being a huge plus in this game.
So why should you get this game? Because it's a great adventure whether on your own, or preferably with a group of friends. It will last a long while, and with the great DLCs available you can extend the game quite a ways. While I would recommend the Ultimate Edition to get those DLCs all in one nice pack with your game, if you're unsure, then give the base game a try. It in itself is a fantastic adventure.
War! What is it good for?! A good MOBA apparently.CrimsonWizard | Oct. 14, 2013 | Review of Awesomenauts
Awesomenauts is another in the rapidly growing genre of online battle arenas, but with the unique caveat of being in 2D, sporting a well drawn cartoony style atop all the assassin battles. So why should you play it?
Apart from those who like 2D platforming games, Awesomenauts manages to both make it simple to play for those who might be intimidated by some other MOBAs with complicated rows of keys to manage. Each character you unlock as you play gets a unique set of skills that can be earned during each round through all the coins you can find and earn as you shoot up your enemies. Like other MOBAs, you have turrets and power cores guarded by those enemies you need to take down along side the robotic mooks both sides automatically produce. The sci-fi space style is a nice plus too, giving it a different style than something medieval with death rays, insane robotic tech, and many, many alien races abound. The community is rather pleasant as well if you're looking for random matches, but with matches being 3 vs 3, it's pretty easy to fill out a roster with your friends for some fun as well.
Overall, Awesomenauts is a fun little game, especially if you enjoy 2D action, but wished there were more multiplayer games in that perspective. It's fast paced and easy to learn, but has plenty of strategies to learn thanks to all the differently skilled characters to try as well. Try it if you've been craving a new game to play with friends.
Cultivate A World, The Path To Do So Is YoursCrimsonWizard | Oct. 14, 2013 | Review of Sid Meier's Civilization® V
A couple of things before I begin. This is for the base Civ V game, and this is my first Civilization game, so take this as a review from someone new to this sort of world building game.
That said, Civilization V is a fun game and a great introduction to the genre...if you play on Beginner difficulty. The game does a good job of telling you how to do develop your cities thanks to your advisers provided. You're also given many options for improving your nation. You can develop for war, for culture, science, or some combination of all three. Diplomacy also plays a role, giving you the opportunity to collaborate with others or trade for things your nation needs. It isn't perfect, and the computer basically cheats on higher difficulties, but it does give you a sense that you have several nations building up, eager to be the world superpower. Multiplayer fixes that sort of problem though since everyone has relatively even chances, barring a bad starting point.
Civilization V as a strategy game is a rather fun simulation and while I can't compare it to the previous games in the series, I can say I had a fun time. Any game that lets me take over with a Space Rocket made in 1925 is alright in my book, and seeing other nations scramble to appease you once you start marching through with a huge army is a thrill. Overall, great game, try it out. I'm very tempted to try out the DLC as well, but the base game is a great experience on its own.
All the NumbersCrimsonWizard | Oct. 11, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade Pack 2
It's been a while, you've conquered all the regions of Pandora, perhaps even all the DLC campaigns, there's nothing left to do...until now. If you loved playing Borderlands 2, this nice little DLC gives you an extra reason to jump back in and shoot and loot. With an extra 11 level ups, not only can you test your favorite characters against even tougher challenges, but you can also try out some new abilities for your character, making even more outlandish and devastating combinations. The extra map is a nice addition as well, but the real draw is giving a new reason to play through the entire game again. If you enjoyed BL2 with your friends, get this DLC, it's well worth the price.
It's Full of StarsCrimsonWizard | Oct. 11, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Siren Glitter and Gore Pack
In this costume DLC, you can give your Siren a sort of retro 80's kind of style and color. Fairly pretty, though one wonders how all that hair doesn't get in her eyes. Anyways, if you like playing as the Siren, it's a decent enough costume with some nice extra details. If you enjoy that sort of classic look, then try it, it's only a buck.
Tattoos and Masks, The Equipment Of Every Sensible PsychopathCrimsonWizard | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Dark Psyche Pack
The Dark Psyche Pack gives our endearingly nonsensical loony a decent looking gas mask and a nice body of tattoos. It's nice enough and distinctive, and while it certainly has one of the better bodies out of the costume packs for Krieg, honestly the head just seems a little mundane compared to the other options and the in-game costume heads you can already acquire. If you like part or the whole look, then go for it, but honestly I'd look at the other DLC costumes before you buy.
Radioactive Buzzsaw? I Must Have Gun Based Superpowers Now!CrimsonWizard | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Supremacy Pack
Yes, it's another costume DLC, but this is one of the nicer ones, featuring Krieg after someone was foolish enough to think that a radioactive power tool through the skull could kill him. Like most of his costumes, kinda boring body, but awesome head costume. It has a lot of detail, and really stands out. The glowing eye through the mask is an especially nice touch. If you're looking for a more distinctive Psycho, this is definitely one of your better choices.
It's The Perfect Disguise, No One Will Suspect Me! *stab*CrimsonWizard | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Madness Pack
In this unusual costume DLC, our resident playable Psycho puts on a wanted poster of himself after his body has had a few round in prison. How does the paper mask stay on in a gunfight? How did a badass like Krieg even get caught long enough for a prisoner number? Who cares, it's a cool, yet hilarious look. The body itself is a bit standard, but I can't argue with Krieg's latest idea for a mask. Give it a go if you want to give your friends a laugh before terrorizing your enemies.
The Classical Attire of ButcheryCrimsonWizard | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Domination Pack
If you've enjoyed carving up people with your buzzsaw axes, why not pick up the hood to go with it? The Psycho domination pack gives you a really nice head so you can run around like an executioner spook along with the bloody chest to match. I admit, it's hard to do much with costumes when the character is supposed to be shirtless, but the head definitely gives Krieg a fresh look. Give it a try if you want to imagine the Psycho wielding over-sized axes into a gunfight.
Chug A LugCrimsonWizard | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Party Pack
You know what I've noticed with all these costumes. Every character gets some awesome skins that fits their character, but then they get this one skin that just doesn't fit at all. The Gunzerker gets the mechanic outfit, but the Psycho gets a beer helmet. It's nicely detailed and everything, but it's not exactly eye-catching, and Krieg doesn't strike me as someone who chug a 12 pack then crush the cans on his head. He definitely could, but that would get in the way of his "Murder Everyone" time. I'd pass on this one and try out some of the better costumes he can receive.
One Man, Lots of Crazy, No SurvivorsCrimsonWizard | Oct. 10, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Psycho Pack DLC
If you've enjoyed Borderlands 2 so far, but have been eager to play it a little differently, you'd be remiss to ignore the new, and hilariously bloody Psycho class. Krieg is a fun character to use, despite being a bit risky with his more melee focused abilities. That said, he's an excellent addition to a team, and he has some of the funniest dialogue in the game if you pick him up. Kind of an accomplishment if you know the tragic backstory behind him. Either way, if you've always wanted to play as one of the Psycho enemies if they were awesome, Krieg has everything you'd want. Try him out, he's a great pick up for your roster.
I'm Not Seeing Much Steam, But Plenty Of PunkCrimsonWizard | Oct. 9, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Mechromancer Steampunk Slayer Pack
The Steampunk Slayer pack gives you a nice new costume for the Mechromancer Gaige, giving her a nice gear designed costume (somewhat reminiscent of Zero's Clockwork costume DLC). While it's not personally my favorite look, I appreciate the detail put into this one, and it definitely fits her class well. If you like the design as well, I say pick it up. If you already went ahead and purchased Gaige for your game, why not spend a little extra to make her look nice too?
One Girl, One Robot, No SurvivorsCrimsonWizard | Oct. 9, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Mechromancer Pack
If you've gotten bored with the base 4 characters in BL2, I believe you'll be very happy with Gaige, the game's Technomancer. Long with her funny, energetic personality, you'll have a really nice arsenal of new abilities to learn with her. You can choose moves to burst shields, or blow people's heads off with shotguns via the anarchy power, or you can summon yourself up a killer robot called Deathtrap. While they're all fun skill trees, I found myself using anarchy more on the harder difficulties and using Deathtrap as a distraction, but play around with skills. Assuming you have access to the Level 72 cap, you'll have plenty of combos to discover with this character. Well worth it if you've wanted something a little different than Axton's immobile turret or someone built for a shotgun.
A Gentleman Always Wears a Hat Before Engaging in CombatCrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Gunzerker Dapper Gent Pack
Salavdor is already a funny character being that he's a berserker with guns that can froth at the mouth, but giving him the t-shirt tuxedo and a Not-Uncle Sam hot is fantastic way to make it even sillier. It looks fairly nice and looks pretty unique, making it one of the better costume DLCs you can purchase. If you're a fan of the Gunzerker and want something different to look at for X amount of hours, give this pack a go.
Somebody's Gotta Fix Our Death MachineCrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Gunzerker Greasy Grunt Pack
The Greasy Grunt Pack turns Salvador into your typical greasy looking mechanic. Thankfully he doesn't shake you down for doing a simple oil change, but honestly I don't really like the look. It doesn't really fit the Gunzerker's character at all, and why would you want to look like a scruffy mechanic when you can look like a dwarf or warrior or so on? Unfortunately, I can't really give this one a pass and check out other costume options for this class.
Power to the Music!CrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Mechromancer Beatmaster Pack
If you've purchased Gaige as a character for your game, why not give her a little extra style to stand out? In this costume pack, you can make the Technomancer look like she game straight out of Jet Set Radio or DJing from the night club. It's an overall nice design that lends itself well to all the many color palettes you can put on a costume. Hey, if you're just starting and want your character to look great for several hours, why not pick up a quick skin like this?
Man Vs. Beast, Who Will Win?CrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Creature Slaughter Dome
The Creature Slaughter Dome is one of the many arenas in Pandora, this time dedicated to the beastly creatures like bullymongs and stalkers among others. While these arenas are good fun for a while with the many waves and increasing difficulty, there really isn't much here besides just shooting many mooks and getting a relatively decent rocket launcher which the main game provides plenty of for each. If you weren't fortunately enough to get the dome as a pre-order bonus or as part of a bundle, it isn't a bad addition, but I'd save my money for one of the actual DLC campaigns first if you haven't tried those yet.
The Ultimate Ticket to PandoraCrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition (NA)
Have you missed out on Borderlands 2, uncertain after the first game, or just waiting for the game of the year to come out? Well, your wait is worth it! This is the near perfect bundle for Borderlands 2, offering the fantastic main campaign, all of the campaign DLCs, the extra characters, and more! If you're still on the fence, why would you want to play this?
Well for starters, it's a game with loads and loads of content, but it's also rich with over the top action, loads of humor, and a great mix between shooting stuff and RPG style level progression and customization. If there's a gun you've ever dreamed of wielding, it's almost guaranteed to be in the game. Grenades that fire out like fireworks that then heal you? Sure! Revolvers that double fire bullets that burn, explode, or even shock? You bet! Rocket Launchers that fire like a nuke? Sure, enjoy your craters!
While the plot itself is relatively typical, the unique and hilarious characters and the means with which you progress the story make it a delight to play through with friends. Speaking of which, with up to 4 player co-op you can make it a party and really get the most out of the game as you team up against super bosses or just enjoy the regular campaign together, complimenting each other with your chosen vault hunter's abilities. Plus, even after you finish the main story, there's plenty left to do with loads of DLC campaigns and extra difficulty modes to replay the whole thing on.
Another thing I appreciate about the game is that it controls really nicely. While you have your general key edit options, the game not only handles the keyboard and mouse very well, but does a great job with controllers, giving you plenty of options whether you're a seasoned PC gamer or prefer holding the controls right in your hands.
There is so much packed into this bundle that the review could go on for a while, so let me make it simple. This is the definitive version of Borderlands 2. Buying all of this separately would set you back at least $80 or so, so buying it at $60 on top of GMG's own promotions is an excellent bargain for such a high quality product. If you love shooters and wanted something unique from the crowd, this is it, hand down!
Can you live up to the Beard?CrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Commando Haggard Hunter Pack
This BL2 Costume DLC gives you a variant on the Commando's military theme with the notable inclusive of a thick beard for you ogle over. The costume is pretty good with plenty of detail, though with those shades and headphones I feel like he should be driving the helicopter to pick the vault hunters up after a mission. Still, decent costume, if you like beards or Axton, try it out.
The Commando's a Bloody PunkCrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Commando Devilish Good Looks Pack
In this costume DLC, Axton becomes what appears to be an extra from Shadowrun Returns. Jokes aside, it's not a bad looking costume if you want a character with a bit more of a punky look to them with some spikes, lots of black and red, and some awesome goggles. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I give it points for being unique at least. Give it a go if you like the design yourself.
You're Gonna put an Eye OutCrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Assassin Stinging Blade Pack
In this alternate costume, Zer0 decides to convert his helmet into a buzz-saw with some energizing electric patterned armor. While I wish it came with some sort of cool headbutt attack, I do like the design of this and see this as one of the better costumes you can buy for the game, especially if you like Zer0. Hey, it's a long game, might as well get a design you'd like to stare at, right?
Gears and Pike Helmets, Now in One PackageCrimsonWizard | Oct. 8, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Assassin Cl0ckw0rk Pack
Borderlands 2 is an amazing RPG shooter and it gives you plenty of customization built in along with all the collectibles you can find and DLC campaign costumes. But maybe you want to look a little more unique than your buddies and really like Zer0. Well, you could give this a go. Let's not mince words, you're paying for a costume, and while you're paying very little, that's all you get is a costume. So it's up to you if you like the look. Honestly, the head seems just a little off to me, but I like the design of the armor, and hey, you can mix and match with other sets if you feel the same. In short, if you like the design, try it. BL2 is a long game, might as well run through it liking your murderous treasure hunter's style.
The Adventure Never Ends on PandoraCrimsonWizard | Sept. 17, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2 Season Pass (NA)
For those who loved the basic Borderlands 2 game, whether with friends or on your own, will be happy to know that Gearbox has been giving loads of love and support to the game. Nearly all of it has been neatly tucked into this fantastic collection of DLC, offering four whole new areas and story lines to plunder and fight through. Plus, thanks to the included Ultimate Vault Hunter mode DLC, all that experience won't go to waste as you can now work your way from Level 50 to Level 61. If you need more convincing, here's a quick rundown of the included DLCs.
Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage: Introducing the dynamic and literally explosive Mr. Torgue, you get to fight through various arenas, death races, and bar brawls to prove your manliness and to get a truckload of loot. Of note, this is one of the few places you can actually buy Legendary weapons in some manner, and while the environments don't have the best variety, you get lots of laughs thanks to Mr. Torgue's encouragement and insane tactics.
Captain Scarlet and her Pirate's Booty: Starring the shamelessly treacherous and greedy Captain Scarlet, she's not quite as funny as the last headliner, but her campaign offers a bit more variety in environments and lots of new weapons to keep things interesting. If you like pirate adventures, this DLC does a decent job at poking fun at the genre while giving you some good times adventuring.
Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt: When a Hyperion ship full of loot crash lands in the swamp, ol' Sir Hammerlock invites you to hunt for that and whatever beasties his quests demands. While Hammerlock is a bit funnier than Scarlet and there's the novelty of running through a vaguely Johnny Quest styled jungle and wilds, it's also missing that certain something to make it even better. Still, the even greater environment variety is appreciated and this DLC takes the gloves off in terms of difficulty if you though the last two bonus areas were a bit easier.
Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep: In my opinion, this is the crown jewel of the DLC set. Starring the Borderlands 1 characters playing as the Borderlands 2 classes in Tiny Tina's new board game, you get to play through a twisted version of a formerly typical fantasy world. On the fly Dungeon Master tweaks, ridiculous and fun quests, and funny character interaction between Tina, her players, and the NPCs make this entertaining to play through. The heavy variety in enemy types, environments, and quests help a lot too. You can tell that as much as Gearbox pokes fun at the fantasy genre, they also show a lot of love to it as well, while putting their own spin on the classic sword and sorcery tropes. I truly had a great time with this DLC.
Here's the short version for those still here: For the price you spend, you're getting enough content to make nearly another whole Borderlands game added on to Borderlands 2 and with new raid bosses, loot, and extra level ups you can earn, you'll have every excuse to march yourself and your friends into more Pandora adventures. Try the Season Pass, you'll love it.
Hunting, the Gentlemanly Sport of Stuffing Others with LeadCrimsonWizard | Sept. 17, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt
Borderlands next DLC takes us to the thick swamps of Pandora to hunt some savage wildlife and lost Hyperion loot...until the natives and a demented mad scientist decide to interfere. This time Sir Hammerlock gets to headline and while I got some more laughs out of him than Captain Scarlet, he doesn't quite hold up as well as Mr. Torgue over a whole campaign. That said, the vaguely Johnny Quest style setting and huge swamp and dark jungle maps are nice to journey through.
Of note, this campaign is a bit harder than Mr. Torgue's or Capt. Scarlet's areas, be sure to stock up well or you'll get torn apart. As per Capt. Scarlet's campaign, you'll get a new vehicle and new kinds of weapons to play around with. Nothing particularly noteworthy and the quests are a bit blander than the previous two DLCs, but more places to get Seraph crystals is appreciated, and the new raid bosses are a good challenge. It will last a decent amount of time, but once again, I really recommend getting this with the other DLC in the Season Pass so that you can get all the nice extra areas in one convenient bundle.
A Long Voyage with Treasure as Far as the Eye can See...MaybeCrimsonWizard | Sept. 17, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Captain Scarlett & her Pirate's Booty
You've tackled demented robots, mutated creatures, and common bandits, but now you face a new deadly foe...pirates! Not the most inspired of enemies, but they provide a different flavor of combat over your usual psychopaths in the base Borderlands 2 game. As you run over the hapless foes, you'll eventually come across the titular character of the DLC, Captain Scarlet. Honestly, I found her the weakest of the headline characters for these expansions, but she still provides a few chuckles, fitting with the general dark comedy that pervades Pandora.
As for the story, not much to tell, it's a treasure hunt of sorts, but thankfully the developers keep it interesting by giving you a nice variety of environments to overcome, and some new unique weapons and loot flavored to the pirate theme. Thankfully, there's a lot more than sand oceans as you spelunk through oasis filled caves, scale once grand ships, and maybe even mow down a pirate fortress. It's a decent enough DLC all in all, but I personally recommend getting this as part of the fantastic Season Pass instead.
Meet the Best Worst Weapons Manufacturer EverCrimsonWizard | Sept. 14, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Mr Torgue's Campaign of Carnage
You've played through the main Borderlands 2 game, enjoyed many explosive bullets and rockets from Torgue's fine arsenal, but now you can meet the man behind it all, Mr. Torgue himself! In his DLC, you're on a quest to prove your badassery and of course, get as much loot as you can. You'll fight through death match arenas, race through treacherous highways, and maybe even start a few bar fights for funzies.
While the actual maps are a little bit of a retread with them being mostly desert, crumbling cities, and arenas, the DLC has plenty of life thanks to Mr. Torgue's constant "support" for you and the convoluted plans of your enemies. Mr. Torgue is pretty damn funny, with his extreme behavior the real treat as you loot for more weapons and experience. Speaking of weapons, Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage offers a new unique currency in Torgue Tokens which can purchase new Torgue weapon's from his personally branded vending machines. These are very handy if you've been looking for Legendary Weapons from this brand, giving you lots of extra power for all the new challenges here.
That said, the campaign is a fun little side area that lasts a few hours, but isn't quite as amazing as the main game, despite all the humor Mr. Torgue brings. However, if you can get this as part of the Season Pass then go for it. It's a fun expansion, and well worth trying out if you're a fan of BL2 and want more content.
Hungry for a new Challenge?CrimsonWizard | Sept. 14, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Ultimate Vault Hunters Upgrade Pack
The Ultimate Vault Hunters Pack is a fairly simple DLC, install it to unlock 11 new levels. While dealing with the buffer enemies is a fresh challenge, and I appreciate the emphasis on exploiting elemental weapons and slag, there isn't much to this DLC. It's a nice addition, and it's fun being able to mix and match more skills and play with stronger weapons, but at this price, I would recommend just picking up the Season Pass which gives you this along with the fun and colorful DLC areas released up to Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep. In short, not a bad add-on, but you're better off getting it as an extra with the other DLC.
From the Depths of a Pyrotechnic's ImaginationCrimsonWizard | Sept. 14, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
Swords and sorcery, high mountains and dark forests, yes that's right, this DLC is all about classical fantasy, brought to you by mind of Tiny Tina. Much like Magicka or the Trine games, Assault on Dragon Keep pays a lot of love and tribute to the genre while simultaneous poking at it's ribs for humor. Your adventure begins as the vault hunters from Borderlands 1 choose classes that just so happen to align with the classes and characters of Borderlands 2.
You arrive on the shores of a new, mysterious land, and in the first five minutes you realize that this is still Borderlands 2 with loads of humor. The DLC does a good job of keeping up with Tiny Tina's imagination and quick changes as her players make demands of her with settings, goals, and puzzles being changed on a dime. It also has a very nice variety of environments to play around in, far more so than the previous DLCs and plenty of quests and encounters to fill the gaps.
The story itself is rather nice jab at fantasy stories and games in general, but also gives a nice spotlight to Tina for her fans, and even gives her character a bit of depth as you play on in her game's setting. In fact, nearly all the major characters from BL2 get an appearance as sort of a last hurrah for the current batch of Season Pass DLC, most of them getting at least a few funny lines to make you laugh between the shooting.
Speaking of which, Assault on Dragon Keep has a nice variety of monsters, covering nearly all your stock fantasy enemies from orcs, skeletons, knights, wizards, and more, but adapting them to BL2 rules to give them the little twist of guns in addition to whatever bows, axes, and swords they may have on them. Add in a nice variety of bosses and mini-bosses and you have a great expansion to the main BL2 that will entertain you for a while. If you haven't gotten this already from the Season Pass, I highly recommend trying it out. By far, this is the strongest of the DLCs and I look forward to Gearbox's next episode in the BL2 world.
Conspiracies come in ThreesCrimsonWizard | Sept. 10, 2013 | Review of Deus Ex Pack
In the near future, cybernetics and nanotech will emerge, both improving mankind and sending it careening towards collapses, all while shadowy figures pull the puppet strings from the unseen corners. This is the trilogy of Deus Ex!
There is a lot of cover in this amazing pack so I will try to give each game a quick rundown to help you decide if you want to shoot your way through a cyberpunk RPG.
Deus Ex 1: The original 2000 title was a revolution, mixing not only stealth and non-lethal options like Thief, but also the cybernetic upgrades and RPG mechanics seen in System Shock 2, all mixed with a fresh gritty Earth of the future setting. It's so much more than that however with it being one of the first few games that really discussed philosophy and the direction the world was going in, and offered many choices and accounted for various ways a player could complete an objective. You could stealth and hack your way around foes, non-lethally subdue enemies, or just charge in and gun down everything with heavy weapons and nanotech. While the graphics of the original are a bit dated, the mods available and just the actual game and story itself make this a must play for anyone who appreciates both RPGs and shooting titles.
Deus Ex: The Invisible War: The sequel takes place twenty years later where the world is slowly devolving from further divisions as several political and religious factions emerge to try and create a world government. While the game attempts to provide the same amount of choice and political insight as the first title, the concessions forced to give it a console port hurt the game overall. Graphics aren't quite as refined for an already dated prequel, levels are a bit smaller, and an overall simplification of the RPG mechanics that made the first title so unique. That said, it's not a bad game, just a bit disappointing compared to the first.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution and The Missing Link: The newest game in the series acts as a prequel to Deus Ex 1, showing us a slightly more stable and optimistic future before the turmoil and conspiracies that lead to the original Deus Ex. Benefiting from modern graphics, the game looks fantastic as you scramble around the world, eventually uncovering yet another conspiracy controlling the world. Human Revolution does an excellent job of reintroducing the complexity of the original with several RPG mechanics, routes and options with dealing with objectives, and ties it all together in a nice story. While I argue it doesn't discuss philosophy quite as much as Deus Ex 1, and it would have been nice to have more options in dealing with bosses, I appreciate what Deus Ex: HR does, offering a robust and engaging experience that makes me hopeful for more games in the series. As for the added DLC, The Missing Link, it's a fine extra level, and while nothing particularly special, it's nice to have some extra insight into the main Human Revolution game.
So in short, is the trilogy worth it? Absolutely! If you haven't tried out any games in the series, you're missing out one of the finest shooting adventures out there.
The Return of a Bloody Good TimeCrimsonWizard | Sept. 10, 2013 | Review of Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition
It took a while to arrive, but Mortal Kombat 9 is finally here for the PC and provides one of the finest fighting games of the generation. Taking inspiration from Street Fighter IV, MK9 returns to it's 2D fighting roots, while rending everything else it wonderful 3D. With the restricted plane of movement, the action and moves feel tighter, making the fights play out a bit more strategically. In addition to all of the fatalities and classic moves of the series, MK9 introduces a new super meter which charges up as you take damage or get first strikes, allowing you to unleash upgraded special moves, counterstrikes, and X-Ray attacks to decimate your opponent. Despite all the complex maneuvers however, the game offers a great tutorial, and simple controls to help new players get into the game quickly, making it easy to play, but difficult to master.
Once you get a handle on the controls, you'll find that MK9 offers many modes and options, ensuring you get plenty of variety out of your bare knuckle brawls. In addition to the expanded roster in Komplete Edition and tag team options, you have Arcade Mode for your classic gauntlet of random fights to have a shot at Shao Kahn and a character's ending. There's Story Mode which gives you a nice 3D retelling of the first three MK games with a few little changes thanks to some message from the future Raiden sends himself. While the tale itself is entertaining, the pre-rendered videos have an odd drop in quality compared to the graphics of the actual fighting game which is a shame considering how nice that looks. Challenge Mode is a staggering list of various tasks and preset fights you have to succeed in, allowing you to earn many coins in the process. Speaking of which, those coins or Kombat Koins you earn through fighting and winning matches can be used in the Extras menu to purchase goodies from the Krypt, a map full of random buyables which can net you either new character costumes, music, concept art, and so on.
You might be wondering about actual multiplayer however. While local multiplayer worked fine for me and was crisp and fast, online multiplayer has some serious lag issues or outright crashes sometimes. Considering the time it took for the game to be released on PC, it is doubtful there will be any significant patches for this, which is rather a shame considering all the effort they put into the rest of the game.
However, if you want to play this like the old days with your local friends or single player, MK9 offers quite a lot of content at the price and is one of the best fighters out there on PC or console. I highly recommend giving it a try, especially if you haven't tried any of the MK games before.
A Mind is a Terrible Thing to WasteCrimsonWizard | Sept. 9, 2013 | Review of Psychonauts
Summer time, that season where parents ship off their kids to camp to learn skills and make some friends. At Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp however get to learn more than just how to use a bow or pitch a tent. Psychonauts stars Razputin, a boy wishing to learn more about the psychic powers he's started to manifest. The lighthearted camp quickly takes a dark turn however, and Raz finds himself being the only one capable of saving everyone, having to turn from novice to expert psychic in record time.
Thankfully, you're a fast learner with special merit badges and your mentor helping you develop an armory of psychic powers from pyrokinesis to confusion. These abilities will help you progress these the game's many minds you infiltrate and the huge campgrounds. The rest of the game acts as your typical 3D platformer with collectables to find and objectives to complete, but the setting is what really makes the game.
The people at Double Fine did a wonderful job giving each brain you have to psychically storm into have it's own personality while playing with the fact that you are in a brain. Between all the humor and silly situations these minds put Raz into, you can tell they also touch on the dark little secrets a mind can possess, giving some of the characters you deal with a bit more depth and even make a few tragic. The graphical style of the game fits this sort of tone, matching up with something bright and colorful Pixar would be proud of, while simultaneously possessing a bit of a twisted look, hinting towards something more sinister.
Double Fine and their talent have always been good at developing unique worlds, but Psychonauts really shows their potential. Running through someone else's mind has never been so much fun, and the game is superb at being funny, but also pulling at your heartstrings. It's a true classic that deserves your attention.
Strap on a Costume, and go Hunt for some CandyCrimsonWizard | Sept. 9, 2013 | Review of Costume Quest
The crisp air of October, the vibrant colors of the leaves, and a pack of children mobbing you for candy...you know what time of year it is. Costume Quest takes us on a Halloween adventure through the neighborhood and town, racking up as much candy as possible while looking for your kidnapped sibling. How did that happen? Because real candy starved monsters have appeared and are ravaging the neighborhood. Lucky for you, thanks to the powers of I don't know, you can use the costumes you find to transform into a mighty giant to fight these thieves Godzilla style. True to the title, you end up questing for a nice variety of costumes with unique powers from the rocketing robot, to the sturdy knight, and even a healing unicorn. With these powers, you end up dueling monsters in a classic turn based RPG style, but with the addition of action commands to help inflict extra damage with a well timed button press. And honestly, that's about it, you quest around each of the four worlds, doing side quests, fighting monsters, and collecting candy and other shinies. While the setting is fantastic, lovable, and funny, I'd say the quest is just a bit too short even with the included free DLC, and the mechanics stay too simple throughout the entire game. However, if you're looking for a nice, light RPG experience or perhaps wish to introduce someone or your children to the genre, Costume Quest is an excellent starting point.
An Experiment in Stealthy PrecisionCrimsonWizard | Sept. 8, 2013 | Review of Stealth Bastard Deluxe
Scientists in video games love making death traps, don't they? Luckily for you they make them into fun puzzles in Stealth Bastard. Unlike the typical hop and bop sort of platforming, your goal is to sneak through each stage alive. How so? The shadows, careful timing, and many bloody restarts. Thankfully, despite the challenging puzzles, the game gets you back in the action very fast with each level having a few checkpoints to help you. In addition, you have an arsenal of gadgets you can earn to make stages even easier like decoys for the cameras and robots, and so on. Many will compare this to the other recent stealth platformer, Mark of the Ninja,and while two are wonderful indie games, Stealth Bastard focuses more on stealth puzzles, while Mark of the Ninja offers stealth and many ways to kill soldiers. That said, I highly recommend Stealth Bastard. With all thrilling death trap puzzles and extras to play for (extra stages and gadgets), this is an indie game well worth the price.
Grab Some Friends and Grab Some LootCrimsonWizard | Sept. 8, 2013 | Review of Payday 2 4 Pack
Having reviewed Payday 2 already on the main game page, I will instead tell you the benefits of choosing the the 4-pack and sharing with your friends.
-You get 4 copies for less than the price of 3, and then can add the current GMG voucher for extra savings, a fantastic deal.
-Payday 2 is best played with friends anyways, and is one of my favorite multiplayer experiences of the year.
-With all the heist's random variables, you and your friends will get a fresh challenge each time you play.
-Most importantly, it's just a fun time, letting you act out the role of a professional bandit with some buddies.
Earning a Payday, it's the American Dream!CrimsonWizard | Sept. 8, 2013 | Review of Payday 2
Ever wanted to play the bad guy? Are you a fan of crime movies like Reservoir Dogs? Or hell, do you want a shooting game that isn't about war, space, or zombies? Then Payday 2 gladly delivers and then some!
Payday 1 was a fun shooting game that gave us a taste of being in the action of a heist movie or story, while reapplying some of Left 4 Dead's mechanics to change the zombies into an aggressively suicidal police force. While the sequel keeps the overall foundation established, it also strives to improve on the formula and also share more little touches to each level in Payday 2.
What does that mean? Well, for starters, if you were to choose the same heist twice, you'll find that several factors may have changed. More or less security guards and cameras may be posted, new openings and doors may be available or be closed off to you, and most importantly, your goal's location and escape route can be shifted around the map. With the sequel's expanded number of available heist, the possibilities are nearly endless. While your ability to be stealthy or swift has a factor in how a heist may play out, sometimes good old fashioned luck may bless you or throw a wrench into your plan, just like on the silver screen.
Even when stealth fails or you're forced to brute force your way to a goal, the game is kind enough to give you a richer variety of skills and modifiable weaponry to fight the hefty police assaults. Unlike Payday 1's level system that rewarded experience through completing challenges and offered only four linear skill paths, Payday 2 gives experience and cash based on completing the heist itself and lets you earn skill points per level to buy into abilities you want and build up a class' tiers. You're welcome to mix and match as you like as long as you have the points and cash. The new system still lends itself well to people who like to be a jack of all trades, but also works for those who just want to specialize in one class. Hence, you're not just locked down to being a pure medic with Mastermind, you can also be a stealthy Ghost who can also make security surrender, or a heavy armored Enforcer who doubles as a Technician with drills.
On top of all the mechanics however, a game needs a good setting to paint over all the variables and Payday 2 delivers. While I would have liked to see a few more of D.C.'s iconic locations, I appreciate the better variety of environments in the game and look forward to what they give us in future DLC. Sound and music design are excellent, doing a good job of getting you in the mood whether it's the soft stealth or casing themes or the action packed assault tunes that build up until the police burst in. Most of the original voice actors return as well for the sequel with our four money hungry robbers returning under the enigmatic Bain who now runs Crime.net, a service for criminals to find various contacts for big jobs, or to just find vulnerable banks and jewelry stores to break open for a quick Payday. There isn't much story beyond that, but the characters have fun in their roles and help get you into action fast. On the plus side, the game also features mask crafting, allowing you to take the occasional materials you win after a heist and customize your favored criminal how you want.
In a way, your mask acts as your avatar for the game's fantastic multiplayer. With everyone's special abilities complimenting each other, it's clear Payday 2 was designed for and works best as a co-operative game and is wonderful for a group of friends.
However, that also brings me to my few problems with the game, mainly the single player. Why? For starters, the friendly A.I. is rather dumb and half the time will charge out into heavy gunfire only to fall in a terrible location that would be suicide to reach and help it. You're also limited to only two friendly A.I. instead of three, denying you a full team if you wish for a round of offline fun. Add on the fact that they can't carry equipment, nor loot, and single player just feels like a chore compared to multiplayer.
However, if you go in realizing that this was meant for multiplayer, you're going to have a great time. Despite the lower price, you're getting triple A quality out of this game. The developers clearly wanted to expand on what they did with Payday 1 and succeeded, giving shooters a nice change of pace. With their active updates, news posts for the community, and the promised DLC missions to come, I see Payday 2 as a very lively game and I look forward to how it grows over time. If you loved other shooting games with RPG elements like Borderlands 2, then this is a must buy.
Dare Ye Challenge The Ninjas Of Castle Dragonia?CrimsonWizard | Feb. 7, 2013 | Review of Fatal Labyrinth
Fatal Labyrinth is a rogue-like RPG developed by SEGA where you play as a random nobody adventurer tasked with entering the newly risen Dragonia Castle and stabbing the monsters within to reclaim the Holy Goblet to prevent a thousand years of darkness. Yes, that's all the story you get.
As for the actual game itself, as stated it's a rogue-like which means dungeon crawling through several randomly generated floors with all sorts of loot to pick up and monsters spawned. A nice thing about the game is that the commands have been simplified for the controller, making it easy for first time players of the genre to get into the game. Health can be recovered quickly provided you've eaten something. Items are divided into separate categories and enemies are fought just by running into them, though you're welcome to throw weapons or uses scrolls and spells in your inventory as well. If you kill enough enemies you level up for predetermined increased, but it's overtly simple with no sort of class system. Fatal Labyrinth is also very old fashioned, forcing you to grind quite a bit to level up, and the difficult jumps very quickly even if you do find good armor and weapons, and kill all the creatures on the early floors.
Honestly, this game is very dated with the dungeon levels looking rather drab, and the music is rather boring. The enemies are thankfully colorful and varied, but there's little to actually engage you in the adventure, imagination or not. Even if you don't mind the lack of story or aged presentation, it's also brutally hard with few choices in strategy. Hence, I can't recommend this title, and suggest trying Dungeons of Dredmor or even Lufia II's Rogue Mode if you'd like to try a fun RPG with randomly generated floors.
There's Never A Gas Station Around When You Need One, Is There?CrimsonWizard | Feb. 7, 2013 | Review of Galaxy Force II
Galaxy Force II thrusts into a mission to save the newly formed Federation from the The Fourth Empire whose forces are currently conquering the Junos star system. Technically an updated version of the original 1988 arcade Galaxy Force, the second game plays as a faux-3D space shooter, somewhat like the original Star Fox.
Unlike Sega's earlier and ultra simple Super Thunder Blade, Galaxy Force II is a little more involved and you can even see how it inspired the Star Fox series. For starters, you actually get to pick from 5 planets what your starting level will be, and while you must eventually finish them all to reach the final stage, it is nice having options. The levels aren't bad either with some turns and obstacles added to help make it feel like you're not just flying through long corridors. Though there's heavy resistance in each stage, you're fairly mobile and decent reflexes will help you survive, and your shield can block a few shots for you as well. Your goal in each planet is to blow up as many of the Empire's ships as you can before dispatching the enemy's core at the end of each stage. Thankfully, it isn't too hard to attack thanks to the game's lock-on feature where holding the firing button can charge and home in energy cannons on nearby targets. What is hard is actually surviving though. You'll quickly notice an Energy counter at the bottom of the screen which serves as both a timer and health gauge. Simply put you need to finish the stage before you run out, and you need to avoid taking too many shots without a shield or the damage will reduce your energy too. You can add to this energy value by chaining lots of enemy kills for an energy bonus provided between stage transitions, but even so it's unlikely you'll reach the last stage because of this fuel gauge because once you die once it's Game Over. Sadly, this is one of those arcade ports that failed to include a credit system after a death, a flaw in an otherwise decent space shooter.
Galaxy Force II is a mixed bag for me. On one hand, there are a lot of ideas I like about this game that were used in other games such as selecting a planet to fly through, mixing health and time limits together, and the homing shot. However, it has several flaws as well such as the lack of an actual continue system and dated graphics. Thus, I can't really recommend this one, but I can at least appreciate it for the ideas it helped pass on for later games in the 3D Space Shooter genre.
A Darker And More Difficult Journey, But Also More FulfillingCrimsonWizard | Feb. 7, 2013 | Review of Shining Force™ II
Sega's second Strategy RPG opens up many years after the conflict of the original game, dropping us off into a moody and ominous storm brewing above an ancient seal within an old tower. Due to the greed of those who knew no better, the magical lock is broken, allowing the Devil King Zeon and his minions to be revived. Unlike Shining Force 1 which sent a bunch of kids out to save the world after a few guards were slaughtered, Shining Force 2 is happy to demonstrate why your enemies are a threat. It isn't long before your happy life at the kingdom of Granseal is destroyed with demonic possessions, the princess being kidnapped, and finally the island kingdom itself has to be evacuated from the hellish influence.
Thus, Shining Force 2 gives us a pretty good story. It isn't just a struggle against bad guys, but you're actually fighting to get your home back and to stop this threat. However, the game won't make it easy, with the foes and missions taking a notch up in difficulty. While the original conventions of Shining Force 1 still apply with units taking turns on a square grid, you'll find you'll need better strategies to win and survive the stronger attacks. Thankfully, the game also offers more options in terms of characters and classes. While old standbys such as the centaurs and bird-men return, new types of characters such as an auto-reviving phoenix and high defense tortoise can be recruited now. In addition, most characters can now choose between two classes to promote to once they reach Level 20, letting you craft a team more to your liking. You'll have plenty of time to figure out the best balance too thanks to Shining Force II's longer campaign.
Admittedly, the game is still fairly lighthearted like Shining Force 1, but it's nice to see the creators take a more serious approach with the story, while still keeping the core mechanics which made the original a classic. You'll be left wanting to know what happens next, even with the tougher threats in your way. For the price you're paying, you're getting a very good bargain for one of the greatest Mega Drive RPGs, and is highly recommended, especially for those who are a fan of games such as Fire Emblem or X-COM: Enemy Unknown.
Two Agents Versus An Army Of Robots? I Like My Odds.CrimsonWizard | Feb. 6, 2013 | Review of Crack Down
Crack Down (not to be confused with the XBOX 360's Crackdown series) is a run and gun style shooter developed by SEGA. The mysterious Mr. X (or Mr. K depending on the version) has managed to amass an army of robotic soldiers to wipe out humanity to make room for his artificial life forms. Why is he doing this you may ask? Does he feel humankind is overpopulating the earth, has become corrupt and is ruining the planet, or because he was a scientist whose robotic theories were dismissed? Ha ha, shut up and get shooting. Like most arcade games and their ports, the game uses the premise merely as an excuse for the actual action.
Thankfully, the actual action is good, though difficult. It has some similarities to arcade classic Gauntlet with an over head view and respawning enemies. However, rather than just collect treasure and escape, your goal in Crack Down is to set several time bombs on key locations on your map throughout Mr. X's facilities to destroy his robot production lines. Of course, you'll have to set them all and escape in time or else you'll blown up yourself and have to restart the stage.
Along the way, you'll have to shoot it out with many of Mr. X's robots, ducking in and out of hallways to avoid the return fire. Among your weapons are a standard rifle (one shot, one kill), a piercing cannon whose shells will keep flying until they hit a wall, and finally a screen clearing smart bomb which will pierce walls and kill all enemies you can see. Despite this arsenal, you're very vulnerable and will die in one shot, but thankfully you can restart where you were killed as long as you have lives and continues left. Only failing to escape before the bombs burst will send you back to start.
To the game's credit, it keeps testing you throughout too, with each stage offering some new kinds of bad guys, and level hazards such as moving platforms or crumbling floors. It's a pity the graphics are so dated, but you can at least tell what's going on, and the music is decent. The game also has a 2 player mode as well, making it easier to progress by flanking your enemies and to reach the time bomb sites faster.
Admittedly, Crack Down has a bit of unnecessary arcade difficulty, but the core game is solid and entertaining. Each stage builds on the last with some sort of new threat or obstacle, keeping things interesting. For three bucks, if you're looking something in the vein of Gauntlet or just want a decent game about shooting robots, this game will satisfy that itch.
Fun Fact: Mr. X was a mad scientist in this game, but would later pop up again in Sega's Streets of Rage series as a mafia boss behind it all, who would eventually dabble in building robots in the sequels. Whether there's any connection is unknown, but that's what happens when you use generic cover names for your villains.
Aliens Have Invaded...Again!CrimsonWizard | Feb. 6, 2013 | Review of Alien Storm
Alien Storm is yet another brawler game developed for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) where you play as a member of a extermination squad, tasked with saving people and blasting any invaders you see. It's very similar to Sega's Golden Axe series only with a sci-fi setting rather than medieval fantasy.
You must first selected one of three characters, a female commando with a flamethrower, a male commando with a Ghostbuster style proton pack, or a robot with an electric whip. It honestly doesn't matter much though, they all play about the same so pick what looks best to you. The basic game then starts where you run around, blasting aliens with your weapon, and collected energy canisters to charge your screen wide special attack. However, there are two functional difference between this and Golden Axe. Instead of a jump attack, you have a dodge roll, allowing you to spin out of the away of a crowd ready to clobber you. The second is that you'll occasionally be thrown into an auto-scrolling first person shooter stage like Operation: Wolf or Area 51 where you have to blast all the aliens in sight, blast objects for more energy, and avoid hitting civilians. It's rather simple overall, but isn't an easy game by any means. Playing on the standard difficulty gives you only 3 spare lives, and while you are very durable, there also isn't any health pick ups in the game either. Of other note are the 2 player modes where you can play the standard game with a friend, or a battle mode where you can duke it out with another person though it's far too simple to match up to the quality of a fighting game like Street Fighter 2.
Sadly, for all the small changes in setting and mechanics, the game just feels like a knockoff of Sega's own Golden Axe games, and doesn't do much to stand out. The gameplay is competent, but simple, and the game's sci-fi theme is adequate, but doesn't really catch the eye either. It isn't a bad game, but I recommend spending your money on a Golden Axe or Streets of Rage game instead if you like brawlers.
Why Does Virtual Reality Always Want To Kill You?CrimsonWizard | Feb. 6, 2013 | Review of Gain Ground
Gain Ground is an run and gun game developed by SEGA where you play as a team of trapped contestants in a virtual reality simulation with armed robots trying to kill you. As the tale goes, the government commissioned a super computer to run this virtual game to keep to satisfy the aggressive desire in people in a more peaceful era in the future. However, something has caused the supercomputer to become corrupted and overrule safety protocols, making the game deadly and inescapable except to those who can overcome its 50 levels.
Gain Ground is very strange compared to other games with an over the top perspective such as Smash T.V. Rather than having one general purpose character who can collected new weapons, you instead gather a party of characters you can use one at a time, sort of like lives only each one as a different attack and special move. You'll need to think carefully about which ones to use as well since some can shoot over walls, while others are better at rapid fire or sniping from afar or strafing and shooting. Heck, some even fire differently depending on if they're left or right handed, or use both hands to fire. You start with only three characters, but can you find trapped players to join your party (provided you can lead them to the exit square) including a boomerang throwing rogue, an uzi shooter who can spray bullets everywhere, and a femme fetale who can throw grenades over walls. Speaking of which, your overall goal is to reach the exit square or destroy all the enemies of each stage with a boss blocking the road every 10 levels. You'll need a fair amount of skill to actually win, but thankfully the game offers plenty of continues and regular offers new party members to replaces ones you might have lose, and there's a two player mode to give you extra firepower.
While Gain Ground is somewhat dated with it's limited graphics and animation, the game's decent music, good pacing, and emphasis on using strategic character selections makes it a really fun run and gun game. I highly recommend this, especially if you have a friend. For three dollars, you'll have plenty of entertainment trying to get to level 50 together and escaping the virtual hell.
Cats Are Such Snobs, They're Too "Good" To Eat Common CanariesCrimsonWizard | Feb. 6, 2013 | Review of Flicky
Flicky was an arcade game created in 1984 by SEGA, later ported to their Sega Genesis (Mega Drive). As such, the premise is very simple, you're a blue bird named Flicky and you need to rescue yellow baby birds named Chirps, scoring as many points as you can along the way.
The gameplay is very simple and easy to pick up. It's essentially a platformer where you jump around, collected Chirps so they tail you towards an exit, and the more Chirps you free all at once, the more points you get. However, Tiger the Cat and Iggy the Lizard are eager to stop your rescue operation. Oddly though, they don't attack the canaries, but they do bump them out of your line-up. They will gladly eat you though, which to their credit means they have their priorities straight since you're the only one who can actually attack. True to his name, Flicky is capable of carrying small objects and flicking them at his enemy when he jumps, temporarily sending them back to one of the cat carriers sitting in the stage.
Honestly, that's all there is to this game. Like most early arcade games, it's somewhat hard and the only real objective is to rack up a high score. For a game from 1984 it's not bad looking, but it clearly doesn't use the Mega Drive's capabilities to their fullest, just offering a straight port from the arcade version with little graphical changes and no variety in the music. Still, for some brainless arcade fun, it isn't bad at three dollars.
Fun Fact: This is technically the first game in the Sonic the Hedgehog mythos with Sega confirming that the birds are the same ones you save from robots in Sonic's original games. You even have a big blue animal saving smaller ones in Flicky. Funny how one thing leads to another.
Hire Thieves To Test Your Security Against ThievesCrimsonWizard | Feb. 6, 2013 | Review of Bonanza Bros
Bonanza Bros. is SEGA's classic take on a stealth game, focusing on a pair of brothers sent to retrieve the items for a mysterious figure in shadows, and apparently testing his security force in the process. Outside of the snippet of story, the basic setup is you're playing a game about heists and robberies.
However, it's clear SEGA wanted to make it a lighthearted take on the subject matter, giving it a cartoon feel in both the graphics and music. While they haven't aged all that well, they at least still convey that wacky and innocent style. This tone extends to the actual gameplay itself with bullets only knocking out both you and the security officers, and with long falls and machinery only squishing you like an accordion.
However, it's also very simple and the game isn't really built around you being able to be stealthy all the time. While early levels feature easily knocked out guards and doors to hide inside, it won't be long until you have to deal with robots that can't be knocked out and harder enemy patterns to avoid.
The game also features a 2 player mode where you can compete for points and stealing the most loot, while avoiding the guards. While it doesn't add much to the overall game, it is still a good time with a friend, especially since the simple controls make it easy for anyone to jump in, even absolute beginners to video games.
Bonanza Bros. is another one of Sega's early games for the Mega Drive (Genesis), but unlike Altered Beast and Super Thunder Blade, Bonanza Bros. had an interesting and fun idea going for it that honestly hasn't been done much in 2D. Though it hasn't aged very well, it's still a decent title, and fun with another player. The foundation is also pretty solid with the some of the stealth concepts homaged in last year's acclaimed Mark of the Ninja. So for three dollars, you're getting a decent experience, and I recommend this title if you're looking for a bit of mindless fun.
Heroes Never Get A Vacation, You Know That?CrimsonWizard | Feb. 5, 2013 | Review of Light Crusader™
Treasure's Light Crusader was one of the late games developed for the SEGA Genesis (Mega Drive) in which you play the role of Sir David, a weary warrior hoping to take a small vacation after a long journey of heroic deeds off-screen. Unfortunately, he arrives to the town of Green Row to find trouble already waiting for him there with several townspeople reported missing and a general sense of dread of shadowy figures running around. Sadly, this is the bulk of the tale which is told in fantastic opening cut-scenes, but outside of that you're left with only snippets of information given to you by the villagers and people you need to rescue.
The rest of the game takes place in a large dungeon just outside of town, filled with all sorts of traps, puzzles, and monsters like a Zelda styled game complete with map. You move and fight on an overhead isometric (tilted) plane like Landstalker, giving the illusion of 3D, but also makes depth perception difficult at times. Thankfully, Treasure made it easier than other isometric platformers by including both a shadow and slower fall times, making it far easier to move to where you want during a jump. Unfortunately, the isometric perspective makes moving blocks and objects for the puzzles more difficult, making simple tasks take longer than they should.
However, the puzzles themselves are fairly interesting and the combat isn't bad either, having some similarities to Treasure's Gunstar Heroes. thanks to the magic system. You're given four elements you can use or mix to cast spells on monsters, provided you have the energy for it. Up close attacks are limited unfortunately with just your sword and a limited system of equipment upgrades for that and your armor. In the least, the game gives you a decent inventory space to carry supplies through the dungeon to help you survive between save points.
The dungeon itself looks fairly nice with Treasure's quality graphics showing up again, especially with the animations and colorful designs of you and the bad guys. Sadly, the dungeon itself is a little bland in design along with the music. It serves its purpose and works fine, but the style of the dungeon itself and it's music is forgettable.
Light Crusader is a game with some odd quirks thanks to it's isometric camera, but is overall a solid dungeon crawl with interesting puzzles to keep you engaged. While it's somewhat short for an RPG with only 6 dungeon sections, it lasts long enough to give you a few evenings of fun, especially with all the spell mixes you can barrage your enemies with. For $2.99, you're getting a pretty good deal for a good dungeon romp and I recommend giving it a try.
Military Technology Was Very Combustible In 1988CrimsonWizard | Feb. 5, 2013 | Review of Super Thunder Blade
Super Thunder Blade was a port of the arcade game made by SEGA during the Genesis/Mega Drive's early days. Like many arcade games of the time, there is little in-game story, you're just a helicopter pilot tasked with shooting down and blowing up all opposition without having your chopper bite the bullet.
The controls and gameplay are super simple where you move around in a faux 3D area like the original Star Fox. Simply put you need to move about, dodging the large enemy missiles or shoot them down, and evade the buildings and environment. The game thankfully gives you a decent weapon where you have straight shooting machine guns to deal with sturdy boss monsters, but also homing missiles that fire at the same time, taking care of stray bad guys firing at you. Hence, the game works well for constant movement while attacking. However, the game is still brutally hard due to the fact that one hit of any kind takes you down. While you have multiple lives to bring you back quickly, once you run out, the game is completely over with no continues like the arcade game would offer for a quarter. Hence, it's very unlikely you'll make it past the first few stages.
Speaking of the stages, the environments and graphics aren't bad for 1988 and look a bit crisper than the ones used for Altered Beast. The problem is that like many aerial shooting games of the time, the patterns of enemies and level design repeats itself a lot, making it rather dull after a while until you reach a boss. The music doesn't exactly thrill the ear either, serving it's purpose as a tune with a decent melody that won't irritate the ear, but doesn't make you want to jam either.
In short, Super Thunder Blade is a very dated game, weighed down by following arcade conventions too closely with it's brutal difficulty. While games like this would help build to better 3D-styled flying shooters like Star Fox 64, Super Thunder Blade has not aged well and offers little entertainment for what you're paying. I would recommend checking out some of SEGA's other games on GMG if you're looking for a fun classic game for the same price.
A Game Of Twists And Turns, Lies And Slivers Of TruthCrimsonWizard | Feb. 4, 2013 | Review of Alpha Protocol
Alpha Protocol is Obsidian's spy themed RPG, taking a few cues from stealth based games such as Deus Ex and Metal Gear. Originally released to mixed reviews over two years ago, I have had the pleasure of playing it for the first time this week and would like to try and set the record straight about this game.
The story is a very intricate plot with many threads, and it's unlikely you'll see the whole picture in only play through it all. Yes, even if you search for every file you can and do your best to squeeze information out of people, there will still be mysteries to discover. That's part of the charm of this game though and makes it feels more like a spy or mystery game than other games of its ilk. The game gives you a few subtle hints if you look closely, but it relies more on your intuition to drive the story and what parts of the mystery are unraveled. The colorful and varied cast of characters is everywhere, but fade in and out of actual importance depending on how you want to drive the story. Like the Mass Effect games, you get to talk to many people and your choices carry over throughout the story, but unlike its reliance on morality, Alpha Protocol is more ambiguous what the right choice. It manages to be realistic in that, even with the scraps of clues you uncover about your targets and contacts, you'll never be quite sure what the repercussions of your actions will be. Some characters may be fought, while others can be avoided with clever manipulation. Even early choices will have some sort of an impact towards the later part of the game, making every decision matter.
For all the praise I give the story, I do have to comment on the weaker side of the game: the combat. For my play through, I was attempting to be a stealthy martial pacifist where I would use hand to hand combat along with tranquilizer darts from the pistol. To the game's credit, hand to hand combat works fairly well on regular bad guys and mini-bosses if you can break their block. Unfortunately, this is less effective against boss characters. That is where a lot of the problem comes into play because generally, you will want to use a gun against a boss rather than your fists. The problem? Guns tend to be inaccurate outside of short range, even with accuracy upgrades. When you think you've scored a head shot, you'll see the bullet whiz by and your cover is blown. While an offensively built character won't care that much about blowing their cover, for stealthy classes that are using silencers and rely on accurate shots, this is a letdown. It's not completely broken, but this could have been done better.
Speaking of built characters, this game is an RPG and hence, your actions and completing missions will earn you experience points to give your agent skills. The system takes a lot of inspiration from Mass Effect, relying on a table you can put ability points into for various combat, tech, stealth, and defensive skills. In addition, powers are occasionally awarded for investing enough into a certain skill. For example, investing a lot of points in Stealth will offer powers to cloak you from enemy sight, making it far easier to dispatch enemies with your stealthy knockout/kill move. Oddly, there is also some inspiration from The Elder Scrolls series where you can get certain perks if you use certain skills or perform certain actions often enough. While it's not as ridiculous as jumping off cliffs over and over to increase an acrobatic skill from that title, Alpha Protocol does adapt to your style of play, whether you focus on hacking defenses, stealthy pacifism, or loud gunning.
As for the world you'll be playing in, it looks fairly good. The graphics run on the Unreal Engine so you'll notice a similar style in character structure and graphic design as other games that use it. Sadly, this does mean that several characters and locations look rather homogenized. To their credit, the developers did include some colorful characters and moments to spice things up, such as the shootout in a Russian mobster's mansion who is obsessed with 80's American culture. The music matches this trend, filling the role it's given, but doesn't stand out very often.
Thankfully, despite some issues with the combat and the limitations of the Unreal Engine, Alpha Protocol's strong story and characters help drive the game along. It's a game that makes you want to play again, just to see what you missed by siding with one character or making another hate you, and so on. For the price, you're getting several hours of entertainment, and best of all, it surprises you and adapts to your style. Obsidian once again proves it knows how to write an engaging narrative within a game, and makes Alpha Protocol a must-play for anyone who appreciates RPGs.
A World Of True Choice And ConsequenceCrimsonWizard | Feb. 1, 2013 | Review of Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition DNS
Deus Ex is the legendary shooter released in 2000 built around a future plunging into dystopia. People are dying of a mysterious plague, the economy has fallen off the rails, and governments and shadows organizations secretly vie for control. Throughout this grim and gritty setting, you play as J.C. "Your Name Here" Denton, an new agent of UNATCO who is sent in to deal with terrorists who are occupying the Statue of Liberty.
From there however, Deus Ex lets you decide how to deal with the situation. Though it is a shooter, the game also has strong stealth and RPG mechanics as well with experience points earned for dealing with foes and objectives or finding hidden paths or secrets. You can try to gun down every terrorist you see and take back the statue forcefully, but you're also welcome to sneak past, or non-lethally take down foes with the stun and tranquilizer guns. Hacking security and doors, sneaking through secret paths, using nano-tech powers, and laying traps are several of the means the game gives you towards completing your objectives. In fact, boss fights are optional, with running away being a possible solution if you're attempting a pacifist run.
One of the best things about Deus Ex because of this system is that the story adapts to your choices. The characters will react differently (for good or worse) if you choose to be aggressive, or to be non-lethal in your approach. You can also radically change the events of the story by your choices. For example, in a later mission a character you were sent to capture is going to be killed by a fellow UNATCO agent. The game gives you no notification of what you should do. You can just walk away, or you can try to protect him and kill the bloodthirsty agent in a small boss fight. In fact, the developers incorporated many responses to your actions, even if logically you shouldn't have done something yet or at all.
Honestly, the weakest part of the game is just the actual look of the game. For 2000 these were decent graphics, depicting a dark setting with the characters having pretty good detail. However, they haven't aged too well, and players who prefer crisper textures and fluid animation may want to look into graphics mods for the game if you purchase it. The sound and voice acting do their job fine as well with plenty of ambient sound and the characters have decent voices, though our protagonist does sound a bit wooden like Neo in the Matrix.
Despite those issues however, Deus Ex holds up really well against modern shooters in terms of actual entertainment. With all the options in terms of story, action, and exploration, Deus Ex was one of the first games that really felt like it was listening to the character rather than just pulling you along the planned tale and paths. It also managed to combine several genres equally into a great game, rewarding the player no matter which style they choose. If you're looking for a game that engages you throughout the whole playtime, Deus Ex is one of the strongest titles you can choose.
Why Does This Slime Hate Me So Much?CrimsonWizard | Feb. 1, 2013 | Review of Shining in the Darkness™
Shining in the Darkness is the semi-predecessor to the Shining Force series, linked by the antagonist Dark Sol causing trouble in both for no apparent reason other than he's the bad guy. Unlike Shining Force however which does have a story that is told here and there, Shining in the Darkness is a dungeon crawling game. You have an introduction and a small town with people to talk to, and that's about it for dialogue.
For the game itself, you must delve deep into stone crafted dungeon in a first person perspective, fighting monsters and leveling up to reach Dark Sol. However, this is a very old fashioned game, with brutal enemies that will force you to retreat often to heal, making grinding a real chore. It also forces you to make or print out your own map, making it nearly impossible to progress without some paper thanks to the dungeon's unending passages of similar bricks.
I just can't recommend this one, even to fans of the genre. For fans of Shining Force, they'll be annoyed by the different style of game and the stiff difficulty. For fans of dungeon crawlers, this one is very basic and has little story to offer. And for fans of RPGs, there are games that don't force you to grind nearly as much. There are fun first person dungeon crawlers out there, the recent Legend of Grimrock, the classic Dungeon Master, or even some of the Shin Megami Tensei games would all be better choices of your time and money. That said, if you are genuinely curious or have more patience for so little, then it is at least cheap.
Why Am I Being Rewarded For Crushing Gems?CrimsonWizard | Feb. 1, 2013 | Review of Columns
Columns is a puzzle game originally developed for home computers until SEGA bought the rights and made their own version for the Genesis/Mega Drive. Other than the Roman styled setting, there isn't much here except the game itself.
Basically, the game drops columns of 3 random gems from the top of the screen and you have to direct them down and try to match 3 gems in any direction to make them explode and get points. You're forced to place the pieces vertically, but you can change the order of the three gems to try and set up combinations for more points. Pieces will gradually fall faster from the top as you rack up points and destroy more gems, and occasionally a stack of special games will slide down, enabling you to destroy first type of gem it touches across the entire board. There is also a 2 Player Mode, offering something of a competitive mode, but that's about it in terms of different styles of play.
However, the system just isn't quite as engaging as say Tetris or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. It's very easy to accidentally set up massive combos without much strategy, and the restrictive manipulation of the puzzle pieces makes it less intuitive than the previously mentioned puzzle games. The lack of extra game modes doesn't help either, offering little in terms of replay value other than racking up higher scores. While it's a competent puzzle game, I recommend a different puzzler than this one.
Fuelled By A Twisted People, Rapture Returns With Fresh MadnessCrimsonWizard | Feb. 1, 2013 | Review of BioShock® 2 DNS
Bioshock 2 is the sequel to 2008's much lauded Bioshock, this time developed by 2K's Marin studio. Taking place a decade after the first, Rapture's corpse continues to rust. Yet life continues to linger within the old bones, with new foes known as Big Sisters rising from the ocean depths to kidnap little girls down to ruined city. You play as a enhanced prototype of the first game's Big Daddy, code-named Delta, whose main goal is to reunite with his Little Sister, Eleanor, he was bonded with and escape the death trap of mutants and security drones.
What starts as a relatively standard rescue story quickly gives way to a deeper tale about the circumstances that caused Rapture. The city founder, Andrew Ryan, hears the city's people cry out about mental stress and trauma, and he reluctantly brings Dr. Sofia Lamb to Rapture with her experience as an expert therapist. While it is established very early that she is your ultimate enemy this time around, her views and reasoning are given more more exploration and comparison to the others who ran Rapture in the first game. Bioshock 2 doesn't have the massive twists of the first game, but in exchange asks the player more questions. It shows how the failure of one extreme policy can just give way to others, destroying the lives both the followers and the forced in twisted, inhumane ways. Yet, despite the bleaker tone of the story and characters, there is a faint theme of redemption running through the game. There are some characters you're likely never to forgive, but others may test your feelings despite their shady pasts. You could also say the game is a quest of redemption for yourself as a Big Daddy who couldn't protect his Little Sister years ago.
Whether you decide the journey is for redemption or to just kill a bunch of mutants, the fact remains the city hasn't gotten any better. The graphics of the game retain their quality, presenting a lovely, yet broken city, with the splicers becoming more deformed after another an extra decade under their addictions. However, sometimes the textures need a couple moments to pop in when you first load up the game from a save, but otherwise remain crisp with no slowdown issues after the initial load. The sounds helps build on the graphics to craft another spectacular backdrop for Rapture with the ambient noise helping the tense mood of the game, with some classic 50's music mixed in, reminding the player of the former polish of the metropolis.
As for your actual means of survival, Bioshock 2 takes the same approach as Rapture itself. The basic skeleton work is there, but is given a deeper approach. The main improvement is that you can now use plasmid abilities in tandem with a weapon. While plasmid powers are slightly weaker, it's also very nice to use them to harass an enemy before finishing them off with a spray of bullets. Various weapons have been switched for others, traps can be deployed, and new plasmids have been introduced, but the basic experience is now built around flinging abilities and weapon fire at the same time. Speaking of enemies, realistically there wasn't much room to expand on the roster because of the setting, but the new Brute Splicers and the Big Sister boss fights add a little more challenge to the game.
In addition to those changes, Bioshock 2 also introduces multiplayer which allows you to play as a splicer, fighting other players in various game modes including a few revolving around gathering ADAM or Little Sisters for your team. Unfortunately, I cannot comment much further on this mode as I was unable to play in any matches on multiple occasions due to the lack of active players available for an online game. If you want to really play this new mode, you will have to hope you have some friends with the game as well. Another notice about online features is that this game uses the Games for Windows Live client once again. It is a hindrance, especially with the fact you must keep the game running to update it through the service. What's odd about using GFWL is that the game doesn't even support the X-Box 360 controller this time around on the PC like Bioshock 1. While veteran PC gamers might not miss that feature since the mouse and keyboard controls work just fine, those who used a controller for the first game may be annoyed by this change.
Bioshock 2 had a lot of expectations considering the mountain of praise awarded to its predecessor. Despite some of the issues with setting up the game and multiplayer, the actual meat of the game is fantastic. The story had a lot of thought put into it, offering a different perspective to the fall of the city while still fitting in relatively well with the plot of the first game. Delta's dual wielding skills with plasmids and weapons is more dynamic, making the exploration of the city more fun. The journey remains engaging with 13-15 hours of gameplay, offering plenty of value for your money, and comes highly recommended to fans of both Bioshock 1 and shooter games.
This Is Not Proper SWAT ProcedureCrimsonWizard | Jan. 29, 2013 | Review of ESWAT: City Under Siege
E-SWAT was an early game developed by SEGA for the Mega Drive/Genesis in which you play as a police officer fighting the terrorist group E.Y.E. Taking a few pages from Robocop and Terminator however, you're mostly fighting robots and machines in the near future.
While the game plays like a run and gun 2D platformer, unlike Contra and Metal Slug you have to stop to shoot and you have an actual health bar. Thus, ESWAT requires a careful and methodical advance early on with lots of ducking and connecting hits. However something miraculous happens after level 2. You're promoted from being a standard police officer into the ESWAT program and gain a suit of Ice Power Armor, which has no ice powers whatsoever. It does provide many advantages though such as a minigun, an autocharging plasma blast, a ground seeking rocket launcher, and most importantly a jetpack. While it would have been nice for the jetpack to recharge a little faster, it does help give you more mobility in a game that's otherwise has a slow pace.
ESWAT is only 8 levels, but some of the later levels take a while to go through with many enemies and hazards to shoot through. To the game's credit, a few of the levels make use of the jetpack for some interesting platforming, but otherwise you'll be gunning through skyscrapers, a prison, and many secret bases. It could have done a better job with level variety and the music isn't the greatest, neither offering tense ambiance sound nor tunes you can jam to.
All said, ESWAT isn't a bad game. It's a little basic, but it does offer mechanics that differentiate itself from the competition with its jetpack and later weapons. However, it's also slow and less exciting than other games in its genre like Gunstar Heroes also available on GMG. End of the day though, if you're looking for some cheap fun and an excuse to disregard proper police procedure, try ESWAT.
Trouble's Brewing! Gather a Mob and Stab Evil in the Face!CrimsonWizard | Jan. 29, 2013 | Review of Shining Force ™
Shining Force is SEGA's first foray in the Turn Based Strategy genre, where you are tasked as a warrior of Guadiana to prevent the Dark Sol's resurrection of the Dark Dragon after his millennial nap. Yes, the story is a cliche storm, but it also never tries to take itself super seriously, and it focused on delivering you the player a fun adventure with some epic fights sprinkled throughout.
As a turn based strategy game, Shining Force plays a lot like Nintendo's Fire Emblem games with the difference being killed allies are not dead for good. You take turns on a grid battlefield, ripping into each other with weapons and magic, terrain can be your ally or a hindrance, and flying units can be a godsend on slow levels if they don't get shot down first. You travel across the world, occasionally slowing down the game to talk to the common folk, buy new equipment, and also search for people to recruit to your team until you finally return to the fighting. While you can grind experience using the Retreat magic to retry your current mission with higher levels, the game thankfully doesn't usually require it if you use some decent strategy. The only issue you may find which is shared with Fire Emblem is that your medic won't gain nearly as much experience sealing up that arrow wound as you do lobbing a monster's arm off. That said, the difficulty maintains a fairly consistent slope upwards, with no real spikes outside of the occasional boss fight.
In terms of graphics and sound, they are relatively good for the time. While they're aren't very many memorable tunes on the soundtrack, they also don't wear on your ears too much during a long fight. The graphics are fine with a decent amount of color used and all of your units look unique, though it also feels a bit static on the movement screen with limited animations and background effects used. However, the animations within a fight are actually rather nice, playing out sort of like a cut scene with your unit and the enemy having a quick round of combat.
Overall, Shining Force is a bit simple, but a fun game with just a few quirks owed more to the year it was released rather than anything else. It's filled with loads of cliches, but if you're looking for an entertaining romp through a fantasy setting, this game will satisfy you.
Eat Chicken and Fight the Mafia's Colorful ThugsCrimsonWizard | Jan. 29, 2013 | Review of Streets of Rage™ 2
Streets of Rage 2 is the much improved sequel in Sega's classic beat 'em up series. The story of mafia boss Mr. X taking over the city is a rehash of the first game, but everything else was improved from previous installment.
Graphics in this game are bigger, more detailed, and animate fairly well, whether you're just walking, beating the crap out of a minion with flips and throws, or swinging a weapon at the hordes. More colors are used as well to help with the detail, and SoR2 uses the Mega Drive's background effects nicely such as the in haunted fun house section in the amusement park level.
Speaking of the levels, SEGA really tried to give each a unique feel. While you do fight in some familiar places like the opening street level and the bridge level, you're also treated some exotic locations not usually used for brawlers such as the amusement park level, the baseball stadium stage (with underground illegal cage fights), and the jungle base stage.
The music shares in the improvement, holding some of the series' best tunes of all. It's very easy to jam to tracks such as Go Straight or Dreamer which fit the tone of rough action mixed with a bit of techno.
As for actual gameplay, Streets of Rage 2 uses the base formula from the first game, and while not much has changed, it's pretty hard to justify changing the satisfying system of punching, grabbing, and throwing mixed with occasional weapons that was already established in the first game. That said, you now have special moves you can use where you can pay a small bit of life to execute a strong hit against an enemy which usually has priority over their move. A nice addition and counter if you know you're going to be hit, since it's better to take an enemy down than take a blow yourself. However, considering you don't recover life frequently, some may be reluctant to use them at all which is a bit of a downside. The real improvement to the gameplay though is along with all the colorful locations, the game offers up more varieties of enemies along with a few classics from the first game. While you're fight many common schmucks along the way, this is also a game where you'll do battle with ninjas, robots, berserk bikers, and guys on jetpacks. Absolutely ridiculous, but also shows how committed the game is to pure fun.
Streets of Rage 2 is one of the best experiences you can find on Genesis, let alone one of the best two player games you can find out there. For a very reasonable price, you have a game that is very re-playable and memorable, offering some of the best parts of the arcade experience on a game console and now your PC.
If You Thought Superheroes Had It Easy, Think AgainCrimsonWizard | Jan. 19, 2013 | Review of Comix Zone
Comix Zone is one of the last beat 'em up games SEGA released on their Mega Drive/Genesis system, and true to it's title, is brimming with the charm and fun of an actual comic book adventure. As comic book creator Sketch Turner, you're sucked into your own comic book and must survive the drawn perils the book's villain Mortus creates, and then escape.
Thankfully, you become stronger upon entering the comic book universe, and are able to stand up to the minions and deathtraps of Mortus. However, unlike nearly every other brawling game, you're restricted to only two lives (or one if Mortus is feeling very uncharitable). And thanks to the occasional platforming peril, you can easily lose after one accidental hop into a pit. Adding to those problems, health pick ups tend to be hidden and scarcely found as well, even with your pet rat tearing up the comic pages for items.
So why play it? Despite the difficulty, the game is a really satisfying brawler with a variety of attacks you can use against all the henchmen and mutants. The comic page environments are really nice too, keeping with the flow of a typical comic story with outlandish scenery tailored to a fantastic adventure. Comix Zone also plays with the fact it is a comic book setting with Sketch and his pet rat routinely ripping apart the paper pages to progress through a stage or find items.
Overall, Comix Zone is a very charming games that fans of superheroes and beat 'em ups will enjoy, but it isn't friendly to newcomers of this sort of video game. Hence, I can only really recommend this to experienced players of the genre, but for those who enjoy this sort of game, you will love it. Will you beat the game is an entire matter entirely however.
The Game That Kicked Off A GenerationCrimsonWizard | Jan. 19, 2013 | Review of Altered Beast
Altered Beast is a beat 'em up arcade game made in late 1988, and eventually ported to the Mega Drive/Genesis version you see here soon afterwards. Originally, a pack-in game for the system, Altered Beast was meant to show off that Sega's console could faithfully reproduce the full quality and graphics of the arcade experience compared to Nintendo's more limited NES system. While not a perfect conversion, Altered Beast showed an arcade experience in the living room was possible and turned some heads before Sonic the Hedgehog took center stage for SEGA.
That said, there are several reasons why the Mega Drive/Genesis became far more popular once Sonic replaced Altered Beast as the pack-in game. Altered Beast was designed to show off the capabilities of the system, but has very little lasting charm outside of the hilariously grating sound clip of "Rise from your grave!"
The story is relatively simple. The evil god of the underworld and sorcerer Neff has kidnapped Zeus's daughter Athena, and you're revived and tasked with saving her, punching and kicking anyone who stands in your way. At least Zeus is in character, forcing other people to do the job he should be doing, but where is Hades in all this? While I'm glad Hades wasn't misrepresented as a villain like in the Disney movies, he's nowhere to be found with Neff firmly in his position in the Greek Pantheon. Also, if Neff is god of the underworld, how is Zeus able to revive you when you're dead already? The ending does give a little bit of clarity as to how all this silliness works, but it would be nice if it made sense within the logic of the game.
As for the game itself, it was made in that rough period between 8 and 16-bit graphics, and it shows with Altered Beast having great graphics and colors...for 1988. By today's standards, they're big, somewhat deformed, and rough around the edges. While later games would be able to use tricks and improvements in the cartridge hardware to look prettier, Altered Beast shows they had a lot of work to do to learn the system.
The actual gameplay also shows a lot of simplicity and arcade difficulty. While the parallax scrolling helps make the game a little smoother, it's hard to ignore you have only 5 stages to play through, and that you have only two real attacks, a punch and a kick. The objective is to gain orbs to transform into buffer forms until you become a were-creature of some sort to fight the stage's boss, and while the transformations allow you to play with new attacks, it's still very simple. Yet, despite that simplicity, the game is rather brutal thanks to it's arcade origins, and it will take planning and knowledge of your enemies to be able to survive past the first stage.
Altered Beast is an important game in terms of the medium's history. It was SEGA's flagship title for their Mega Drive, which helped push the way for Sonic and their other fantastic titles. Altered Beast's flaws also helped SEGA learn and improve on the beat 'em up genre with the later Golden Axe and Streets of Rage series. Despite all that history however, the game simply isn't fun to play. Outside of the "Rise from your grave!" meme, there's nothing particularly noteworthy or charming about the game with several titles heavily improving upon what it set out to do. It's not a bad game, but I can't recommend it either, and suggest you try out some of SEGA's other, better games on Green Man Gaming.
To Save The Beans You Must Blow Them Up! ...What?CrimsonWizard | Jan. 19, 2013 | Review of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine CAP
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a spin-off of the popular Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, and is a repainted version of the excellent Japanese puzzle game, Puyo Puyo. Oddly, this game uses characters and the version of Dr. Robotnik from the first Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon, and yet Sonic himself doesn't appear anywhere (unless you're to assume that you yourself are Sonic on the left half of the screen).
The game is relatively easy to learn, but takes some skill to really master. Basically, your job is to completely clog your opponents half of the screen with beans. This is done by combining four or more same colored beans on your half of the screen, and making combination reactions of other groups of beans, which causes piles of worthless colorless beans to fall into your opponent's space. You must be swift however, or the opponent will do the same to you and potentially ruin the combos you were developing.
As for the actual game modes, you have single player where you play through 13 stages of AI opponents with rising difficulty in both speed and tactics culminating in a brutal final boss fight against Dr. Robotnik himself. The AI is surprisingly good in the later stages and will test your resilience and patience, but thankfully there is a password system that will allow you to take a break and try again later if needed.
There is also a two player mode, which is always a good time, either as just as a duke out between two friends or as a party game thanks to the swift nature of the experience. Not really much else to say here other than I do think the multiplayer is better than the other big puzzle game Tetris, thanks to the how you can use the beans to attack your opponent rather than just run up a high score.
In short, if you like puzzle games like Tetris, if you're looking for a good multiplayer or party game, or if you're just looking for fast paced fun, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a fantastic choice for you.
The Answer Is Always More DakkaCrimsonWizard | Jan. 19, 2013 | Review of Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes is a run n' gun game made by Treasure, where you dart about screen, shooting any enemy that gets in your way, such as in the vein of Metal Slug and Contra. Why? Well, the story is very simple, an evil empire is going to revive an ancient evil robot that will obliterate Earth, and you (and a potential second player) are the only one who can blast both threats into dust.
Unlike it's competition however, Gunstar Heroes allows you to survive multiple hits. This doesn't make the game easy, in fact it keeps up a good difficulty curve to the end. However, it does make it fairer, allowing you to survive that one stray shot that would have killed you in similar games. The real mechanic that sets it apart though are the weapon orbs. You have two weapon slots to put in four different guns that can be combined that boil down to flamethrower, rapid fire, a lightning straight shot, and homing shots. While you can combine two of the same gun for a greater effect, part of the fun of the game is trying out the various gun combinations until you find the one you really like to deal with the stage and bosses.
Speaking of the bosses, the game's fantastic graphics give a lot of life and personality to the bad guys you're fighting, and the levels your shooting through. While they aren't quite as sophisticated as the 2D animation found in Metal Slug, Treasure managed to do more with lesser technology, matching the quality of their other titles such as Dynamite Headdy.
Gunstar Heroes is one of those classic games that really holds up well as a solid run n' gun game that few have surpassed. The price is fantastic for what you're getting, even better if you have a friend to play it with. If you're looking for some intense action, Gunstar Heroes will deliver.
Who Needs Guns, I Have These! PUNCH!CrimsonWizard | Jan. 19, 2013 | Review of Streets of Rage™
Streets of Rage is the first in Sega's popular beat 'em up series where you star as one of three ex-cops hellbent on tearing through every thug in down to save the city from the mysterious Mr. X. A simple premise for a brawling game already seen in Final Fight, but Streets of Rage did a decent job of offering some differences to Capcom's competition. Streets of Rage 1 remains of the few side-scrolling brawlers with multiple endings (later seen in Splatterhouse 3), and was one of the first to feature a playable female character.
In terms of mechanics, Sega improved upon the formula set in Golden Axe by adding a fun system based on grabs, throws, and flips in addition to punching your enemy's face into paste with your fists or weapons. While the special attacks were simplified, in return you have more enemy variety, though by the last levels you see an unfortunate amount of recycling with palette swaps of the same enemies until the final boss.
The graphics are decent, and while the later games highly improve on the environments, the first does an serviceable job of portraying a gritty city, while showing off a great amount of colors. The music works really nicely too, bouncing around urban and techno moods for good listening for the ears.
Streets of Rage 1 is relatively simple, but for a cheap brawler, it's a fun time, especially with a friend. While its sequel improves on everything presented here, the first game is a good game in it's own right, being one of the better brawlers of its era.
A Medley Of Sega's FinestCrimsonWizard | Jan. 19, 2013 | Review of SEGA Megadrive Collection - Series 5
Sega's 5th Megadrive Collection features a really good line up with all of them being good, if not great titles. Because there are over 10 titles in the package, I will try and be concise with each game.
Beyond Oasis: An vaguely Arabian themed action RPG with some pretty fun gameplay like Zelda, only with breakable sub-weapons and summoned spirits. A really fun title.
Dynamite Headdy: A really fun and wacky platforming game with the gimmick of switching out your basic head for differently shaped ones with different powers. Also of note are the really good graphics for a game this old.
Golden Axe 3: Unreleased in the US, the third in the basic, but fun beat 'em series vaguely based on Conan the Barbarian and other similar fantasy stories. The green dressed dwarf is put on the sidelines for two new characters, and there are some new level hazards, but it's your basic brawler. Not the greatest of it's breed, but a solid title.
Phantasy Star II: At the time of release, RPGs were mostly a sword and sorcery affair in medieval settings. Phantasy Star's popularity arose from bucking that trend by introducing more of a science fiction element to the series with different planets to explore, and monstrous aliens and machines causing trouble. Swords and magic are still around, the story is very basic, and this title had issues with grinding, but for the time it was really good.
Phantasy Star III: While the game's Generation system allowed for different combinations of heroes to play out and was more sophisticated than the marriage system of Dragon Quest/Warrior V, the game just feels flat. The graphical style of the game just feels off compared to the previous two titles, and it really fools you at the beginning into thinking the science fiction element was thrown out the door for castles and standard fantasy instead.
Phantasy Star IV: Now this is more like it! PS IV is one of the finest RPGs of its generation, boasting really great graphics, a use of cutscenes not really seen in an RPG before, and brings back the science fiction element of the series in full force. The characters are better developed this time around and even banter a little thanks to the chat feature, heavy grinding is no longer necessary, and the abilities and character selection is expanded open in this game. Honestly, the game is full of great ideas that came together for an excellent game and a great cap to the proper Phantasy Star series.
Streets of Rage 3: While the game has a graphical boost over Streets of Rage 2, and has a fun new character in Zan, this brawler has some problems. Chiefly, it's issues lie in it's difficulty and your lack of offensive power. Even with two people, you'll find yourself struggling and limping your way to the final level even on Normal. And if you try playing on easier difficulties, you're punished by being able to play through all the levels. A disappointing end to the proper series despite boasting good new mechanics such as the ability to dash, and a rechargeable special attack bar.
The Revenge of Shinobi: A fine platforming game letting you play as a ninja who requires precise moves and attacks to survive. The really notable part of this game is depending on the version you have, the bosses will be completely different thanks to Sega of Japan's liberal use of comic book heroes and villains as bosses. While this version was forced to recolor or replace most of them, cartridge versions may boast Godzilla, a Terminator, Batman, or even Spider-Man as potential bosses depending on when your specific cartridge was produced.
Vectorman 2: A platformer game where you play a robot fighting to save the Earth from environmental and natural disasters. It plays a little bit like Contra with your main attack being shooting with weapon pick ups scattered throughout a stage. The notable differences from Contra being that you can take more than one hit and heal, but also you have a handy double jump that can even be used as an attack. While the game is a bit tougher than it's predecessor, it's a fine game and maintains the spectacular graphics the first one boasted.
Wonder Boy in Monster World: A sidescrolling, action RPG in somewhat of the same vein as Zelda 2. This game uses charming graphics for the characters, has a fair number of secrets to find, and offers up a decent challenge for our swordsman. The story isn't super amazing like most of it's competition of the time, but it has enough charm and fun to keep you entertained.
Conclusion: This is a great set, especially with this price, compared to buying them all individually. While a couple of the titles were iffy, the overall set will provide lots of entertainment and shows off the great craftsmanship Sega had back in the early to mid 90's.
A Piece Of Gaming History, But Times Have ChangedCrimsonWizard | Jan. 15, 2013 | Review of Virtua Fighter 2
Virtua Fighter 2 is a fighting game formerly in arcades and Sega's consoles where the simple set up is: You're in a tournament, knock your opponent's teeth out! Like most fighting games of the time, there is little to no story in the actual game itself. Understandable considering it was an arcade game which relied on people quickly shelling out quarters, but it doesn't help endear the player to the characters in this day and age.
In fact, that's the general vibe of this game, great for it's time, but horribly dated by today's standards. While the 2.5D fighting environments were very innovative for 1994, today's fighting game's have learned many lessons from this and each other's earlier entries, improving upon the old formula here. While something like Street Fighter 2 still holds enough charm and polished gameplay to be fun these days, Virtua Fighter 2 just feels a bit clunky from graphics to the actual controls.
While I can't give this a recommendation for the average customer, a fighting game fan may be interested in this title. It does show one of the more successful steps companies took into the fighting game genre after Street Fighter 2's success. However, you would be better off spending your money one of the newer fighting games out there like Street Fighter 4 or so on.
One Man's Fallen Dream Is Another's Fun TimeCrimsonWizard | Jan. 15, 2013 | Review of BioShock DNS
Bioshock is the tale of one man versus the lunacy of the ocean blue, about the freedom we really have, and about how we have to be cautious about progress without forgetting our humanity. Surviving from a plane crash over the ocean, your only hope of survival is a small lighthouse leading to the formerly grand underwater city of Rapture. Like the fabled ruins of Atlantis, mystery pervades the creaky tunnels of the city, with the game teasing you with little scraps of information that eventually piece together the fall of Rapture.
Bioshock's grand story is supported nicely by the great voice actors giving life to the little voice recordings abandoned in the city, all linked to the ambitious figure of Andrew Ryan, founder of Rapture. His crumbling city also serves as the overarching character of the game, showing the player the rise and fall of a great dream with fantastic graphics and set pieces among the creaky ambient sound. The grandeur of the architecture blends nicely with all of the cracks and decay strewn about, illustrating the mood well.
The actual nuts and bolts of the game is very polished as well. While the beginning might feel reminiscent of Half-Life with the creepy opening and because you're limited to a wrench at first, Bioshock quickly veers into it's own direction. Yes, at first they seem like stock shooting weapons like revolvers and shotguns, but thanks to the game's upgrade system you'll be able to decimate your foes with explosive rounds, freeze them and shatter them with well placed shot, or even electrocute those idiots in the water from afar. Guns aren't your only means of defense however, with the game offering powers, called Plasmids in this story, which allow you to burn, shock, or even seek hornets on your enemies among the many other Plasmids at your disposal.
The game is not merely a shooter however, with the open environments encouraging exploration while defending yourself. Secrets and abandoned supplies litter the streets of Rapture, and hacking vending machines and security will make your intrusion on the city easier. While not as open as an actual sandbox shooter like Fallout 3, Bioshock also doesn't feel like a linear path like a typical war shooter.
Other notes in regards to the PC version are that, yes, it does have support for a Xbox 360 gamepad if you prefer analog sticks to the mouse. Also, in addition to the game client you may be playing this on, you will have to use the much maligned Games for Windows Live system to play it. While it is annoying having to log in to GoWL every time you want to play, once your account is set up, it isn't so bad and certainly doesn't ruin the game, but it's something to keep in mind.
All in all, Bioshock isn't just another Game of the Year from the past, but it's an experience well worth trying, even this far after it's initial release. It's a game that feels like art and makes the player wonder what the best way to run a society is. However, it doesn't forget that it's a game and ensures that it's entertaining to play through as well thanks to it's colorful weapon upgrades and Plasmid powers. Everything in Bioshock manages to fit together one of the most memorable games of our time, and I can not give it a higher recommendation.
One Of The Last Great Games Of The GenesisCrimsonWizard | Jan. 11, 2013 | Review of Ristar
Ristar is a platforming game released near the end of the life cycle of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It shows as Ristar is a very polished game that uses all the potential of the system, providing fantastic graphics that rival higher color counts of Nintendo's system, sounds fantastic, and has tight controls. The story is a rather average setup with Ristar answering the call to fight the evil alien Greedy and freeing the enslaved and hypnotized leaders of nearby planets.
However, the overarching adventure does a fantastic job of giving the player beautiful worlds to explore from blaze of a fiery planetoid, the bubbling life beneath an ocean world, and the tunes of a...music world? Yes, there are some strange sights in Ristar, but it does help to establish you're fighting through alien worlds.
Speaking of fighting and exploring, Ristar uses a unique mechanic to move and defend. Our hero is able to grab enemies and objects with his stretchy arms and hands, and can propel himself higher, swing across gaps, or just defeat an enemy or boss he encounters. It works rather well with the levels doing a great job building around this core mechanic.
While the overall game isn't too terribly hard, it remains a fun romp throughout and the final boss will test your mettle. Ristar is a finely polished game, boasting crisp, beautiful graphics and keeps itself entertaining with it's grab and propel mechanics. While the older systems had a glut of platforming games, Ristar surpasses most of it's competition and is fantastic, charming experience.
Super Mario Bros. 3's True SequelCrimsonWizard | Jan. 10, 2013 | Review of Kid Chameleon
As the review's title suggests, Kid Chameleon is a platforming game built around a system of power-ups found in boxes. Unlike Super Mario World which cut the number of powers though, Kid Chameleon expands on the idea, giving you many, many hats to play around with. For example, you have the knight helmet which provides extra health and makes you heavy enough to break blocks beneath you.
While Kid Chameleon has no world map, the game has a ridiculous amount of levels and secrets to find, including secret levels within secret levels. Platforming veterans will find a good challenge here too as the early levels quickly lead into many perils from fiery pits with difficult jumps, to having to avoid advancing walls of death.
Kid Chameleon is a game that will provide loads of entertainment for you, requiring several plays to see all the levels it has to offer, as well as finding the best routes to reach the end of the game. The game could have used some sort of mapping feature to make it easier to figure out if you're actually moving forward, but it also makes discovering a new exit all the more exciting, making you wonder what's next. Try it today, because it's a fine example of the 80's/90's platformer craze.
Conan the Barbarian: The Video GameCrimsonWizard | Jan. 10, 2013 | Review of Golden Axe
Golden Axe is the first one of Sega's storied brawling/beat 'em up series. A relatively early title on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Golden Axe lets you choose from either a male barbarian, the female amazon (and sorceress), or a viking dwarf?
Yes, while Golden Axe has a lot of inspiration from Conan the Barbarian, various elements from other fantasy stories are thrown in for extra fun. You can bash your foes in handily with your weapons, but you also have magic at your disposal as a screen wiping attack, or you can get riding animals who can attack your foes.
It's fairly simple and not particular long, but it's an overall fun romp through a fantasy world, just beating the crap out of evil amazons and giants. While I feel that Sega's later brawler efforts such as Streets of Rage 1 and 2 worked better, Golden Axe is a fun experience and great for its two player mode.
One of the Greatest Games of the 90's, Now at your FingertipsCrimsonWizard | Jan. 10, 2013 | Review of Sonic 3 and Knuckles CAP
Sonic 3 and Knuckles is the last true 2D title in the Sonic the Hedgehog series on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Being the combination of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, this game offers two whole games of content, making one of those most epic platforming experiences of all time.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles builds upon the basic formula of Sonic, run and jump at fast speeds, get emeralds, and beat Dr. Robotnik. However, this game introduces several new features to spice up the experience. Elemental shields now litter the levels, offering Sonic plenty of new abilities such as the Lightning Shield's double jump. There's also a new character select option, allowing you to play as Tails and enjoy his flying ability or Knuckles with his gliding ability (both at the cost of no elemental shield abilities), offering new ways to play through the game.
Level design is fantastic as well, with every zone offering multiple routes through to the end, and each world having a unique look. Mushroom Hill Zone and Ice Cap Zone in particular were a blast with the mushroom platforms and snow mechanics. The music is spectacular as well with nearly every tune fun to listen to, whether it's the multiple Robotnik boss themes, the special zone theme, or just the regular level tunes. While not as clear as those in Sonic CD, Sonic 3 and Knuckles' soundtrack is very memorable.
The game is one of the finest game experiences you can have, offering hours of platforming fun, a good challenge, and multiple ways to play. It looks and sounds great, A lot of heart and effort went into this title and for the price, you're getting quite a lot. I can't recommend Sonic 3 and Knuckles higher, it's one of the best Sonic games if not the best. Try it today if you haven't, you won't be disappointed.
How To Make Time Travel FunCrimsonWizard | Jan. 9, 2013 | Review of Sonic CD
Sonic CD is one of the lesser known, but still fantastic Sonic games, released as a killer app for Sega Genesis' add-on, the Sega CD. The basic outline is Dr. Robotnik is messing around with time to make his industrial empire in the future. Thankfully for you, you can zip through time as well and thwart his plans before they can take hold.
Sonic CD's basic mechanics aren't unfamiliar. You run and jump across levels with multiple routes, crunch some robots, and play through some special stages to get the gems (Time Stones) to beat Robotnik for good...this time around. The unique mechanic as listed before is time travel however, done by zipping quickly past by one of the conveniently placed time period sign posts. This isn't a half baked mechanic however, with the Past giving the whole level a prehistoric atmosphere, while the Future shows a gritty, grim industrial future (or a shiny, colorful future if you thwart Robotnik's plans in the area). You will also need to explore time in order to progress through several of the levels when you reach a dead end, and it's helpful for getting more rings and lives.
The music also deserves a lot of praise, whether you're playing with the US or Japanese/European soundtrack as the CD quality music sounds really nice, and each time zone for each level gets a tune. I'd also praise the US version of Robotnik's boss theme, which is probably the creepiest theme he's ever had in the series.
Sonic CD is a spectacular entry in the Sonic series, offering plenty for the player with tense moments like the race against Mecha Sonic, or with all the secrets hidden through the stages various time periods. The music is engaging and works well, and keeps true to Sonic's roots as a fast and furious platformer. If you haven't tried out Sonic CD, I highly recommend this title. The main game is loads of fun, and you won't see everything in just one playthrough, giving you a reason to go back.
If I Had One Word To Describe This, It Would Be "Awkward"CrimsonWizard | Jan. 9, 2013 | Review of Sonic 3D Blast CAP
Sonic 3D Blast is an isometric platforming game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. That means in order to simulate actual 3D, the 2D plane is tilted or twisted to give the illusion of depth. Now this concept alone isn't a bad idea and many games have used it to great effect, most notably real time strategy games and strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics. Heck, even some more adventurous games like Landstalker on the Sega Genesis and Solstice on the NES pulled it off nicely.
However, this isometric view has many flaws, particularly when you're trying for precise controls outside of the PC. Older games typically didn't have the option to rotate the camera and depth could be difficult to determine, even with a shadow. This hurts Sonic 3D Blast since these early games relied on Sonic pinpointing his attacks typically by jumping on his foes. Without the precision of the 2D plane however, it becomes odd and harder to hit your foes.
Another issue with 3D Blast is the lack of original or engaging environments. While several Sonic games start with a grassy area and end in an industrial or space area, the creators usually like to fill in the middle with unique and fun areas to zip through. But nothing in the middle has that iconic feel like previous levels like Casino Night Zone or Ice Cap Zone.
That said, the game does work and does it best to be a Sonic game despite the awkward perspective. You run around a level, jump on some baddies, and get the chaos emeralds to stop Dr. Robotnik. Without any unique levels though, without a great soundtrack, and with that isometric camera bugging you throughout the game, Sonic 3D Blast just feels like a mediocre title in the Sonic series. Many have argued that Sonic has had trouble with doing 3D, but it's possible and has been done such as in Sonic Generations or Sonic Colors. In short, skip this, there are better Sonic games you can buy on Green Man Gaming. Even if you're a Sonic fan, this game is unnecessary, offering little to the overall series but awkwardness.
A Decent Spinoff, But Only For Pinball FansCrimsonWizard | Jan. 9, 2013 | Review of Sonic Spinball CAP
Sonic Spinball is at it's heart a pinball game starring the fastest blue hedgehog alive. Except that Spinball isn't really built around speed. You're still collecting Chaos Emeralds and fighting Dr. Robotnik, but at it's core, it's a relatively standard pinball game where you're trying to collect a lot of points for a high score. That's perfectly alright though, as I enjoy pinball, but this one doesn't excite as much as an actual pinball table does. Heck, it doesn't even match up to it's competition in the Sega Genesis time period with Dragon's Lair.
I believe one of the biggest problems with this game is the sounds and music, as they fail to bring a whole lot of energy to the game, or even sound relatively nice to listen to. They drone on and on, while you're busy trying to get that last chaos emerald. Also, because the game makers wanted Sonic to be big enough to match up with his usual size in the regular Sonic games, it was a poor choice here. Because we're zoomed in so far on Sonic, you can only see a chunk of the pinball table at a time, making it harder to pinpoint where you want to fire Sonic.
Overall, the concept isn't a bad one. A pinball game based on a popular video game character can be excellent like Metroid Prime Pinball which managed to incorporate elements of Metroid with quick, energetic pinball. Sonic Spinball though is slower, and just feels like it lacks the certain about of polish or energy of a Sonic game. If you enjoy pinball or Sonic, you might want to give it a try, but you're not missing that much if you skip on this title either.
Why Would a Mad Scientist Need to Gamble?CrimsonWizard | Jan. 9, 2013 | Review of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 CAP
After the first Sonic's success, Sega quickly capitalized on his popularity and crafted Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It's a classic platformer that introduced several new locations to the series such as Casino Night Zone, and gave Sonic a steadfast ally in Tails, who also allowed for co-operative play.
Graphically the game looks a bit nicer than it's predecessor with an updated look for Sonic and some sharper sprites for you and the enemies. They also do a fantastic job of painting the backdrop of all the new locales Sonic is forced to run through such as Chemical Plant Zone which managed to bring a lot of color to a place that's basically a factory level.
Gameplay is relatively the same, run around to the end of the level, collect rings to protect yourself, and get to the special stages (now in goal posts) to get the Chaos Emeralds. Though with the addition of Tails, you can have another (basically invincible) character run around to help you collect rings or fight the enemies. You'll likely want another person's help too since without it, Tails has an AI that is prone to temporary suicide and little help to you during the Special Stages. The most important part about the game though is speed which the game accomplishes even better than the first title. Along with the ability to stop and spin to quickly roll, Sonic's pace is improved, allowing you to zip through a stage if you feel like it (or wish to speed run).
Honestly, there isn't much more to say. The music is really good with some especially memorable tracks in Chemical Plant Zone and the Final Boss tune, it offers more environments to play through than the first game, and the final boss feels like a legitimate threat rather than just Dr. Robotnik dipping up and down in a piston machine. The ability for two players on the same screen was a great way to include more on the fun, and you still have everything that made the original a good game. StH2 is well worth a play-through if you enjoy platforming games, and holds up well against it's modern competition.
The Start of the Blue BlurCrimsonWizard | Jan. 7, 2013 | Review of Sonic the Hedgehog CAP
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) is the first game in Sonic's long and storied game history. It was Sega's first really huge, commercially successful game in the United States, and fueled the start of the old 90's console wars. Does it hold up though compared to the platformers that came after it?
I say yes. However, there are a few issues that can't really be helped. For those grew up playing Sonic on a Sega Genesis controller, it might feel a little weird playing with PC controller. Also, some effects such as the waterfalls can't be generated as well since the game relied on how the old boxy TVs of old worked and exploiting their quirks.
That said, the game is still fun. Relatively tight controls in a game that invented the idea of a platformer built around speed. It's a little bit short, but each area has it's own personality, from the excellent sound track, to just the neat look of each area such as the fiery ruins of Marble Zone. It also brought the idea of the Big Bad (Dr. Robotnik) fighting you at the end of each leg of the journey, making him one of the most active bad guys in the industry.
Overall, it's a fun platformer. A bit overshadowed by the games Sonic and Mario inspired over time along with their own sequels, but Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) is a classic and should offer you plenty of fun for the price of admission.
Insanity Spreads, Time to Fix it Again EngineerCrimsonWizard | Dec. 30, 2012 | Review of Dead Space 2 (NA) DNS
Dead Space 2 is another in EA's survival horror franchise, built upon the framework of Resident Evil 4 in space. After barely escaping the Ishimura and destroying the Necromorphs in the first game, engineer and psychiatric patient Issac Clarke awakens to find himself on a mining colony shortly before the Necromorph threat re-emerges, making short work wrecking the place and infecting the survivors.
Deep rooted stress seems to have done our hero good as he's finally allowed to speak in this game, making Isaac a more engaging character as he's forced to survive and figure out what's going on this time around. The character cast is also a marked improvement rather than just voices telling you where to go next. You find out you're not the only one going insane, and what you thought you knew gets twisted around and back.
Other improvements over it's predecessor are the increase in environments. Instead of being stuck in either a tin, industrial ship, or space, Issac gets to also fight through an actual city with a church, school, mall, and residences. It actually helps make the Necromorphs appear more threatening, showing how they'll rip apart anything, even our cities for their goals, rather than just some giant mining ship in the middle of nowhere.
Unfortunately, the game still isn't very scary like it's predecessor with monsters still relying on jump scares or sneaking up behind you. The environments are spooky with the marks of death and darkness permeating the colony, but you never get that overwhelming sense of dread like an actual fear gives you.
However, the game seems to know this and instead opted to improve and embrace what Dead Space 1 was good at. Instead of the magnet boots for zero gravity, you get a fun jet-pack to fly around in those sections this time around, and puzzles still pepper the game. Your arsenal from Dead Space 1 is back, but some weapons have gotten nice upgrades with the Military Pulse Rifle finally packing some punch, and the flamethrower not being a complete waste of time. Your stasis power to freeze enemies is also better this time around, a bit faster and makes the tougher Necromorphs manageable.
Dead Space 2 isn't very good at horror, but as an action game it's very nice, improving on every other facet of the prior game. Isaac's an actual character this time around, his supporting cast is better, and the fun of Resident Evil 4 in space is still there, but now with an awesome jetpack. I give this game a big recommendation, and hope they continue the momentum upwards for Dead Space 3. I do have one question though for EA, how come Isaac looks like boxart male Commander Shepard from Mass Effect?
You're Stuck on a Tin Can of Monsters, Get Shooting EngineerCrimsonWizard | Dec. 30, 2012 | Review of Dead Space (NA) DNS
Dead Space is the first of a survival horror series made by EA, putting you in control of engineer Isaac Clarke. You're sent on what you assume to be a repair job, but are quickly trapped on the U.S.S. Ishimura, a giant spaceship with little chance of any immediate help against the infesting threat, named the Necromorphs.
Unfortunately, there isn't much to the story as Isaac is little more than the repair robot the side characters ask and/or demand to run around this hell in space to fix the ravaged Planetcracker. You're completely silent (unless you count the text only messages), with the only real character development being a growing sense of insanity, and most of the other characters are somewhat bland.
However, I can at least praise the game play. At first glance, you'd think you're playing Resident Evil 4 in space, and while that is the base skeleton of the game, Visceral Games made sure to craft weapons and mechanics to take advantage of the sci-fi horror setting. Zero gravity and oxygen deprivation areas are peppered through the game, you have Statis powers to freeze enemies and obstacles, and most of your weapons have a useful secondary mode such as proximity mines from your spread shot laser.
The Necromorphs are also not zombies, but abominations that will have lunge at you quickly with bladed limbs or try to drag you away to the dark depths of the ship. Something that may throw you off is that you must aim for the limbs, not their heads, which at least makes some sort of sense. The monsters are in a way like a parasite or virus, they wouldn't need their victim's brain, and shooting away their means of attack make them useless. While fairly gruesome looking, it's hard to call them scary, with the monsters relying on jump scares or brutal death blows.
Dead Space is fun if you're seeking more Resident Evil 4 and were disappointed with Resident Evil 5. There are actually some puzzles in this game, the environment hazards along with the monsters and weapons are a refreshing change, and exploring and looting is a good bit of fun. However, the game isn't very scary, supplies aren't really limited enough to be considered much of a survival game, and the overall plot and characters are forgettable. If you can get a decent deal on this, I would give it a try. I would also give Dead Space 2 a chance if you liked this one, improving on the some of the faults of this one.
You Are The Night! You Are Batman!CrimsonWizard | Dec. 30, 2012 | Review of Batman Arkham City: Game of the Year -
Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to the highly praised Arkham Asylum. AC had a high bar to reach from AA's fantastic experience and it exceeds on all accounts.
Arkham City is built around a chunk of Gotham City being sectioned off into a prison town where prisoners along with political protesters and dissidents are thrown in at the dead of winter, left to fend for themselves. While the scenario evokes Escape from New York, you're not Snake, you're Batman, and the city does a far better job of letting you act out that role. Swinging through the Gotham skyline is really satisfying, with the graphics detailing a gritty, decaying world rife with thugs eager for a shot at Batman.
The game is also very respectful of Batman's many incarnations. The story is very dark and thrilling like the current Batman movies, but also has some of the fantastic voice acting of the Bruce Timm cartoons, and nods to comics such as The Killing Joke for it's story. Keep in mind though, the Arkham games are their own universe, events might not play out as you would imagine.
Arkham City pays more than homage though. Rocksteady worked to improve some of the flaws of Asylum. There is more variety in the boss fights such as the Mr. Freeze fight, who learns throughout the fight and defends against your techniques, requiring you to learn and adapt in order to succeed. In fact, another improvement is that nearly all of the major characters of the Batman universe appear, either as their own side-quest or as part of the violent power struggle over Arkham City.
Ultimately, Arkham City is a glorious spectacle and a fun time. Hours upon hours of gameplay are offered between the plot, side stories, and the various Riddler challenges. Rocksteady kept what was good in the first game such as look, voice acting, combat system, exploration,and gadgets, but improved by expanding the game world for Batman and throwing more of his villainous foils into the mix. Whether you're a Batman fan, a fan of sandbox games, or just someone look for a fun game to pass some time, Arkham City won't disappoint you.
A Charming Platformer and Fun ChallengeCrimsonWizard | Dec. 28, 2012 | Review of VVVVVV
VVVVVV is a platformer built to resemble some of the 8-bit platformers of old. In particular, it evokes a graphical style like the Commodore 64, while using the unique mechanic of gravity flipping. While gravity flipping has been done before such as in Metal Storm for the NES, but VVVVVV is far more refined in it's use of it's mechanic like Bionic Commando Rearmed's use of the grappling arm in lieu of typical jumping.
By "more refined", I mean that most rooms in VVVVVV feel like a well crafted puzzle rather than just moving from one edge of the screen to the other. Each section of the interconnected world has a theme to challenge Captain Viridian, from spikes to reflective walls, and more. While a few of the collectibles placed in the game require navigating some frustrating puzzles, the game maintains a good difficulty curve. You'll die a lot, but checkpoints are frequent and restarting is quick, cutting down on frustration from a tough chamber.
Also of note, the soundtrack of VVVVVV is fantastic, using some 8-bit beepy sound with a jamming melody, each section's tune standing out from each other. It's a real nice listen when you need to stop to think out how to survive the next room.
VVVVVV is a great example of a platformer with a unique mechanic, paying homage to the old era of games while refining the gameplay to make it sleeker. It's not super long, but for the price listed and the effort put into crafting the world, VVVVVV is a fun experience.
The Sonic 4 You've Been Waiting ForCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 : Episode II
Sonic 4: Episode 2 takes place very shortly after the conclusion of episode 1, but it's clear in those few minutes that things have changed radically. Thankfully for the better! Episode 1 had the bones of something good, but clearly had too many faults and quirks to be a true Sonic 4. Sonic Team clearly looked at all of the complaints and suggestions and crafted together something amazing.
First and foremost, the physics and actual gameplay are vastly improved. When you move Sonic in this title, it actually feels like Sonic with plenty of fluid speed. You also have Tails helping you out this time, allowing for 2 player co-op. Or for those in single player, you can use him like an ability button to fly up and for combination moves, kind of like how Diddy Kong works in Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii.
Level design and theme is another firm improvement in this game. Unlike the previous episode which mostly copied or paid homage earlier Sonic games, Episode 2 uses mostly new locations for it's 2D fun along with new mechanics such as a level dedicated to tilting platforms or running along the sides of a wall. There are some callbacks to older games such as with the Sky Fortress stages and the Special Zones being based off of Sonic 2, but this time it's balanced out with new locales, and the bosses are all brand new and fun to fight this time.
The game is a lot prettier too with one of the weird quirks of Episode 1. When you run through the Slyvania Castle Zone, you'll be amazed at the beauty and detail that went into the level. While it's not quite on the level of Trine 1 and 2 in terms of graphics, it definitely looks great, even as you zip by at full speed.
The music is even a step up from before, with plenty of memorable tracks that would fit in with any of the old Sonic games.
And heck, for those who want more, owners of Episode 1 received a bonus mode here with Act Metal, letting you play as Metal Sonic himself and trying out some of the Episode 1 levels, but with the new physics engine and tougher hazards.
If my previous points did not make it clear, I'll spell it out. This is Sonic 4, the real one, 2D Platforming goodness and all. A lot of heart and care went into this one, and it feels like they addressed every problem with the first Episode. Actual new levels, better control and physics, wonderful graphics and music, Tails for fun flying, challenging bosses, and a good amount of gameplay hours. A fantastic title, and who knows, if you purchase this, there might be goodies waiting for you in Sonic 4: Episode 3.
A Good Game, but Clearly a BetaCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I
Sonic 4 is one of Sega's newer initiatives to help sustain and grow the popularity of the long running Sonic the Hedgehog series. Unlike the standalone titles Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, Sonic 4 is to be released episodically, allowing the developers a chance to fine tune and improve Sonic 4 with each episode, essentially making each one it's own game in a series.
However, it becomes increasingly clear as you play that Episode 1 is merely the origin point and beta for what's to come. While the game itself works fine and is a decent platformer, long time fans will likely be put off by the subtle and wacky changes to how the speed and physics handle compared to those in the classic Genesis/Mega Drive games or the 2D levels of Sonic Generations.
Another issue is that the game mostly recycles similar themes for its levels, evoking Green Hill Zone and Death Egg among others. The bosses are most remixes of old bosses from the 16-bit days as well, with the addition of some new desperation attacks for good measure. Even the bonus stages are ripped right out of the style of the Sonic 1 bonus stages.
The music is a positive point though, the tunes working fairly well, especially the invincibility theme. Graphically it looks nice, though there was an odd issue with Sonic looking a bit too bright during the outdoor stages. It's hard to tell without a screenshot, but lets just say there are little lesser quirks like that filling the game.
With all of these issues, it becomes a little difficult to recommend the title. It's not that bad, and it does unlock an extra set of levels for Sonic 4: Episode 2, but Episode 1 feels like a very rough prototype. However, don't be discouraged Sonic fans, for those who want more 2D games and enjoyed Sonic Generations 2D levels, there is Episode 2 which heavily improves upon Episode 1's faults. For more, please check out my review on Episode 2's store page.
A Decent Diversion, but UnnecessaryCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Sonic Generations - Casino Nights Pinball DLC
In case you did not see earlier, this is not for a new level for Sonic Generations, but merely a pinball mini-game themed after Sonic 2's Casino Night level, given as a pre-order bonus way back when Generations was originally released.
That said, for about a couple bucks, you get a pinball mini-game where you flip Sonic around a pinball table, trying to score as many points as you can. Unfortunately, that's about it. While it's nice that Sonic Spinball gets a little nod in Generations, this does match the sort of fun that title provided. Sonic is stuck in ball form, and there is no objective other than points.
It's not a bad pinball game, mind you. It's a bit easy, and doesn't feel quite as solid as other pinball games I've played, it works fairly well and gives you a nice in-game break from the platform perils. That said, you can skip the DLC as well, and not miss anything. Honestly, it comes down to if you enjoy pinball and/or if you're eager to finish the Sonic collection.
Sonic Keeps Racing Towards a Good FutureCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Sonic Generations
I would like to give just a little background before this review. My first system was a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, and I grew up a Sonic fan, loved 1, 2, and 3 & Knuckles. Then I ignored Sonic for a long time afterwards, having skipped his 3D outings until a few months ago I was dazzled and loved Sonic Colors on the Wii. Enthused by that title, I purchased Sonic Generations and was not disappointed.
Sonic Generations throws our hedgehog into a time travel plot where is was forced into an alternate reality populated by some of his most memorable stages and events throughout his 20+ years of games. Starring the modern version of Sonic alongside his younger, classically styled self, he has to race across each stage, free his friends that have become trapped in the alternate reality, and find a way back home for them all.
The game ran great on my PC with few hiccups despite the speed, making the 2D levels with classic Sonic feel like a return of those fun games from the Genesis/Mega Drive days. They thankfully also add something new thanks to the 2D re-imaginings of the 3D levels, and the abilities you can earn for both Sonics. While I would say Sonic Color's 3D levels were better overall, Sonic's 3D levels in Sonic Generations were still a good time. The camera kept pace with him and it wasn't too hard to keep a good pace through the level. That and it was fun seeing what places like Green Hill and Chemical Plant Zone would be like in a 3D perspective.
The game offers plenty of levels, bosses, and challenges for you to compete, making sure you get plenty of hours out of Sonic's 20th anniversary game. It sounds and looks great, melding together two eras of Sonic nicely, and works as a good introduction to the series for newer players. SEGA did a fantastic job keeping up the momentum from Sonic Colors and Sonic 4: Episode 2, and I look forward to more Sonic in the future.
A Decent Game Made Better with FriendsCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Borderlands
Borderlands is a RPG shooter in the same vein as Fallout 3 with a massive desert and wild west sort of theme. There are no cowboys, but guns are power in this world, each randomly generated with all sorts of pros and cons.
Gameplay allows up to four players to quest together in the dusty wastes, shooting just about anything that moves, leveling up and boosting the abilities of your chosen class (of which, you have four option), letting you use attack birds and invisibility against your foes among other skills. However, you'll find that while good general fun with friends, it's built upon the same sort of quests of "Go here, kill all the baddies, and loot." without much variation other than the times you can drive around in your vehicle to blast things.
The plot is also paper thin and merely a means to get us to the next level when it rears it's head. The four classes or characters while visually distinguishable, have little in the way of actual impact or personality, just acting as the tool for the player to loot and plunder.
Speaking of visuals however, a positive point is that the cel-shaded look of the game gives Borderlands a neat look, making it visually distinct from some of its competition and lending itself well to some of the cartoonish situations and bosses you have to fight.
Overall, Borderlands is a competent game and has some fun co-operative action, but on it's own merits, it's lacking a certain something. A few different types of missions and locations would have helped the main game, thought the DLC does help to fix those problems a bit. I recommend it if you can get a good deal on it. While I could say it's competition in Fallout 3/New Vegas surpasses it, I see potential in this game which I hope the sequel succeeds in capitalizing on.
Classic Gameplay, Shiny New LookCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Trine
Trine is a beautifully crafted game with visuals that will awe you. From hauntingly dark caverns and dungeons to brightly lit forests of viridian, Trine strives to give you something nice to look at while solving it's fun puzzles and perils. At it's heart, Trine is a platformer, using familiar tricks such as jumping, swinging, and swimming to get around to the end of the level. However, it also incorporates other, less conventional mechanics to make levels into more of a puzzle. While combat is relatively straight forward, you'll end up switching often back to your wizard in order to craft platforms and crates to bridge your away across hazards or to reach the next section of a stage. Thankfully, the plot of our three heroes being stuck in one body means that you can switch between the knight, the thief, or the wizard with a single button.
Trine is a glorious experience and is only surpassed by it's own sequel which is highly recommended if you enjoy this one.
Gritty New Look with a Familiar FeelCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Nexway
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda's latest game in it's long running series of open ended, high fantasy RPG series. While Morrowind had a dark color palette, and Oblivion used bright colors among the burning portals to hellish lands, Skyrim opts for a more visceral, realistic look. The game's land does a stellar job of a portraying the cold north with nature providing plenty of eye candy, along with the towns and dungeons which evoke a Norse style.
Skyrim also takes some lessons from Bethesda's recent experiments with the Fallout series, with perks you can purchase for your skills after gaining a level. I will say though, that because of the sudden difficulty jumps depending on your level, you might find multi-classing your character (a magic knight for example) to be a tougher challenge early on. However, the game also includes the typical adjustable difficulty slider, so you're welcome to ease things up until you're prepared for Skyrim's full fury.
Actual combat, world traveling, and game mechanics in all however still resemble Oblivion for better or worse. While combat has some new tricks such as dual wielding weapons, spells, shields, or a mix of them all, the actual fighting and enemy AI resemble the previous Elder Scrolls. Those who disliked such combat, may find Skyrim to be a chore. Crafting equipment and potions, enchanting and strengthening gear, and exploring for far off dungeons still remains in full force, giving the player an enormous array of options to deal with threats besides combat.
The actual story of Skyrim while interesting and complimented with more, and better quality voice actors, still falls a bit short with only a handful of truly interesting characters among the massive cast of NPCs to speak to. In the least however, every town area has it's own feel, with the townies having to deal with either the local threat of undead or monsters, or the political situation with the civil war against the rest of the empire.
While Skyrim doesn't feel like an evolution to Oblivion, it does feel like a better polished, and richer sandbox RPG than its predecessor. The Norse vibe throughout the game gives Skyrim a lot of charm, and hey, it's pretty hard not to make slaying a dragon fun.
An Interesting PuzzleCrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of World of Goo
World of Goo is an indie puzzle game which tasks you with using cute little blobs of living goo to reach a suction tube across the level, taking care not to touch or get hindered by the various hazards.
Your goo blobs each have a unique quality depending on their color with black being your basic connectors, while green is extra bouncy. The physics are a little iffy unfortunately with your connections not always lining up with what you expect after experimentation. The actual level design itself is good however, and the game as a whole exudes a fun, cartoony style, even with the drearier looking levels.
It's a pretty good experience, and should be tried by fans of puzzle games, with plenty of content in a neat package.
The True Fallout 3CrimsonWizard | Dec. 26, 2012 | Review of Fallout: New Vegas DNS
Fallout: New Vegas is a an open ended RPG shooter which drops you off in wreckage of Las Vegas...nine feet under. The introduction leaves you shot and left for dead, a simple courier on a mysterious delivery the main quest tasks you with discovering and finishing.
New Vegas allows you to move at your own pace with the plot though. If you can weather the hazards, you're welcome go off the rails. Complete sidequests, explore the far reaches of the map, skip the main path and evade killer bugs straight to Las Vegas.
Overall combat and exploration is similar to Fallout 3, but there are some subtle changes with new weapon choices and perks, and the return of various weapons from Fallout 1 and 2. However, a welcome addition is the new Hardcore mode which tasks you with maintaining your character. Injuries are harder to recover from, and you must eat, drink, and sleep to survive, giving the game more of a realistic edge and difficulty. It never got too terribly hard, but helped to give a persistent threat in the environment, and made food and medicine far more useful this time around.
The story and setting also surpasses Fallout 3 with a tale of mystery, with a mysterious and brutal new faction, Caesar's Legion, stepping up against the expanding New California Republic. Other groups such as the Followers of Apocalypse, Brotherhood of Steel, and the various towns and bandit groups also intertwine and fight each other, letting you join and quest for them like Fallout 2, or cut them down on a whim.
Obsidian worked very hard making a new Fallout that felt like the classic 2 from their Black Isle days, and succeeded, blending the old west scenery and 50's Future look with new threats and mechanics, making a wonderful, engrossing RPG. If Fallout 3 wasn't quite your thing, try this out.
Cyberpunk Conspiracies, Gold Paint, and Cool ShadesCrimsonWizard | Dec. 21, 2012 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third game in the Deus Ex series. Despite that fact, this game is an excellent starting point for people new to the series, thanks to the fact this is a prequel to the other two titles.
The story of DEX: HR is a solid one, leading Adam Jensen across the world as the social issues of augmented humans come to a head. The player is shown how such improvements can help people such as amputees regain their mobility, but also how dangerous they are with the many street punks and enemies Adam is forced to deal with.
As the tale unfolds, the game encourages you to explore your options. You can be super stealthy and sneak past most enemies through the ventilation shafts, and hack your way through every computer and alarm in your sights. You're welcome to grab lasers and rockets to mow down your enemies, or you can be a little more humane and knock them out with a stun gun or tranquilizer rifle. Heck, you can also talk your way through some characters who block your path.
The core mechanic of the game are your augments however. DEX: HR uses a level up system where for each Praxis Kit earned through pick ups or by experience points, you can spend them on skills for combat, survival, stealth, or even to reach new secret areas. The game does a fairly good job of making sure almost every ability will be useful at some point in a level.
There are some small flaws with the game however. Because the boss fights were handled by a separate studio, your only option to deal with them is to kill them, unlike the original Deus Ex. Also, the endings aren't adjusted much by your overall actions in the game, unlike something like the Mass Effect games.
However, the game is an incredible title and a welcome return to the series. I encourage everyone to try it out, whether they like shooting games, stealth games, or RPGs. The game manages to balance all three nicely, and sticks it all in a well crafted world of fantastic visuals.
Teamwork: The Bane of AlienkindCrimsonWizard | Dec. 13, 2012 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (NA) -
I would like to start by stating I speak as a new fan to the X-Com series with no real knowledge of the earlier titles. Despite that however, I found myself absolutely loving Enemy Unknown. X-Com is a turn based strategy game where you're tasked with whipping a team of new recruits into a fierce fighting force against an alien invasion.
You start out with relatively conventional equipment and soldiers, but by taking back the spoils of each victory, they'll all develop into one of the four classes the game offers. Heavies carry rocket launchers for explosive punches to the enemy line, Assault soldiers can run and gun with a shotgun for quick critical, Snipers have the longest range and are excellent on open maps and rooms, and Support has the most speed and can carry extra items to help your teammates.
In order to make the most out of your troops however, you need to equip them properly. That's where research and engineering come into play. After every successful mission, you're sent back to base along with all the alien scrap and materials you scavenged from the enemy. Your science team can take a few days researching and understanding your foes, letting your engineering team concoct several new weapons, armor, and even aircraft to turn the alien technology against the invaders.
Speaking of invasions, though your base only covers one continent, the invasion is worldwide, and you'll need to quickly construct aircraft and a satellite network to defend against occasional attacks from UFOs. Though some missions will have the aliens already on the ground, the game will spawn an UFO occasionally over the world as well. Failure to respond to these attacks will spread panic in the nations funding the X-Com project, and if enough pull out from fear, the plug will be pulled on your team.
Victory does not come easy, the game expects you to use good strategy and good blend of classes in order to win missions. Using cover is a key to staying alive, because early on, even the weakest enemy can kill you in one hit with a uncovered critical hit. Your enemies will slowly change as well, swapping out weaker varieties for their stronger counterparts along with brand new units that will happily rip your well trained soldiers apart. Death is permanent, so don't be surprised if you find yourself restarting a mission or reloading a save just to save a key unit on your team.
I feel I've barely scratched the surface of the title, but it is a definitely recommendation to everyone, especially fans of turn based strategy games. The look of the aliens and ships is interesting, the game randomly generates missions and threats to keep you on your toes, and it will quickly eat up your time as the simple mechanics at the beginning quickly grow complicated. X-Com sheer value in hours of fun gameplay will make this worth it to anyone willing to try, I guarantee it.
The World is a Colorful WreckCrimsonWizard | Dec. 13, 2012 | Review of Bastion Cap
Bastion is a story of a world ravaged and a lone child forced to fight his way through the ruins, trying to put the pieces back together. The initial premise has been seen before, but the twists the story takes show that beneath all the lovely colors and visuals is a world as dark as the devastation suggests. Through it all however, the omnipresent narrator remains your faithful traveling companion, uncovering some of the mystery of these hostile fragments of a once great civilization in a fine voice.
Bastion is an action RPG through and through, giving the player many weapons and abilities to experiment with. While difficulty is relatively standard, the variety of solutions provided for the game's perils makes the experience fun and flexible. I believe this is a title that just about anyone could enjoy.
While the gameplay isn't particularly new, the story, visuals, and narrator make Bastion an endearing title, and a fantastic example of a well crafted indie game.
Can you survive?CrimsonWizard | Dec. 13, 2012 | Review of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (NA)
When you break down a good game, most of them are like a puzzle. They require you to think of a solution or strategy to overcome its challenge, rather than relying solely on luck. Dark Souls does exactly that and then some to its audience. Many people who complain about the ease of modern games should try out Dark Souls if they seek out a challenge.
Dark Souls is an action style RPG, but set in an interconnecting set of stages which coalesce into a lovely world of the undead. Some may compare the visuals to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but developers From Software made sure to give each section of the game it's own personality, from the style of creatures to the fantastic set pieces. The story itself is rather light with a short introduction to bring you into the world. Afterwards, you're left to wander and try to understand what brought about this undead land on your own with the subtle clues peppered throughout the characters you encounter.
The meat of the game though is in the combat, and preparations for such. Dark Souls is a brutal, but fair game. It will rarely cheat to defeat you, but will gladly cut you down for the smallest mistake. Even if you progress your character down a path of defense and HP, you'll find that only buys you an extra mistake or two against later foes. The game expects you to block, or dodge, or if you're feeling especially skillful, parry and counter. Simply attacking head on will usually fail. You need to exploit opportunities in close combat, use the environment's traps in your favor, or find a place to snipe with arrows or magic if you want to succeed against your foes without losing your precious little health.
Speaking of death, while the game isn't as cruel as to send you back to the beginning, dying can be quite costly. Each enemy defeated (and certain items) will reward you with souls which can be spent at the spread out checkpoints in the world. Death will force you drop those souls in the place you perished, which can be a real effort to retrieve if you died by a nasty boss or trap. The game doesn't demand you to grind, but this system does subtlety suggest that it might be a good idea to retreat to a checkpoint and spend that large wad of souls, before attempting the trek again stronger and wiser of the ambushes and perils.
Dark Souls is fair however in it's brutality. The game offers many ways for you to experiment and explore to find your path to victory, from character and class customization to weapon crafting. Also, even though several of your foes are massive, many have a unique weakness or strategy that can be exploited. Some may be vulnerable to a certain magical element, while others can be easily blocked if they rely on one style of attack.
A final note that is worth mentioning, and why I deducted an arbitrary 5 points from this score was because this game, as fine as it is, has admittedly some porting issues. While slowdown didn't prove to be an issue for me like some other reviewers, this game was clearly made to be played with a controller, rather than a keyboard and a mouse. For some this may not be an issue at all as most PC games have some gamepad support these days. For those who strictly use the keyboard and mouse for gaming however, keep this in mind.
All in all though, Dark Souls is a fine title that succeeds in what it set out to do. It proves to be a difficult, but entertaining challenge, and I look forward to the recently announced Dark Souls 2.