Reviews by GAMERamble

92

Another shock to the system.

GAMERamble | May 13, 2013 | Review of Bioshock Infinite

The floating city of Columbia was supposed to be a shining representation of all that is great about America. Although styled like an early 1900s version of what heaven might look like, things quickly turned sour when this beacon of American superiority opened fire upon a group of Chinese civilians. The United States were obviously not impressed by this turn of events and Columbia slipped off into the clouds to pursue its own agenda.

The founder of Columbia, Zachary Comstock hails Columbia as another Ark and it is into this intriguing world that the lead character, Booker DeWitt must step in order to clear his mounting gambling debts. With a mission to "save the girl" Booker must brave the city in the clouds in order to liberate its most precious prize, the daughter of Comstock. Since the citizens revere Comstock as a prophet and his daughter as a "Lamb" that is safely guarded in a tower, this is not an easy task. Unfortunately for Booker, freeing the girl is the easy part as escaping Columbia is not that simple.

As the third installment in the highly popular franchise, Infinite had a lot riding on its shoulders. The fact that is not part of the storyline told by the previous two games allows for a refreshing break without straying too far from the familiar. For example, instead of wielding Plasmids, Booker finds "Vigors" which are potions that function in the same way. These require salt instead of EVE to use and allow you to fling about fireballs, terrorize your foes with swarms of crows, electrocute people or possess machinery amongst other things. While these Vigors are not as tightly connected with the story and setting as the plasmids were in Bioshock 1 and two, they make for exciting combat encounters. You can only carry two weapons at a time but the Vigors have up to three different modes of attack so you never feel limited in combat.

The game is quite stunning visually and the art direction is superb. Your first glimpse of Columbia is an all out assault of colors and visual effects but things become progressively bleaker as the game progresses. The inclusion of non player characters make the city seem much more alive than Rapture ever was but interaction is minimal and it is not long before everything falls into ruin thanks in no small part to your actions. There is a surprising amount of variety in the locations considering the setting although you will be revisiting previous areas a few times just like in the original Bioshock games. The Voxophones that has been scattered about provide more insights into the motivations of the major players in the story and it all culminates in a ending that will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

Bioshock Infinite is a great game and one that had me captivated from start to finish. As great as the visuals are, closer inspection will reveal low resolution textures that prevent it from attaining the same lofty heights as Crysis 3. Kudos to Irrational Games for actually giving PC players a decent port with settings such as the field of view that can be changed without mucking about with configuration files. While the game might not be a giant step forward for the genre, the incredible storyline and fantastic setting means it should be played by everyone. Trust me when I say you'll want to experience the tale for yourself before the spoilers hit the Internet.

70

A Relaxing Diversion

GAMERamble | July 24, 2012 | Review of Mah Jong Quest

I have a weakness for the Zen-like calm of Mah Jong games so my opinion might be biased but I quite enjoyed Mah Jong Quest. The concept is very simple to grasp but once you are hooked the game can become extremely addictive. I often find myself playing this game when I need a break from more action packed titles or while I am waiting for a bigger game that I have bought to download. If you crave non-stop action and excitement this is obviously not the title for you but those seeking a simple and addictive time-waster won't go wrong with Mah Jong Quest.

72

A very playable classic.

GAMERamble | July 24, 2012 | Review of Columns

Columns is one of those deceptively simple games that start out nice and easy, no problem at all and before you know it the whole screen is filled with things falling at the speed of light and one wrong move could cost you the game. No I'm not talking about a shoot em up, it's a puzzle game. Puzzle games have a reputation of being a bit addictive (if they're good) and columns is no exception. The idea is to match up falling columns( consisting of three colored blocks) in groups of three according to their colour. In order to do this the columns must be rotated in order to line up the matching three colours. This can be done in any direction as long as three (or more) columns of the same color is touching each other. They then disappear and after you manage to this for a while the level increases and the columns start falling at an more speedy pace. That's basically all there is to Columns and you might be thinking it's just a rehash of the old Tetris idea.

There is a few nice touches, like the way you get to choose what shapes are on the columns (fruit, dice, gems, blocks etc.), and there is also a nice game option called flash where you have to eliminate a block at the bottom of a whole pile of columns in the fastest time possible. The graphics are very basic and there are almost no backgrounds, but this is forgiven seeing as this is a puzzle game and you're attention should be on the columns anyway. The sound is barely noticeable and after a while tend to fade into the background. Sound effects are few and far between and generally unimpressive. None of this really matters however as the gameplay is solid. Columns III is still my favourite in the series but this one is still very playable.

60

One for younger fans seeking to expand their vocabulary.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of KrissX

KrissX (pronounced Kriss Cross btw) is the latest addition to a long line of word based puzzle games for PC. It is your quest to help "Wordsworth" the brainy looking owl mascot to unscramble some words by swapping individual letters around. Unlike other titles in the genre KrissX actually has more in common with crossword puzzles but does it have enough to lure you away from the newspaper?

Visually KrissX looks very much like a Popcap title which isn't a bad thing. The resolution is stuck at 800x600 so don't expect any high definition action but overall it doesn't look too shabby. The graphics are plain and simple with an empty landscape in the background that only changes to reflect the seasons. The owl mascot is also present on the levels to give it a bit more life I suppose but the little fellow has the nasty habit of obscuring some letters on the word grids. He fades away when you are working with words in his vicinity but it feels just a tad too slow. Since time is of the essence in some game modes this is a bit annoying. The same goes for the word clues that appear when you hover your mouse over the rows and columns. Nothing gamebreaking but over the course of 150 levels it can become a nuisance.

While I had fun with KrissX it just never became as addictive as a really good puzzler should. It makes for a nice change of pace but once you've done everything there is to do you'll probably move on without looking back. I can heartily recommend this game to parents seeking to expand the vocabulary of their children but chances are older players have already played something similar and better.

70

The scares are rather thin on the ground in this action fest.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of F.E.A.R. 3

The original F.E.A.R was one of the premier first person shooter titles on PC back in the day. Two expansions that were deemed non-cannon and a sequel that was a console port brought down the franchise a few notches but the brand name still generates some excitement. This third installment was handled by Day 1 studios instead of Monolith and the console versions were once again the priority so is the PC version still worth your time?

The game opens with Point-Man (and yes everyone addresses him as such despite how daft it sounds) being beaten by some Armacham facility guards. Paxton shows up to save the day and from there it's an action packed, bullet and blood drenched rollercoaster ride spread out across eight "intervals." The journey back to Freeport will take you through sewers, slums, suburbs and even a demolished airport. It's very clear right from the start that this game was designed with co-op in mind. Playing as Point-Man gives you the typical first person shooter experience as you go in guns blazing. He still has the ability to activate slow motion, which makes lining up those headshots easier. Paxton on the other hand cannot pick up any guns due to his corporeal form. He makes up for this by hurling bolts of psychic energy at enemies and possessing targets. As long as he has a hold over enemies, things turn back into a typical shooter although slain foes drop tokens that allow him to stay in possession mode longer. Paxton is vulnerable while in his own body so do not think that being a ghost makes you invincible.

The co-op mode is where the game really comes into its own. Paxtons abilities compliment those of Point-Man, so one player can levitate enemies making it easier for the other to riddle them with bullets. Like in solo mode you get points and achievements for absolutely everything you do which not only increases your rank (giving you new perks) but also determines who is the "favourite son" at the end of each level. Random bodies scattered throughout the game world also reward you with psychic pints so the game subtly encourages you to outdo your partner on each level. While there are a few multi-player modes, they are co-op only in nature and are played with a maximum of three other players.

The game definitely feels like a console port due to the checkpoint saves and field of view. I must admit that I found the lack of scares somewhat disappointing as well. A two-weapon limit and regenerating health further drives the point home. F.E.A.R 3 is a solid shooter with plenty of action and a kick-ass co-op mode but loses a lot of atmosphere in the process. If you are new to the series, you will definitely have fun but I would have liked to see a greater emphasis on the creepiness that made the franchise famous.

90

Excellent value for money.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City DNS

Grand Theft Auto 4 was an awesome game but due to the long wait thanks to console exclusivity and the performance issues when it finally arrived it lost a lot of love from PC players. Having to sit by and watch the Xbox360 get one excellent add on after the other was also a bitter pill to swallow but finally nearly two years after the release of GTA 4 the "Episodes From Liberty City" made the leap to PC. Consisting of both "The Lost & Damned" and "The Ballad Of Gay Tony" will these two titles breath new life into the series or is it a case of too little too late?

I think the "too little" part can be safely eliminated as together these titles represent excellent value for money and put a lot of full fledged games to shame with their content and length. New radio and TV stations, new weapons, new multi-player modes and new characters are just some of the improvements that these titles bring to the table.

Together these two episodes are unbeatable value for money and despite some small flaws should keep you going for days. Everything might still take place in the same city but hen it was created so masterfully in the first place, who cares? I would gladly purchase another episode set in this city if it contained the same quality script and voice acting as these two have. All in all this pack does what the GTA series have always done best, made you the star of your own action movie. The amount of things to do that isn't even story related has given me more entertainment than some other games I've played and once again the top notch voice acting brings the world of GTA to life.This is most certainly not a game that younger players should be playing but if your old enough to separate fact from fiction and can enjoy a game with mature elements then don't miss out on this title.

90

Less crazy antics but the same great gameplay.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of Grand Theft Auto IV DNS

Claude Speed, Tommy Vercetti, Carl Johnsonn: all great characters and stars of previous Grand Theft Auto Games - but all of them pale in comparison to Nico Bellic, the latest GTA protagonist. Persuaded by his cousin’s wild claims of wealth & opportunity Nico decides to leave his past behind and start over in America. He’s barely off the boat however, before his cousin’s lies and debts get him involved with some very bad people. Nico is generally a good guy but he is certainly no angel and his shady past catches up with him as he is dragged deeper into a life of crime. It’s not long before it becomes clear that Nico is motivated by a very personal mission of revenge and nothing or nobody is going to get in his way.

The graphics, provided your hardware can handle it, is incredible and the amount of detail is unbelievable. This is the closest thing to a living; breathing city I’ve ever seen in a game and simply just exploring it and noticing all the small touches is a treat. You can visit bars, clubs, restaurants, play pool, darts or even go bowling. Your mobile phone allows you to keep in touch with friends and call them to go out with you or even schedule dates. Far more than just a tool to shepard you from one mission to the next you’ll now get to use it during missions to take photos, to mms someone or to flush out a blackmailer in a crowd for example. Calling up your friends and going out with them not only increases the new sims-like friendship meter you have for each one, but a lot of them also have some sideline missions for you. This is made better by the memorable cast of misfits you’ll meet and interact with throughout the game.

Refinements to the GTA formula includes a new Gears of War style cover-system as well as blind firing for gunfights which ads a whole new dimension to the game. After using it a few times you’ll honestly wonder how you ever got by without it. Melee combat is also vastly improved with combos and blocking abilities. The playing area is not as enormous as the last game but it’s still pretty big and now more packed with detail than ever. Taking a train or taxi through the city or flying over it with a helicopter will make you fully appreciate how intricate it is. The civilians are also better looking and more believable than ever before. The vehicles still feel a bit floaty but luckily they can take a few more knocks than in past games before they explode. The damage modeling is superb and seeing cars break apart is a joy to behold (unless it’s your own one while trying to flee the police). Your character can also go flying through the windscreen if the impact of a crash is big enough. The new clip editor allows you to record these kinds of stunts and mishaps and splice them together for later viewing.

Some technical issues mar the experience but overall it is nothing short of a classic.

83

More than just the sum of its parts.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of Darksiders

The long foretold Apocalypse finally arrives and angels clash with demons with Earth as the battleground. It is the duty of the four horsemen to bring balance to the conflict and so when War is summoned he enters the fray without worrying too much about where his brethren is. Unfortunately it turns out that it wasn't really time for the Apocalypse and of the four horsemen only War made an appearance. With humanity not ready for the conflict and thus biting the dust War is promptly blamed for the whole mess and stripped of all his powers but manages to convince his superiors to grant him to chance of clearing his name. They agree but binds war to a "Watcher" who holds the power to take Wars life if he so much as strays from his mission. With all that done War is sent back to Earth where he has to regain his powers, unravel the conspiracy and clear his name by doing what he does best, cracking some skulls. This is just the first ten minutes of a twenty plus hour game so if you want a story to go with your action then you've come to the right place.

It is common knowledge that as well as being the talent behind comics like Uncanny X-Men, Ultimates 3 and Battlechasers, Joe Madureira is also a bit of a gaming geek. Now I have no idea how much direct input he had into the game besides his awesome art style but Darksiders is definitely not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeves. Depending on how long you've been playing games you'll spot elements from God Of War, Prince of Persia, Dark Sector, The Legend Of Zelda, Soul Reaver, Devil May Cry, X-Men: Origins - Wolverine, Prototype and even Portal. Some see this lack of innovation as a negative but I think Darksiders have combined all it's "inspirations" quite well and with the lack of decent action, adventure games on PC it would be madness to just dismiss this one out of hand because it imitates its peers.

Overall I was pleasantly suprised by Darksiders and really feel like I have received value for money. The game might be single player only but it spins an entertaining yarn and had me hooked all the way through. At twenty plus hours its well above the average length for the genre and with Steam achievements there's also a bit of replay value. If you are one of those people that loathe console style games this isn't going to be the game for you. Also don't buy this if you are the type to throw your toys at the mere sight of a jagged edge or low res texture. If however you can still appreciate solid and addictive gameplay with a nice mix of combat, exploration and puzzle solving then welcome to the world of Darksiders. It's not going to be a game that blows you away but its heartening to see this very underrepresented genre on the PC.

80

More than just a juvenile version of Grand Theft Auto.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of Bully: Scholarship Edition DNS

Jimmy Hopkins is a boy with some serious problems. Barely 15 years old and already expelled from most schools he finds himself enrolled in Bullworth Academy by his mother and latest stepfather as they go off on honeymoon. Notorious for its history of bullying the school is run by various groups and cliques so as the new kid on the block Jimmy is immediately a big target. No stranger to trouble Jimmy soon starts putting people in their place and builds up respect until he is in a position to put an end to all they bullying. Not everyone relishes the thought of a conflict free school so Jimmy has his work cut out for him.

Bully made a name for itself on console but its road to computer was a rocky one. Promising some enhancements and extended features this “Scholarship Edition” was practically unplayable upon first release thanks to the amount of crippling bugs it contained. Subsequent patches sorted everything out but by then this games credibility has taken a serious hit. It’s a shame as this fully patched version comes close to greatness and was a fun not to mention engrossing experience from start to finish.

The game can be a bit daunting initially with so much to see and do and seemingly so little time before curfew hits. After unlocking a few more save spots, learning some neat fighting techniques and discovering all the short-cuts the game really opens up and becomes addictive beyond belief. While not overly challenging the game has one or two tricky missions but win or lose you will always be playing with a smile on your face because of the onscreen antics. Who knows a few of the pranks might even remind you of your own misspent youth. To list all of the cool activities you can get up to in this game would fill up a review by itself but suffice to say this is another Rockstar classic and well worth tracking down and playing.

90

A real page turner.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of Alan Wake

Bright Falls, Washington is an idyllic little town on the Northern Pacific Coast. It is to this tranquil setting that author, Alan Wake is dragged by his wife in the hope of helping him with his writers block. Alan has written a few bestsellers in his time but in the two years since his last book hasn't managed to pen a word. With his marriage on shaky ground and pressure mounting to write another book Alan agrees to the vacation but what he finds in Bright Falls is not what he expected.

The game is split into six "episodes" and each has a day and night cycle. The day parts give you a chance to catch your breath and watch as the plot unfolds while the nights are filled with action and terror. Alan's wife is seemingly kidnapped shortly after they make themselves at home in their new cabin on the lake. Alan sets off in pursuit but wakes up a week later with no recollection of what happened in the meantime and scattered pages of a manuscript all over the place. These pages detail events that took place and even ones yet to happen but Allan has no memory of ever writing them. These manuscripts have been a source of controversy as some people feel they spoil the suspense by revealing too much. I found them to be fascinating and blundered off into the darkness on many occasions to make sure a flash of whiteness in the distance wasn't a page. More often than not this lead me straight into the clutches of the "Taken." These wretched souls serve as the main enemies in the game and while they were once human they are now filled with darkness and shrouded by shadows. Fortunately Alan has the foresight to carry flashlights or lanterns with him at all times and these can be used to "burn" the shadows away making the Taken vulnerable to conventional weapons. This can lead to some tense situations where you have to not only reload your gun but flashlight as well during battles. Enemies wield axes, hammers, chainsaws and other unpleasant instruments so letting them get up close is not a good idea. At times I found myself sprinting to the nearest light source like a moth to a flame just to escape the onslaught. Light acts as a safe haven but Alan is not very fit and the game sometimes cruelly snatch away the light when you reach it which results in even more tense situations. Running through a dark forest, at night while being pursuit by armed assailants spouting gibberish is tense no matter what other people might try to convince you.

Playing through the game was an engrossing and entertaining experience. New episodes in the form of DLC is now part of the package so PC has something to smile about. Alan Wakes story might become a bit too tangled for those that dislike complicated plots but that's their loss. I was hoping for a few more puzzles to round out the running and killing but this was not to be. This game took its sweet time reaching the PC but it was worth the wait.

60

A large but rather empty sandbox.

GAMERamble | July 19, 2012 | Review of Just Cause Capsule

The tropical island of San Esperito would have been a paradise if it were not for the small matter of all round evil dictator, Salvador Mendoza running the show. Since el presidente is rumoured to have weapons of mass destruction in his possession a shadowy group called the "Agency" has stepped in. By sending in their best operative, Rico Rodriquesz to destabilize the region, their ultimate goal is to overthrow the dictator and destroy the wmds. With more than 250,000 acres of territory to work with this is not an easy mission.

Well, if this was based on real life it would not have been easy but for super agent Rico it is all in a days work. Besides being the spitting image of Antonio Banderas in Desperado, Rico is also quite the bullet sponge and can even soak up a direct missile hit or two before he succumbs. Rico also has a magical parachute, which can be activated and re-activated at almost any time with a complete disregard for physics. Later in the game Rico even unlocks a grappling gun, which allows him to latch on to nearby vehicles so that he can parasail along or even hijack the vehicle in question. With something like eighty-nine vehicles on the island including cars, tanks, helicopters and even jets, you can image the fun that there is to be had.

With a bit more testing, polishing and variety Just Cause could have been a great game. It is a different experience compared to the Grand Theft Auto series but runs out of new tricks way too soon. I definitely had fun playing it but I cannot turn a blind eye to its faults. While it kept me playing for more than 30hours it can easily be completed in fewer than ten if you do not care about all the side missions. The game had so much potential but never made use of it all.

85

But is it art?

GAMERamble | July 18, 2012 | Review of Dear Esther DNS

The biggest debate surrounding Dear Esther is whether it is even a game & deserve to be judged by the standards of other games or not. This is a very difficult question to answer since for every gamer exploring the island in rapt fascination you'll find another frustrated by the plodding pace & lack of interaction. This obviously makes it a very hard experience to review since the whole adventure is very brief & very open to interpretation. To say anything about the story will inevitably spoil some of the surprises. I finished the whole thing in less than two hours & while it was definitely a departure from what I am used to the whole experience was captivated enough that I did so in one sitting without growing bored. This is quite a mean feat for something that required almost no interaction from my part.

70

More fun than what I expected!

GAMERamble | July 18, 2012 | Review of The Adventures of TinTin: The Game

The bulk of the game is made up of side scrolling platform sections and surprisingly enough these reminded me of the classic Prince of Persia games. Based on the movie, which in turn is a mix of two Tintin books, you get to explore locations like Marlinspike Hall, The Karaboudjan (a ship,) Bagghar and Brittany. The platforming action is rather straightforward and level progression pretty linear. There are some hidden treasure chests scattered about for you to find and the occasional simple puzzle but overall things are very easy. This is clearly a game that is aimed at younger fans but the older ones will have fun too.

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing through this game and I think that it is a pretty good movie adaptation. Many critics have panned this game for being too short and easy so I guess it is easy to become spoiled by all the triple-A blockbusters to the point where you are too jaded to enjoy a hidden gem like this one. This is a great game to sit down and play with your young ones as all alcohol references have been removed and the violence is very slapstick. Unless you cannot stand the character or hated the movie, there is no reason not to try this game. The 3D sections might be a bit hit or miss but the platforming sections more than make up for it. As a Tintin fan, it has even made me go dig out all the old books to read again, which must be worth something!

90

Light on gameplay but heavy on story.

GAMERamble | July 18, 2012 | Review of To The Moon

At first glance, the game does not look like much unless you are a retro junkie like me. It was created with the "RGP Maker XP" software so it bears more than a passing resemblance to 16-bit SNES classics like "Chrono Trigger." You have the isometric view and speech bubbles but don't worry as there are no level grinding or even battles (bar one small section) to worry about. The focus is firmly on the story with everything else being secondary. This means that the gameplay itself is very bare bones but with such an engrossing plot it hardly matters. The gameplay lies somewhere between a point and click adventure and visual novel so while it can be compoleted in roughly four hours it also means that there is almost no unnecessary padding. Since the gameplay is so linear and there are no real puzzles to impede your progress, it is entirely possible to complete the game in one sitting. One thing is for sure; I experienced a lot more emotions in those four hours than in many games ten times longer.

It has been a while since I have played a game as gripping as this one. Since the story is the highlight, I cannot say much about it apart from urging everyone to play it with as little foreknowledge as possible. The emotional impact just will not be as great if you already know what to expect. It is a pity that the visuals will scare away some people, as the game deserves to be played by everyone. While it might not be the greatest "game" you can play, I think that there are very few other titles out there that can match it in terms of story. If future episodes can only achieve half of the emotion captured by this one, I will already be happy. It is going to be a very tough act to follow however.

80

Showing the bigger companies how it's done

GAMERamble | Dec. 1, 2011 | Review of Penumbra Collection

This collection is an admirable attempt at something new and makes for a nice break from all the running and gunning in first person perspective games. There's plenty of logical puzzles to work your way through and a hair-raising story that will have you hooked right to the end. The graphics are not exactly cutting edge and it's not as scary as it tries to be (it gets better with each installment though) but overall it is a good series.

70

Expectations were just too high.

GAMERamble | Dec. 1, 2011 | Review of Duke Nukem Forever

So in the end, Duke Nukem forever didn’t turn out to be the uber game that everyone was expecting. For what it is, though, I still had a lot of fun playing it. The game was longer than average, which is always a plus and there are some good ideas packed in there as well. I could have done without all the murky underwater scenes, but while annoying, it didn’t ruin the game for me. Bottom line is if you approach this game with the mindset that it is going to suck, then it obviously will. If, on the other hand, you take it for what it is, a fun, but flawed shooter, then you’ll have a good time. The important thing is to try it for yourself and form your own opinion and not just jump on the game-bashing band wagon.

75

Bob the spaceship builder.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Bob Came in Pieces CAP

Despite the gruesome name Bob Came In Pieces is actually a nice little Indie game. You have to travel around collecting parts for Bob's spaceship but the way in which you assemble them will determine how you solve the puzzles. The whole thing is physics based but the 25 levels are over before you know it. At this price however its a steal.

80

Try before you buy.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Rift - Free Trial

Guild Wars is my MMORPG of choice and it takes a lot to lure me away from it but I have to admit that Rift had me tempted. I'm not a big fan of these games that require monthly subscriptions but since Rift has a free trial you have nothing to lose by checking it out.

75

Game, set and match.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Virtua Tennis 4 DNS

Since my only other Tennis experience is with Sega Superstar Tennis I don't really have much to compare this to. It's fun and playing it with a gamepad is highly recommended. It is obviously a console port but if you don't have access to a Xobox 360 and enjoy a good game of tennis then this is worth your while.

90

In a class of its own.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Trackmania United Forever

Like many others my first experience with the TrackMania games comes from the free version. I played it to death but was unsure if this title was worth getting and if it could add much to the experience. The answer in case you didn't know is a resounding yes. Racing the cars around outlandish tracks and shaving seconds off your best times remains a blast and the multi-player is beyond entertaining. Highly recommended.

45

Very disappointing

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Still Life 2

The original Still Life was by no means a great game but the tale of Victoria McPherson, a FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer was an intriguing one. The game had its moments but was a chore to play at times and I was hoping that the inevitable sequel would improve on all the rough spots. However four years down the line Victoria McPherson is back and still chasing a serial killer, dubbed the "East Coast Killer" but instead of eradicating the flaws it would appear that it was all the good parts from the first game that got the chop.The interesting pre-rendered locations from the first game has been replaced by pretty much one big dull 3D location that has more in common with the SAW movies than anything that happened in the last game. If your idea of fun is exploring a creaky old mansion that seems to consist of a endless series of doors and stairs for your character to slowly mince through then this is the game for you. a second character, journalist Paloma Hernandez, has been introduced and you'll take turns controlling her and Victoria but this just means that the same locations have been re-used.The game had a lot of potential but in the end can't even hold a candle to the ageing original. I was very disappointed with Still Life 2 and if there are any plans for a sequel I would probably not even be interested.

75

They don't make 'em like this anymore.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Gobliiins Trilogy

Goblins 3 was one of my first adventure games and while it wasn't in the same league as the old Lucasarts titles it was still a blast. This pack contains all three the Gobliiins titles and is great value for money if you enjoy a good head scratching adventure game. They are very dated by today's standards but the gameplay is still solid and the humor will have you laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

85

The wonderful world of Worms.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Worms Reloaded

There are few games that are as wacky and addictive as Worms in multiplayer and while Reloaded is not the best in the series its still pretty darn good. If you are into single player games then there is a few hours of fun to be had here but it should honestly only be used to practice for taking on a human opponent. The look on a friends face as you blow their Worms to smithereens using a holy handgrenade is worth the price of the game alone.

90

Complete masterpiece.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Sid Meier's Civilization® IV Complete Cap

I have been playing the Civilization games since day one and I can honestly say that the fourth installment is so good that I have had no reason to start playing the fifth! If you only ever buy one strategy game in your life make sure its Civilization IV.

81

Fight for your right to freeeedom!

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich

Irrational Games made some pretty awesome games back in the day but the original Freedom Force is still one of my favorites. Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich was over a little too soon for my liking but I definitely had fun while it lasted. The comic book style visuals, wacky characters and good voice acting makes this a great game to add to any collection.

75

Hack attack.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Uplink DNS

Ever wanted to experience the thrill of hacking without actually learning a line of code or worrying about the FBI kicking your door in? Then Uplink is your game. It's not exactly realistic but that would have made it boring in any case. This game is unlike most other games I've played and once you get hooked you'll be playing for a long time. Not everyone is going to enjoy the gameplay and the visuals are nothing to write home about but this game has plenty of atmosphere and is unique.

80

Strategy fest.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of UFO: Afterlight Cap

I'll be honest I only purchased this game because I was a huge fan of old X-com games. This game sounded like an update and while it never really reaches the same level of awesomeness it is definitely worth playing. You get a lot of content for the price and the game will keep you busy for ages so if you are a fan of the genre then you can't go wrong with this one.

85

A stealth classic.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

This is a great place to start if you haven't played any of the Splinter Cell games before. The series has since moved on in a different direction so even if you have played some of the latter titles this one still has merit. Sneaking around in the shadows while performing missions is a blast and while there are occasional moments of frustration there is still plenty of fun to be had here.

90

Way better than expected.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Assassins Creed Brotherhood

Released shortly after Assassin's Creed 2 and continuing the story directly, my initial thoughts were that Brotherhood would just be a glorified mission pack to showcase the new multiplayer mode. Since I had no interest in multiplayer Assassins' Creed I thought that this game would hold very little for me. I couldn't have been more wrong. Instead of one or two new memory sequences, Brotherhood carries the story forward with a single player campaign that is comparable in length with the last two games and arguable even more feature packed. Expanding on what was good in the last game but falling short of a full fledged sequel, Brotherhood nevertheless has a lot to offer to fans. As the name implies Ezio can now recruit fellow assassin's and call upon their assistance in battle. Their help can really turn the tide and make some missions a bit too easy but it's definitely a nice new addition to the franchise. Their numbers are tied to the amount of districts you've liberated and there's a cool down period when making use of their skills but its still easy to misuse them in order to make Ezios life easier. You can send them off on missions so they earn money and experience making them unavailable for the duration but these typically don't last more than ten minutes. Thieves, courtesans and mercenaries are still available for hire but I found myself making less use of their services. Faction buildings can be opened up to increase income and put more members of one of these three groups in the area. There's also loads of side missions associated with these groups and even the shops so if you area completionist you'll have a lot to keep yourself busy with. Speaking of which if you want to complete a mission with 100% sync you'll now have to fulfil some extra criteria like only killing the target, not swimming or not touching the ground. Fail to adhere to the rules and you'll only get 50% sync rate upon completion. This in a way balances out the assassin assistance you have at your beck and call.For the first time in the series there is a multiplayer component which for the most part seem to work pretty well. Provided you can find descent opponents the deadly games of cat and mouse will serve as a nice diversion from the main quest and extend the life of the game. While the game was loads of fun to play it does fall short in certain areas. The mission where Ezio has to lead twenty mercenaries disguised (badly) as French troops through the city felt like herding cats due to the game not being very consistent with where it allows you to go. A few steps to the left might get you a "failure" while a few metres to the right is fine and vice versa. The same thing with missions where you have to tail people. Chase missions can also cause some hair tearing with tons of enemies literally appearing out of thin air next to you when you thought you have escaped. Not cool, especially with a timer ticking down and a checkpoint that tells you to "become anonymous" in order to continue. All I can say is that smoke bombs and arrow strikes are your friend.

While Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is not the big leap forward that Assassin's Creed 2 was I don't think that ever was the intention. The multiplayer mode may have been hogging the limelight but I was surprised at the amount of content included with the single player. This game offers a lot of value for money and certainly whets the appetite for Assassin's Creed 3.

80

The roots of a great series.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Hitman: Codename 47 Capsule

Hitman: Codename 47 is a very unforgiving game so if you are not prepared to really put planning and effort into your kills you'll end up with a lot of frustration. The best part of the game is when everything just falls into place and you manage to execute the perfect kill. Of course this can take a lot of trial and error but the end result is worth it. Just remember that the visuals aren't going to blow you away.

90

Unique and fun.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of Trine

Trine is set in a fantasy world that is under attack by hordes of undead. An intrepid thief decides to break into the Astral Academy amidst all the chaos but finds herself bound to a mysterious artifact. A lone Wizard that stayed behind to practice his magic comes to her aid only to be bound as well. The same fate befalls the knight who took it upon himself to guard the Academy when he comes to investigate the commotion. The trio’s only hope is to work together as they search for the tomb of the Guardian deep below the Academy. Their fate lies in your hands.The path through each level is fairly linear and once you complete a stage, there’s no turning back, so don’t expect anything like recent Metroid or Castlevania games. In fact, the game reminded me most of the classic “Lost Vikings” titles by Blizzard. Players are able to switch between the three characters at any time and each one has their own unique skills that are needed to complete the level. The thief can hit targets from afar with her bow and arrows or swing across hazards with her grappling hook. The Wizard never quite managed to learn the fireball spell but is an expert of levitating objects and conjuring things. The knight, on the other hand, is an expert at close range combat and his shield can block anything sharp heading his way. In other words, the thief and wizard are your puzzle solvers, while the knight is there to dispose of critters. A clever tutorial level will let you master each character’s skill while also setting up the story.I must admit Trine exceeded my expectations and had me hooked for its duration. It is one of the most polished and entertaining titles in the genre and with games like this, a scarcity on PC it definitely deserves some support. Hopefully Frozenbyte is able to recapture the magic in Trine 2.

70

A bat blast.

GAMERamble | Aug. 8, 2011 | Review of LEGO Batman: The Videogame DNS

It’s not everyday you get to lay waste to your surroundings and hit people so hard their heads go rolling across the floor. It is even more shocking to encounter this kind of carnage in a children’s game. Travelers Tales however has made a name for themselves doing just this, and their Lego line-up is expanding with the Caped Crusader (and boy wonder) joining the ranks. If you love Lego (who doesn’t?) and enjoy the adventures of Gotham’s finest, then you won’t want to pass up this game.

The Lego games are all obviously made for kids, but that hasn’t stopped adults from enjoying them as well. There’s just something about seeing the little blocks come to life and pantomiming their way through famous and memorable movie scenes. Batman has always been a darker and grittier kind of hero than the usual Lego fare, but Travelers Tales have don an admirable job in translating the source material into something suitable for all ages. The plot is obviously not going to win any Oscars, but sees all of Batman’s foes escaping from Arkham Asylum and wreaking havoc across the city. In a brilliant twist, players get to experience this tale from all sides as both the heroes and villains have their own campaign.The visuals are very good and all the characters are animated really well. With six chapters containing five levels each, you’ll get to explore every nook and cranny of Gotham City. There’s even two secret levels set in Wayne Manor and Arkham Asylum. The visuals are smooth throughout (which is ironic, considering it is a game about blocks) and there’s plenty of variety. The static camera angle can make some jumps harder than they should be, but does a good job overall on keeping the focus on the action. Levels are all fairly linear, so there’s not really a chance of getting lost, but you will be searching high and low for a few of the hidden items. Freeplay mode allows you to tackle a level with any character you already unlocked, which enables you to reach new areas that required certain skills not available in story mode. This, along with the interesting achievement list, gives the game a lot of replay value.

For a game that features no real speech, the audio is pretty decent and the iconic Batman theme song is heard throughout the levels. It can become repetitive, however, along with the laughs and screams of certain characters. While there isn’t as many characters as in past games, there’s an interesting “create-a-character” feature. If you ever wondered how Batman would look with Cat-Woman’s body, then this is for you. Various parts can be mixed or matched to create a truly ghoulish character.

Lego Batman: The Videogame is an entertaining title, but not exactly what you would call a classic. Fans of the franchise should know exactly what they are getting themselves into by now, while everyone lese will either be drawn in by the cute visuals ore scored off by the “Lego” in the title. This game packed a lot more than what I was expecting, and overall I had a blast.

86

Retro at its best

GAMERamble | June 27, 2011 | Review of VVVVVV

Everything about this game screams Indie. From the catchy chip-tune beats to the Flash looking graphics this title is as Indie as they come. As far as retro style platform games go this one is a winner. The challenge might catch you off-guard but it definitely has that "one more try" factor going for it. At this price you have no excuse not to get it.

90

Prepare to be challenged

GAMERamble | June 27, 2011 | Review of Super Meat Boy

I knew going into this game that it would be a challenge and really thought I was prepared. Guess again, this game will drive you to the point where you want to tear your hair out but trust me you'll keep coming back for more. Don't get this if you are impatient or easily frustrated but otherwise prepare for the challenge of a lifetime.

50

Not that hot...

GAMERamble | June 22, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Frozen Lake DLC

$1.99 isn't a lot but I'm not quite sure if it is worth it just for many "different pleasing shades of blue and white." Once again the worth of this bit of DLC is going to depend on how much you play the Versus game mode. It makes for a nice change of scenery but wouldn't definitely have benefited from a few more extras as part of the package.

50

All along the watchtower.

GAMERamble | June 22, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Watchtower DLC

If you play the Versus mode of the game a lot and are already tired of the other maps then this might be worth an investment. Otherwise there isn't much value for money here. While the map looks really nice it is a bit bare bones for the asking price.

50

Party on

GAMERamble | June 22, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Party Robes DLC

This bit of DLC pretty much does what it says in the name, provide you with new robes for all the wizards in your party. If you play the game alone then this is pretty pointless and even if you like playing with friends this is merely a cosmetic change for the most part. If it's worth the price depends on how big a Magicka fan you are.

70

Increased Nerd Factor!

GAMERamble | June 22, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Final Frontier DLC

Out of all the new Magicka DLC this one offers perhaps the most substantial content. It's still a bit pricey for what you get but if you are a Magicka fan you'll enjoy the new map and playing it in versus mode is quite fun. Challenge mode doesn't last as long unfortunately.

80

Exactly what the name implies.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of RailWorks 2 Train Simulator

I'll be honest trains are not really my thing and a simulator about them is about the last thing that was on my to-buy list but I ended up getting this game and giving it a bash. Like the name says its a simulator so if you are looking for something fast paced and action packed then you can safely steer clear of this. It took me a while just to get the train started and when I did it wasn't long before I derailed it. This game requires patience and a willingness to understand how the trains work. Once you get the hang of it things become quite fun but it's never going to be a adrenaline rush like a arcade title. For train fans this game is nirvana and there's enough expansion packs to keep you going for a long long time. Everyone else should probably think carefully for putting down the cash on this.

95

Outstanding value for money.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Guild Wars Trilogy

If you want to play a large and engaging online role playing game but don't want the hassles of a monthly subscription then Guild Wars comes highly recommended. I've been playing the games in this trilogy on and off for the past year or so and I'm still not bored with it. There's always some cool new event and the stuff in the game you have to pay for with real cash is really optional. There's a lot of other MMORPGs out there that are free but Guild Wars Trilogy really is worth the asking price. Get this and get ready for months of gaming.

80

Just one more try...

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of VVVVVV

If you are a fan of platform games and don't mind a "retro" look then you can't miss this great indie title. The chiptune music is outstanding and the gameplay is extra challenging due to the gravity puzzles. Be warned this is not a game you'll just breeze through despite it's simple looks.

91

Shine on!

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Shining Force ™

A 1000 years ago an epic battle between good and evil too place in the world of Rune. The forces of good finally managed to overcome the enemy and the forces of evil were banished to another dimension. The gateway between the two dimensions were sealed but not before evil vowed to return in a 1000 years after gathering enough power to break through. This was a long time ago and the cities of Runefaust and Gaurdiana which was build to protect the gateway has forgotten about the past. In fact the army of Runefaust under the command of someone called Dark Sol is terrorizing the land and monsters have been sighted all over the place. It seems that Runefaust is trying to open the gate and let the ultimate evil, know as Dark Dragon, back through. You play the role of the leader of the "Shining Force", a small group of young but highly skilled warriors who have been appointed by the king to investigate the situation. It's a dark time for the world of Rune and the future depends on your actions. Looks like it's time to be a hero again. Although it has a few tough spots Shining Force is a bit on the easy side and experienced players shouldn't have too tough a time on their hands. Picking a decent party and leveling up your characters help but with the right strategies and careful planning all battles can be won. The game only has 8 chapters and it was with some reluctance ( but a great deal of satisfaction ) that I struck the final blow on Dark Dragon. Rounding off the package is the great audio while not exactly classical material provides a fitting soundtrack to the action.

Although veterans might initially scoff at the simple looking gameplay and linear game structure it's impossible to pass up the addictive lure of the battles. There are tons of secret characters for the dedicated to find making up for the lack of real exploration. While nitpickers will find faults with the game I thing it accomplished what it set out to do admirable and the pros far outweigh the cons.

88

Bigger and better.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Streets of Rage™ 2

It’s been one year since three vigilante cops reclaimed their city from the criminal gang that ruled it. Everything is safe and peaceful until a shocking discovery is made. Mr. X the big boss of the syndicate though to be defeated is alive and stronger than ever. Yearning for revenge he has kidnapped one of the heroes of the first game Adam and is using him to lure Axel And Blaze into a trap of this making. Joined by Max a wrestler and friend of Axel plus Skate, Adam’s kid brother the fight must once again be taken to the streets and Mr. stopped for good. Streets Of Rage 2 is a very cool game which I’m sure won’t disappoint and fans of the original. The game has been improved in almost all areas and is a lot of fun to play. With a couple of skill levels and the addition Duel mode you won’t tire of it as fast as the original either. A sequel worth getting.

78

Take yoru rage to the streets.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Streets of Rage™

Life in the city was pretty quite until a powerful secret criminal organization took over and turned it into a den of violence and crime. Taking control of the government and police nothing could stop them until now. Three young ex-police officers have decided to take things into their own hands and clean up the streets of the city even if it costs them their lives. Now Adan Hunter, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding will take the fight to the criminals and put an end to the madness. If you’ve ever played the game “Final Fight” then the premise behind Streets Of Rage might seem a little familiar to you. Picking one of three fighters you take the action to the streets fighting gangs of bad guys with kicks, punches and special moves. While not exactly original Streets Of Rage is quite entertaining and will give you that arcade rush at home. The game features some nice tunes and although not exactly catchy provides the perfect backdrop for your fights. It’s a pity that the sound effects are so weak though and none of them are going to impress anybody. Controls are a breeze and you can do all kinds of cool moves like flying kicks and even suplexes. Watch out as in this game enemies can grab and throw you as well and towards the end there is two very annoying girls that can really spoil your day with their acrobatic moves. Streets Of Rage ruled the roost back in its day and even now it can provide a quick blast of fun.

71

Your chance to knock Sonic around.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Sonic Spinball CAP

It would seem that a lot of people enjoyed the pinball level in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 since Sonic now boasts his very own dedicated pinball game. There’s not much of a story, Sonic & Tails attempt to assault one of Dr. Robotniks’ fortresses and Sonic ends up inside a four level pinball machine. Since instead of a ball you have a fast, blue hedgehog the gameplay is slightly different than your average pinball game. Besides controlling the flippers you can also control Sonic himself so there are segments where you need to jump or move around to reach certain parts of the table. Each table sees you trying to get your hands on those ever elusive chaos emeralds before taking on a boss in battle. The tables are sprawling and you’ll zip from one segment to the next which can be a bit confusing until you’ve discovered all the little tricks and secrets. With themes like “Lava Powerhouse” and “The Machine” each table is packed with the usual assortment of Sonic trademarks like rings and robotic enemies. The graphics are actually quite detailed and very colorful although some of the table layouts aren’t that hot. In between stages you also get to play some cool bonus rounds which not only look rather neat but are actually quite fun too. It’s a pity these little “mini” pinball tables aren’t available to play separately. Overall this is a fun game but lacks the addictive thrill of high-score chasing that other pinball games have.

72

Return of the axe.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Golden Axe II

Death Adder has been defeated at the end of the last game but unfortunately a new evil now threatens the peace. The Lord Of Darkness ‘Dark Guld’ has risen and is using his armies of darkness to bring chaos to the world. The three heroes of the original game is back to kick evil into its place and save the world one more time.

here are a few bigger bosses and the spells now look a bit more impressive but the improvements over the first game aren’t that big. You have the same three characters and they have the exact same moves. There is only six levels ranging from a ravaged village, ancient ruins, cave and castle so once more you’ll find the game over in no time. Nevertheless it's fun while it lasts and if you played the first game you'll want to try this one.

80

Hack & Slash your way to victory.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Golden Axe

If you’ve played the arcade version of this then you should be familiar with the story of Golden Axe. The evil Death Adder has taken the king and princess hostage and three brave warriors has volunteered to battle their way to the castle to defeat him. Take your pick from a Barbarian, Amazon or Dwarf and fight your way through hordes of enemies avenging the deaths of your friends and families at the hands of Death Adder. If you like side scrolling beat 'em ups then you'll have a blast with this one.

75

A platform game that requires you to use your head

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Decap Attack starring Chuck D. Head

Platform games are a rarity on PC in this day and age which makes solid titles like Decap Attack a nice nostalgic blast from the past. As with all those converted Sega classics a gamepad comes highly recommended. The visuals look like they did all those years ago which might put off some players but the gameplay is still solid and challenging. At this price it is well worth checking out.

89

Another timeless classic.

GAMERamble | June 9, 2011 | Review of Beyond Good and Evil

Jade is just another down on her luck reporter living on the planet Hillys with her uncle Pey’J and a group of orphans she’s taking care of. The kids are orphans because of the Domz, a group of aliens that attack Hillys almost daily and abduct the citizens. There is an elite section of the army called the Alpha Section who’s job it is to protect the people but lately their actions are being called into question by a underground resistance group calling themselves IRIS. IRIS claims that the Alpha Section is in league with the aliens so when Jade gets a chance to do a little reporting to uncover the truth she jumps at the chance.

Although a brilliant game Beyond Good & Evil unfortunately isn’t all that big. While Hilly’s might seem large at first you only have a few areas to explore and there’s only about three or four “main” sections that have to be completed. You can do some optionally extra stuff like take part in hovercraft races, play a few mini-games and so forth but the pearls you earn from these events can be gained in other places. The gameplay is a nice mixture of all out fighting and stealthy sneaking around. Working for IRIS, Jade’s main objective is collecting proof of the Domz infiltration. This means gaining access to their bases and sneaking around unnoticed taking photos. You’ll always have a partner with you, first your uncle Pey’j and later a fellow IRIS reporter HH and these guys actually have a big impact on the gameplay. Not only is your game over if they die but they can also help out a lot in combat and come in especially handy for some of the puzzles. Teamwork is essential to get through this game but these guys are smart enough not to get in your way or require too much baby sitting.

The audio is just as polished as the graphics and while not all the text is spoken out loud the voice overs are generally of a good quality. Sound effects and ambient noises are also nicely done. The audio features some strange tunes like the reggae music that blasts out during the races but overall all the tunes fit the game. The game will also be over way before you get tired of any of the songs.

Apart from being a bit on the short side there’s very little I can criticize about Beyond Good & Evil. It’s a very console style adventure which might scare way some computer players but it’s definitely a lot of fun and a game anyone can sink their teeth into. Just don’t’ expect too much replay value since once you’ve completed it you’ll have seen pretty much everything it had to offer.

80

A no brainer.

GAMERamble | May 31, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Nippon DLC

This bit of dlc should be a no-brainer to all fans of Magica that want to do their bit for Japan. The content is pretty cool (hell I would have paid it for the Katana alone) and the money is for a very worthy cause. 99c isn't exactly going to break your wallet so I strongly urge everyone to give this a try.

80

A nice retro flavoured game

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Zombie Driver

A chemical accident has changed the cities population into hordes of bloodthirsty zombies. You are one of the few survivors left and your superior driving skills have caught the eyes of the military. Reluctant to get involved for some reason they make use of your services to rescue other survivors and clean out infected areas. The longer you work for them the bigger the suspicion that something is just not right. Welcome to the world of Zombie Driver.

A new downloadable game from Exor Studios, Zombie Driver is living (?) proof that games don't have to cost a fortune to be fun. This is definitely a game for all those people that had more fun in the original Grand Theft Auto running over pedestrians and driving like a maniac than actually getting out of the car and doing missions. Viewed from an overhead perspective much like the aforementioned GTA, you'll be speeding through the zombie infested city trying to get to other survivors in time while mowing down hordes of the undead and trying not to succumb to their overwhelming numbers. You will have a range of cars at your disposal and everything from a taxi to a bus can be used provided you have unlocked them of course. While splattering zombies with a ambulance or limo is fun I found the bus to be the most useful as pretty much all missions involve getting to a certain amount of survivors in time and the increased capacity of the bus just made it so much easier.

With only 17 missions Zombie Driver is not a very long game but each mission has a secondary objective that will earn you extra goodies and besides for the low price you get plenty of value for money. Be sure to check out the Zombie Driver website regularly as they promised lots of mods and expansions for the game. Visually the game looks very good in a retro kind of way. It almost looks like a high resolution version of the original Grand Theft Auto crossed with Carmageddon. The scenery is highly destructible and plowing into a crowd of zombies causes a lot of bloodshed. Everything is very detailed with lots of cool small touches that brings the gameworld to life. There are all kinds of different zombies so you will have to learn how to best deal with each type and stay on your toes during missions. Your vehicle of choice can also be upgraded to cause even more undead damage and weapons like the flamethrower and rail-gun will come in very handy. Sound quality is good with some nice eerie audio tracks and Exor Studios have generously made the soundtrack available as a free download so be sure to check it out.

Zombie Driver is a nice mindless arcade game with a very reasonable price point so there's not much I can find fault with. The camera is a bit confusing a times especially when you do a lot of turns causing it to spin all over the place but that's about it as far as complaints go. *Note even this was fixed in the latest patch update that added gamepad support as well. All in all I had a blast with this title and I'm looking forward to see what Exor Studios comes up with for their next project.

80

A blast to play

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Painkiller Black Edition DNS

When Daniel Garner is killed in a car accident along with his beloved wife he is denied entry into heaven and is instead told that he has to fight an army of demonic soldiers to prevent an imminent holy war. Only by killing Lucifer's four generals and their hordes of minions will he be judged pure enough to be with his wife. With no other choice Daniel sets out on a one man crusade to cause some serious pain to the minions of evil.

Ok so the storyline is beyond corny but at least it tries to be original and gives you an excuse to kill all kinds of weird creatures in a variety of interesting locations. The gameplay is as simple as the storyline however and anyone that has played Serious Sam will know what to expect since this game is almost exactly the same as Sam's adventure only a bit more, well, serious. Daniel starts each level with no goal other than to kill every creature in sight. There's no keys to collect, puzzles to solve or any kind of interaction beyond blowing up whatever stands between you and the next level.

The action can become a bit repetitive aftera while since basically all you do is walk into a new area, kill all the monsters that suddenly spawns around you, follow your compass to the next area and repeat the process. This happens over and over across all the stages. To make things a little bit more interesting there's "tarrot cards" to be earned which will then grant you special abilities like extra health, more speed or whatever. The twist is that these have to be earned by achieving certain requirements on each stage. These can be anything from killing all the monsters on the level to not using any armour or only using a certain weapon. Once you earn the tarrot cards they can then be placed before going into a stage but be warned they cost money to place, you can only have a certain amount, and most can only be used once per level. It's not exactly a groundbreakingly original feature but it does at a little something extra to the game.

The biggest draw of the game however is definately the graphics. It might take a decent computer to run it at full speed with all the effects enabled but the result is quite worth it. The levels feel rather disjointed with not much in common but every one of them is a visual masterpiece with awsome special effects and detailed textures. Even the enemies look awsome and there's so many different types you'll hardly see the same onces as almost every new level has new monsters. The game also has some of the bigggest bosses I've ever seen and fighting these behemoths is quite a rush.

Besides the excelent graphics the game is also powered by the HAVOC phsyics engine making everything look that much better. Watching enemies go flying in ragdoll style after you blast them or huge structures crumbling when a boss stomps through it is a sight to behold. The detailed graphics are also quite evident in the extremely detailed weapons but while each one is truly unique and has duel firing modes the fact that there is only five in total is a bit of a letdown. You'll find yourself using all of them a lot instead of just moving up to the more powerfull weapons as they become available but still.. At least you get to collect the souls of any enemies you kill and once you have enough of these you turn into a super powerfull demon for a short while which allows you to lay waste to any nearby foes. It can be a real life saver in tight spots but still doesn't make up for the lack of weapons.

The audio is just as nice as the visuals and once again the Serious Sam influences is clear. Walking around without any enemies in sight you'll hear lots of ambient sounds like the wind or the spurs on your boots clinking but as soon as the monsters make their appearance the heavy metal music kicks in and all hell breaks loose. Daniel is unfortunately a very quiet character so dont' expect any wisecracks or quips as he kicks ass. The sound effects are very nicely done and even the voice overs during the cut-scenes are bearable.

70

Not a threat to other big names in the genre.

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Dark Sector

Meet black-ops agent Hayden Tenno, not a very pleasant fellow with a bit of a psychotic past. Hayden’s latest mission takes him to a former eastern bloc nation for some covert stuff but things don’t quite go according to plan and he’s infected with a mutating biological compound. OF course this being a videogame, Hayden does not die but instead gains incredible powers, in this case a huge, three-bladed weapon called a “glaive” which can be thrown at enemies. Much like some nightmarish boomerang the glaive always returns to Hayden after each throw and most of the game revolves around this mechanic.

Visually and gameplay wise this game has a very Gears Of War style look and feel to it. Although running on its own propriety “Evolution” Engine instead of the now customary Unreal Engine favored by most games in this genre (3rd Person Shooter), Dark Sector doesn’t really stand out from the pack. The graphics is very stylish and moody but often marred by repetitive textures or clipping issues. There is some nice lighting and special effects but you will often find yourself stumbling through the dark with just your flashlight offering some illumination. There are a few standout levels like the trek through a crumbling graveyard at night but the ten chapters felt a bit samey looking for my taste.

One thing there’s no shortage of in this game is blood so if you are the squeamish type then you should probably avoid this title. Decapitations or even amputating enemies is par for the course and the game even has a few gory “finishing” moves with which to take out stunned foes. Enemies aren’t in short supply either but sadly ammunition is and to ad insult to injury all enemy weapons in the game can only be used for a few seconds before they self destruct. This means you’ll have to rely a lot on your glaive which unfortunately feels somewhat underpowered or melee combat which is pathetic. The game becomes very frustrating later on due to these factors so consider yourself warned.

This being a console port the usual array of “issues” rear their ugly heads. The game will auto save when it sees fit even if that is in the middle of a messy fight. If you like to save wherever you want I’m afraid you are out of luck. At least the checkpoints are fairly spaced. The controls are stolen straight from Gears Of War and work well for the most past but dodging involves some finger cramping key combinations and a careful avoidance of the dreaded “Windows” key. Remapping the keys causes the game to sulk and crash every now and then plus playing with a gamepad felt way too slow and cumbersome.

What I liked about the game was the glaive related puzzles that break up the action. Early on you gain the ability to control the glaives flight path in first person view which is not only nice for rooting out enemies behind cover but also for hitting switches otherwise inaccessible. Your glaive can also be powered by hitting fire, electricity or ice with it which makes for some cool puzzles.

The story left me somewhat cold and Hayden is not a very likeable lead but his actions are explained later in the game which redeems him somewhat. The black market aspect of the game, accessed via conveniently placed manholes, allows you to upgrade weapons or buy new ones but the shortage of cash limited this feature a bit. The boss fights were pretty spectacular and rarely straightforward which is nice.

The audio in the game is quite good and a few of the levels are genuinely creepy due to the excellent sound effects. The voice acting is decent and Hayden is voiced by quite a famous actor. Despite its Gears Of War similarities Dark Sector feels like a game better suited on console than computer. I had fun playing it but it falls far short of greatness in many areas and there are lots of small things that just sour the whole experience.

If you can live with the dodgy controls and uneven difficulty level then give DS a try. The game has a decent length and many cool touches but just don’t expect a triple A title.

80

A great game to play with the lights out and sound up

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Condemned: Criminal Origins CAP

Originally a Xbox 360 launch title and one of the first “next-gen” games Condemned has made to transition to computer quite easily and despite a few minor hiccups is a worthy title from the same people that gave us F.E.A.R. Having heard quite a lot about the game (good and bad) when it first launched I was quite eager to get my hands on it and see for myself if the hype and criticism was justified. You start the game as Ethan Thomas a FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer in a city gone made. Birds are dropping dead everywhere from unknown causes and the crime rate is rising at an astronomical rate. It seems like every junkie, bum and crazy person in the city have all been inflicted with some murderous blood lust and police have their hands full coping with everything. You step into Ethan’s shoes as he’s busy investigating the latest grisly crime scene courtesy of the “matchmaker”. Things take a rather disturbing turn when you discover the psycho might still be lurking about in the abandoned building your inside and you are sent in to track him down with nothing but a gun and a flashlight. From there it’s a roller coaster ride into madness and paranoia as Ethan becomes a wanted man and has to track down a very disturbed individual across several condemned buildings crawling with freaks. If you thought this was just going to be your average run-of-the-mill first person shooter you’re in for a surprise.

It’s actually hard to even classify condemned as a first person shooter since there’s so very little shooting going on. Yes you play the whole game from a first person perspective but guns are few and far between and even when you do find one don’t expect to find bullets for it just lying around conveniently in an abandoned building. No instead you have to rely on what’s available for protection and that means ripping pipes out of the walls, breaking off cupboard doors, finding crowbars, 2x4’s with nails sticking out of them and all other manner of makeshift melee weapons. This also means that the fights all tend to be very up close and person which is one of Condemned’s best and worse features. You can expect crazies to pop up out of any dark corner, firstly scaring the crap out of you and secondly to lunge at you in a berserker frenzy. The animations of these freaks is so eerily lifelike that you actually feel vaguely disturbed for slugging them in the face with a shovel. You won’t feel bad for long though as they’ll just stagger back, utter a few curses at you and launch themselves at you anew, or even worse stagger away in search of a bigger weapon to ambush you with around the next dark corner. This is combat like you’ve never experienced it before.

With it’s dark condemned buildings as set pieces and bizarre range of freaks to square off against Condemned has a lot in common with games like Silent Hill and The Suffering. Monolith clearly knows how to scare players and through some awesome scripted events manage to make you glance over your shoulder with every sound you hear. The storyline starts off very good and there are some nice twists and turns but seem to lose the plot a bit towards the end and the ending left me feeling very unsatisfied. It makes sense but only just.

Graphically the game does very well for itself and share’s a similar look to F.E.A.R. The environments are moody and detailed while the enemies can be quite frightening at times. My jaw dropped a few times at the awesome lifelike animations some of the displayed and there are a few very nice graphical effects to wow you. It’s a testament to the designers that even normal enemies attacking you can scare the crap out of you at times. The audio is another highlight with good quality voice overs and some very nice music to keep the atmosphere going. Once again playing this game in the dark with the volume up high is a must.

Condemned unfortunately isn’t perfect and there are some factors that bring the experience down somewhat. Since Ethan is an FBI agent he has some nice CSI style gadgets that he carries around with him but these can only be used in specific areas and even then there’s too much hand holding going on to make it any real challenge. The game is also quite slow paced with Ethan stumbling along at a leisurely pace and forcing him to run only results in a few shambling paces before he’s too tired to continue doing so. The game for all it’s realism can also feel a bit restrictive as you can’t duck, crawl or jump unless you reach specific designated points for the actions. Having said that the whole experience still feels very solid and coherent and doesn’t really detract that much from the game.

Although not the longest game out there Condemned still feels well rounded and for those die hard gamers there’s plenty of “achievements” to unlock by searching for hidden stuff throughout the levels. These reward you with extras like concept art and the usual stuff so there might be some replay value. The game also has two different endings but this is only influences by one choice right at the end instead of a series of choices throughout the game.

While there’s still a lot that I could say about Condemned the bottom line is if you like suspenseful games and don’t mind some minor annoyances then by all means get your hands on this. While it might not be perfect it’s the ideal game for those who want to experience something slightly different from the genre and don’t mind the occasional near heart attack.

80

A game you'll find yourself coming back to

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Beat Hazard

When I first laid eyes on Beat Hazard it looked like some glorified amalgamation of Asteroids and Geomatry Wars. Its gimmick of generating enemy patterns and firepower according to whatever song is playing sounded intriguing and the price reasonable so I decided to give this Indie title a shot.

Firstly those folks that are prone to seizures better heed the warning at the start of the game. This game takes full screen strobing effects to new levels and after playing for a while it will feel like you've been stabbed in the eyes with a rainbow. At times there's so much color and activity onscreen that it is virtually impossible to see what is going on. The game is a single screen shooter with swirling smoke and sparkling nebulas in the background while your ship mows down waves of foes through the power of music. Your weapon intensity (and enemy density) is linked to the song playing in the background so this is your excuse to break out some loud music. Slow, mellow songs will work too but you are just making life harder for yourself. The game has online leaderboards that record your score along with the song you got it on so if you are hell bent on playing at insane difficulty to the soothing strains of pan flutes it will be immortalized for other players to envy. For the sad few individuals that somehow have no audio ripped to their PC there is a few pack in tracks to play with.

What I like about Beat Hazard is that each track is unique but not random. Playing the same song again will result in the same experience so you can actually practice tracks and get better at them. A progress bar at the top of the screen shows the song length and you need to stay alive for its duration while racking up a highscore. Destroyed enemies drop power-ups like score multipliers, "volume" and weapon power. You'll also rank up while playing (according to your score) and these ranks are persistent along with their benefits so you'll have a reason to keep coming back for more. Survival mode lets you try your hand at playing through an entire album which is no mean feat considering you won't get any extra lives while playing. A limited amount of super bombs are your friend as triggering these will clear the screen of foes giving you some breathing room. While these replenish it is still a good idea to save them for desperate situations.

To make life even harder for you is the big motherships that sometimes make an appearance. They take a beating and can fill the screen with projectiles and laser beams but the bounty of power-ups revealed when you split them open like a piñata makes them welcome targets. Another nuisance is the junk asteroids floating around as they will break apart into millions of little pieces that further clutter up the screen. Enemy projectiles can also sometimes become lost in the psychedelic mess which further decreases your chances of survival.

If all of this sounds too exhausting you can always try the "Chillout" mode that gives you unlimited lives but don't expect to make it to the leaderboards. There's even a two player mode if you want a friend to join in on the carnage. If simply beating your own scores or making it to the leaderboards isn't enough there's a few Steam achievements to aim for as well.

Beat Hazard is perfectly playable with a keyboard and mouse but those that want the true "twin stick" shooter experience can play with a Xbox360 or compatible controller. Regardless of your preference everything controls very smoothly. The limited amount of enemy ship designs can lead to a feeling of repetitiveness and there's only a handful of mothership types as well. Until you reach high enough ranks where you start with full "volume" power-ups songs start out very soft and requires pickups to boost. This can be a bit annoying if you want to listen to your tunes at full blast.

The music is obviously the highlight of the game and only limited to your collection. The way the songs are analyzed and interpreted looked like it works perfectly to me and the action onscreen always matched what was coming through the speakers. You'll will come to dread the sudden lulls in loud songs especially if you hear the warning klaxon signifying the eminent appearance of a mothership (or two!)

I know some people are probably going to take one look at this game and declare it unplayable but it will be their loss. Beat Hazard is a challenging and addictive shooter albeit one that's a little punishing on the eyes. For the price it's being sold at you can't go wrong either.

80

A game to stick with right to the end.

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of BioShock® 2 DNS

The underwater dystopia of Rapture is a place very familiar to players of the 2007 hit, Bioshock. Finding yourself stranded in this crumbing undersea world was an experience unlike anything else and the mix of action mixed with great storytelling made Bioshock a hit despite numerous small flaws. The good news is that for Bioshock 2 almost all of the wrinkles have been ironed out but the bad news is that Rapture is starting to feel way too familiar

Bioshock 2 picks up nearly ten years after the events of the last game and places you in the clunking shoes of a "Big Daddy". Don't think you'll be as tough as the hulking behemoths you are familiar with, "Subject Delta" is actually a forerunner of them and as such isn't nearly as formidable. You will get access to all the Big Daddy toys like Rivet Guns and drills but there is more to Delta than meets the eye. Revived from certain death and on a mission to locate his little sister don't expect this to be a rehash of Jacks journey from the first game.

To be honest I was quite sceptical about Bioshock 2 at first. The first game was great but I doubted that a second tour of Rapture would have the same impact. To their credit the developers have come up with a very good storyline which comes close to rivalling that of the first game at times. With Andrew Ryan out of the way a psychiatrist named Sofia Lamb has stepped up to take control over what's left of Rapture and is shaping it to her twisted visions. Initially brought in to help the denizens of Rapture deal with the stress of underwater living she soon started to get her own twisted ideas and formed a cult. Without giving anything away about the plot suffice to say she has just as much interest in Eleanor, your little sister, as you have and will stop at nothing to keep you from reaching her.

Once the novelty of playing as a Big Daddy wears off (usually around the time you realize that despite your thudding footsteps a Splicer can still carve you up in no time) the sense of deja vu starts to set in. The enhancements and new effects are obvious but this is still the same engine as the last game and the same type of locations. The city of Rapture is still leaking like a broken faucet but despite all the water flooding in everywhere never gets submerged. Some new enemies show up to make things more interesting, most notably the "Big Sisters" who are the little sisters who have grown up under the twisted tutelage of Dr. Lamb. They are basically ninja versions of the Big Daddies and make for formidable foes. You'll also be squaring off against other Alphas plus upgraded enemies from the last game.

Being a Big Daddy has its perks and you'll now be able to use weapons and plasmids at the same time. No more fumbling around during combat to get effective combos going. This is a good thing as the game feels much more action oriented than the first. You'll still stumble across diaries that are scattered about willy nilly and reveals more about the characters motivations but use a little sister to harvest Adam for you and watch as all hell breaks loose. That's right you can now kill a rival Big Daddy and besides saving or harvesting their little sisters, adopt them and put them to work for yourself. This is especially handy as with the increased amount of plasmids and tonic slots you'll want as much Adam as you can find to buy all the upgrades. Of course choosing the easy option of just harvesting the little sisters directly will have consequences so think carefully before you commit.

Despite feeling like just an expansion pack at first, the game really starts to pick up towards the end and by its conclusion you will have a deeper understanding of not just the Big Daddies and their little sisters but also about the events of the first game. The multi-player mode, set during the fall of Rapture is sure to please fans as well. Having multiple levels of upgrades for your plasmid powers makes even the old ones feel fresh again and the multiple ammo types for the weapons ensure that you'll be using all of them instead of just sticking to the most "powerful" ones. The new underwater sections look very nice but since you can't do anything except move around they don't add much to the gameplay and merely serve as a pretty way to get from certain locations to others. The new hacking system is far more exciting and the remote hacking tool opens up more strategic options during combat. Using a film camera to record and research enemies during combat is also step up from the static photo taking one from the first game.

The audio impressed me and once again the songs from the olden days fit the 1960's setting of the game perfectly. I had to laugh at how appropriate tracks like "Daddy Won't You Please Come Home" and "The Boogieman" was. The other audio is pretty good too, nice and creepy while exploring with the tempo picking up during combat. Voice acting is top notch and the comments from the little sisters catching a ride on your shoulders are especially funny. Weapons also sounded a lot beefier to me than they were in the last game and the iconic moans from the Big Daddies are as menacing as always.

I've heard some complaints about the game being buggy but aside from a crash or two didn't experience any performance issues or mouse lagginess as reported in some cases. I wish I could say the same about the mandatory Games For Windows Live feature which you have to install if you want' to save your game even if you have no interest in Microsoft and their plans for world domination. All went well until my offline profile mysteriously disappeared rending my savegames useless and forcing me to start over. I blame Microsoft for this nonsense and not the game. The games graphics are good but clearly held back by its console roots which unfortunately is a common occurrence.

Bioshock 2 is proof of the importance of a good story as even with all the improvements and enhancements to the gameplay it doesn't have quite the same impact as the first title. It's still a brilliant albeit somewhat short experience that's essential to all Bioshock fans. The difficulty has been ramped up, the action more intense and the setting more twisted but its a pity that all the best parts have been squashed into the last few hours of the game. Bioshock 3 is really going to have to be pretty spectacular to keep the franchise from sliding into mediocrity. A great game but not as great as the original.

90

A stellar improvement over the original

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Assassin's Creed 2

Assassin's Creed was an awesome game with some very nice gameplay but it wasn't without its flaws. Thankfully Ubisoft have listened closely to the critics and with Assassin's Creed 2 crafted a masterpiece that surpasses the original in virtually every way. Unfortunately they have also decided to release the game with one of the worst copy protection schemes known to man but more on that later.

The game starts directly where the last one ended and you once again take control of Desmond Miles. With some inside assistance Desmond escapes from Abstergo Industries and joins a group assassins who have their own improved version of the Animus. This device which was used on Desmond in the first game to re-live his genetic memories connects him with a 15th century ancestor, Ezio Auditore de Firenze, who is a nobleman in Renaissance Italy. The assassins hope to teach Desmond the skills he needs to join their ranks by letting him follow in the footsteps of Ezio who himself is training to become an assassin after his family was betrayed. With Abstergo hot on their heels time is running out for Desmond and the assassins but what they discover through the eyes of Ezio is more shocking than they could ever have imagined. If you thought the original game had a few WTF moments wait until you play this one.

Ubisoft has made so many improvements to this game that its hard to even begin explaining how much better it is. The basic gameplay remains the same as you take control of Ezio and travel through an open world, assassinating his targets and uncovering a vast conspiracy involving the Templars. Most of the game is spent inside the Animus after feedback that players didn't enjoy the Desmond sections so much and that controlling him removed some of the immersion from the game. This time round you will only see Desmond about three times in the game instead of after every mission like the last time. Vital information is conveyed through the Animus itself and there's even a handy new database that stores all important information so you can read through it at your own leisure.

The plot is arguably better than the last game and once again contains quite a few references to historical figures. Even a young Leonardo da Vinci plays a prominent role in helping Ezio out. Renaissance Italy is also rendered in immaculate detail and each of the locations like Florence, Venice and Tuscany is filled with famous landmarks. Leaping from the highest point in a city is still a breathtaking sight and climbing around everywhere is as fun as it was in the first title. Ezio also has a few new tricks up his sleeve which make the game even more entertaining.

The new economy system means you'll need cash to afford healing, buying new items, bribing people or to hire help. Bodies can be looted and pockets picked but watch out for the new notoriety system which will see you tearing down wanted posters and bribing town criers in order to become anonymous again. Ezio is also able to swim which comes in very handy in Venice and thanks to a little help from Leonardo can take to the skies using a flying machine on one memorable mission. There's also a thrilling horse carriage chase awaiting you.

The missions themselves have lost the rigidness of the last game and everything just flows much better now. The variety has increased tenfold with escort missions that can turn into a chase sequence at the drop of a hat and a lot of thought now go into assassinations instead of just wading in blades flailing. With missions that require you to kill your mark without being seen the suspense increase dramatically.

Combat is much improved which is good since the enemy AI is better than ever. Newer more agile guards will chase you down without mercy while heavily armoured ones will require quick reflexes in combat. Ezio has twin hidden blades which is double the fun to use for stealth kills. Few things come close to the rush of impaling two guards at once without them even seeing it coming. a new poison blade and gadgets like smoke bombs also spice up the action. It doesn't always have to come down to violence though. Ezio can blend in much better than Altair ever could or can simply hire people to cause a distraction. Some money tossed into a crowd of people also provide some nice cover for you to perform your dastardly deeds.

While the game has you hunting down Codex pieces in order to uncover the conspiracy you can also go "Glyph" hunting which is optional but worth it if you want to discover "The Truth" hidden by subject 16 in the Animus. These are very freaky and require some puzzle solving skills not to mention the use of your "Eagle Vision" which can now be activated in 3rd person mode and while moving around. Ezio can also upgrade his Uncles villa for a few nice bonuses so there's a lot of extra content here to provide value for money.

Speaking of extra content, PC owners might have had to wait six months for this game over their console brethren but at least they receive the downloadable content which console users had to splash out extra for, for free. Since this game was developed for consoles first the controls can be a bit tricky at first but once you get the hang of it the keyboard and muse works fine. The checkpoint system might prove to be irksome to PC players but I never had any serious hassles and overall I found the game to be challenging without being too difficult. The audio is very good with some superlative music tracks and very good voice acting. The ambient effects are also of a high standard and really bring Renaissance Italy to life.

70

Great game hampered by small flaws

GAMERamble | May 26, 2011 | Review of Assassin's Creed

When Desmond Miles is kidnapped by Abstergo Industries, a powerful corporation with some very sinister plans his life takes a turn for the worse. One day he’s just a bartender trying to keep a low profile and the next he’s strapped to a weird machine called the “Animus” that can read the ancestral memories buried in the DNA of its subject. It seems that Abstergo is very interested in information about one of Desmond’s ancestors called Altair. Altair was an 11th century assassin in the holy land during the third crusade who got demoted after he botched the recovery of an artifact called the “piece of Eden” from Solomon’s Temple. Some Templars (the sworn enemies of assassins) were also interested in the artifact and in his eagerness to keep it out of their hands Altair broke all three the codes of his order’s creed. Nearly paying for this mistake with his life he is stripped of his rank in the order and instructed to redeem himself by killing nine key figures which would help facilitate peace between Crusaders and Muslims. His quest takes him to the cities of Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus and the truths he uncovers has some far reaching consequences for mankind.

Assassins Creed was a big hit on the consoles and for once computer owners gets a nice conversion with a few extras. Graphically Assassins Creed looks amazing and thanks to the higher resolutions available on computer never ceases to wow. Each city is rendered in exquisite detail and teeming with citizens going about their business. All this graphical splendor comes at the cost of fairly high system requirements if you wish to experience the full effect but trust me its well worth it. The animation’s alone is worth the price of admission. Watching Altair climb up a building and realistically reaching for foot and handholds is an awe inspiring sight and must have been quite a technical achievement to pull off considering the enormous scale of the environments. The Prince of Persia might have set the standard for acrobatics in games but Altair takes the concept to new heights. As a highly skilled assassin there is virtually no area that is inaccessible to Altair with ninja-like abilities providing he can stay one step ahead of the city guards. Assassins are obviously not very well liked and if Altair does anything suspicious they will be all over him like white on rice. Altair is no slouch in the combat department but it’s obviously better not to have 20 guards baying for your blood while you are trying to secretly gather information about your target. You’ll definitely want to partake in at least a few battles jus to see the spectacular moves Altair can pull off. While combat never become gruesome like in some other games that contain severed limbs and heads Assassins Creed isn’t squeamish with blood spraying around and thanks to the fluid animation you’ll wince in sympathy each time some poor guy ends up on the wrong end of Altair’s sharp weapons.

What is most amazing about Assassins Creed is how simple it is to play. Obviously there is an initial learning curve as you have to get to grips with the unique control scheme but once mastered you’ll be scaling tall buildings with ease and leaping from roof to roof without even thinking about it. I’d advise the use of a gamepad however as playing with the mouse and keyboard combination works but results in some finger bending combinations. While the relatively simple controls provide some very impressive acrobatics the same cannot be said for the gameplay. Once the initial wow factor wears off you’ll soon realize that the missions on offer are pretty repetitive and becomes tedious after a while. Computer owners are lucky because they get four extra mission types but this still doesn’t make up for the lack of things to do in the vast cities. Sure you can climb up, over and around almost everything but when your only incentive to do so is to collect “hidden” flags that serve absolutely no purpose to the plot whatsoever it’s hard not to become a bit bored. Don’t get me wrong the first few hours of the game you’ll be way to busy exploring and causing havoc to notice this but towards the end of the game it becomes very apparent that Assassins Creed has a lot of wasted potential.

Being an assassin Altair obviously has to keep a low profile while information gathering and missions so a large part of the game is taken up by evading guards and staying out of sight. Since all missions take place in broad daylight you don’t have the option to slink around in the shadows so instead you have to “hide in plain sight”. If you are being chased by guards you’ll have to break their line of sight and then blend in by sitting on a bench between two other people for example. Or you could dive into a haystack or roof garden until the danger blows over. A convenient alertness level meter will indicate how aware or suspicious guards are of your activities but later in the game you can hardly walk past a guard without hordes of them trying to kill you. In fact it’s one of the games biggest failings that towards the end things fall apart and degenerate into a repetitive series of fights where the odds are stacked way against you. The game also has a spectacularly unsatisfying ending but since it’s apparently only the first in a trilogy of games I guess it makes sense.

While all of this might make it sound like this is a game you might as well pass up nothing could be further from the truth. True, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but Assassins Creed definitely brings some very cool innovations to the genre. While a lot of the stuff you do in the game like the horse riding and assassinations have been done before the overall package and presentation has never been this polished. From the bustling cities filled with people that can help or hinder you to the epic musical score and atmospheric sound effects it’s clear to see that a lot of care and hard work has gone into this game. It’s not often that I just sit back and admire the views and locations in a game but with Assassins Creed I found myself doing this quite a lot.

Assassins Creed has one of the most interesting and intriguing story lines I’ve seen in a while and while some of the cut-scenes can become a bit long winded the story had me gripped right to the end. The mix of modern conspiracy theories and near future science coupled with the historic setting for the assassination missions makes for an interesting contrast. If you are expecting this to just be a fancier version of Prince Of Persia think again, Assassins Creed might not live up to all the hype it has generated but it’s a very good game in it’s own right and hopefully the series will only go from strength to strength. Hopefully the next games will pick up some tips from the Grand Theft Auto series on how to create compelling and varied missions within a free roaming and open ended city environment.

71

Not bad if you are a fan of the genre.

GAMERamble | May 24, 2011 | Review of Still Life

After Lucasarts stopped producing Point & Click Adventure games everyone pretty much gave up on the genre and despite some occasional classics like the Broken Sword series there wasn’t much to get excited about. Instead of seeing the death of a genre as an obstacle one company instead treated it like an opportunity and so The Adventure Company was formed. Games like Syberia has proven that there are still players out there that crave some solid adventuring where your grey matter will get you much further than your trigger finger.

While it has all the basics covered Still Life isn’t exactly your typical Point & Click Adventure. You play as Victoria McPherson who is an FBI agent hot on the trail of a brutal serial killer. With a rising body count and some very disturbing crime scenes Victory is even more shocked to find that her own grandfather faced something eerily similar 75 years ago as a private investigator.

The story is easily the best part of Still Life and is fleshed out with some nice full motion video sequences that kick in every now and then. These are very cinematic, fit the game nicely and isn’t obtrusive. The games graphics isn’t too shabby either and while it’s clear to see that the artists didn’t have an unlimited budget the game still has a style and flair of it’s own and manages to impress without demanding too much from the hardware. Locations are essentially pre-rendered with some animated effects scattered about to give it more life. The characters are full 3D but can look a bit out of place against the sharp and detailed backgrounds. That’s not to say that the characters don’t look good but despite some very realistic animations a few of them look a little, odd.

As the game is a Point & Click Adventure everything is handled with the mouse and apart from some initial confusion everything is intuitive and easy to perform. The cursor is context sensitive so holding it over a person will change it into a speech bubble allowing you to talk to them while holding it over something interesting will change it into a magnifying glass allowing you to investigate. Although items aren’t labeled when you move your cursor over them you won’t ever be in any doubt as to whether you can perform an action in the area as an icon will pop up to let you know that interaction is possible. This can make some of the puzzles a bit too easy but at least it cut’s down on frustration I guess.

The gameplay is challenging enough but in some parts can be a bit too obscure. I mean who wants to bake cookies following some vague recipe in the middle of a murder mystery? The game is also very linear so if you are stuck in one spot you won’t be able to progress at all. Some effort has been made to mix things up and include a lot of variety in the puzzles but not all of them are that fun and I never had that feeling of beating a clever puzzle when I completed them. Instead I was just glad I managed to get through them.

Still Life brings some nice aspects to the table like playing with two different characters in two different eras but at the end of the day it’s hardly revolutionary. With only seven chapters the game doesn’t last that long and if you were expecting a spectacular ending that ties up all the loose ends you might as well not bother playing. While I definitely had a lot of fun playing the game I still wish some areas were a bit better.

62

Could have been better.

GAMERamble | May 18, 2011 | Review of Far Cry 2

The first thing that will strike you about Far Cry 2 is how big it is. While this is very impressive initially it can become a chore later when you have to make your way around the large map. Setting fire to everything in sight is fun and there's plenty of action but half the time I found myself getting bogged down in yet another outpost shootout or getting my vehicle stuck somewhere and plodding back to the nearest signs of civilization on foot. Don't get me started on the malaria either. Overall though Far Cry 2 is what you make of it. If you are expecting more of what made the first game great then this might be a bit disappointing.

70

You get what you pay for

GAMERamble | May 18, 2011 | Review of Magicka: Wizard's Survival Kit DLC

The Wizards Survival Kit DLC is not something that is essential to the enjoyment of the game and neither does it add much to the experience but to its advantage it is quite cheap. If the sound of raining burning rocks down on your foes sound appealing and you are just dying to sport the latest in pointy hat fashion then give this a try. At this price it is definitely an impulse buy.

50

Needed more substance.

GAMERamble | April 12, 2011 | Review of Mafia II DLC: War Hero Pack

This DLC for Mafia 2 is pretty self explanatory. You get two new military style vehicles which to be honest are a little slow and cumbersome and two military outfits for the main character to wear. Apart from this there are no new missions or story elements so if you have already completed the game this DLC doesn't have much to offer. If you are a huge Mafia 2 fan and don't mind spending cash on unnecessary items then this is for you but everyone else is better off with one of the DLC packs that actually offers some substance. At least the price isn't through the roof.

55

Unremarkable.

GAMERamble | April 12, 2011 | Review of Fluttabyes

Fluttabyes is a typical color matching puzzle game that is very simple to play. There are already mountains of other games in the genre so unless you are a huge fan of this type of game there is little to recommend here. The music is very limited and repetitive not to mention the voice overs which are all done by what sounds like a small child. The game is relaxing to play and once you get hooked you'll certainly get value for your money but with games like Bejeweled and others available I find it hard to recommend this one.

81

Overkill!

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Eternal Champions

Back in the nineties Street Fighter 2 ruled the arcades but that didn't stop other companies from trying to emulate Capcoms success. While most of these fighting games were mere clones a few actually dared to be different and Eternal Champions were one of them. Featuring a roster of characters from all eras of history in a fight for a second chance the game took a few hints from Mortal Kombat with special moves called "Overkills" that allow you to finish off your opponent in gruesome fashion. While the controls feel a bit stiff it is definitely deserving of the classic moniker.

75

Have the tides turned?

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Ecco: The Tides of Time

As a direct sequel to the first Ecco title this one shares not only the same controls but the same difficulty as well. The new ability to morph into different creatures is a welcome addition to the gameplay and the 3D style levels were quite good for their time. If you own and enjoyed the first Ecco game then you'll definitely want to check out this sequel.

60

Getting a little long in the tooth.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Crack Down

Crack Down is another arcade classic that got ported to the Megadrivea and is now finally available for play on computer. The gameplay is standard run and gun fare with your two agents traversing levels while planting bombs and killing enemies. The game actually shares a lot of similarities with another arcade classic of the same era, Gauntlet. Crack Down makes for a nice diversion from bigger titles but unless you are playing it again for nostalgia reasons there's not much reason to give it a go when there are so many other classics available.

79

Good but could have been great.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Deus Ex: Invisible War Capsule

Despite its flaws and bugs Deus Ex went on to become one of the biggest games of it’s time and proved that Ion Storm was actually capable of making a great game. While it was far from perfect many people managed to overlook its shortcomings simply because it was such an engrossing and addictive experience. It’s never easy to improve on such a success story and many games have fallen foul of either changing too much thereby alienating the hardcore fans or too little resulting in little more than a glorified mission pack. Deus Ex : Invisible War definitely falls into the love/hate category with many fans that will adore it’s new interface and streamlined locations while others will label it as a console sell-out. While there’s still a lot to be excited about with this one I have to admit that I was one of those that expected a little more. There’s still plenty of fun to be had with it and fans of the first game should check it out if only to see what happened to their favorite characters. The game isn’t half as big as its predecessor and there are times when it feels more like a chore than a game but stick with it and you’ll see that it’s not all bad. The question is would it have been a better game if it wasn’t designed with a console in mind?

70

Living in the shadow of its older sibling.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Beyond Divinity

I was a huge fan of Divine Divinity and really looked forward to Beyond Divinity. While there is a lot about the game that is still familiar it does not quite live up to expectations. The storyline is interesting with your character bound to a Death Knight. Of course neither the Death Knight or your character is impressed with this turn of events and together you set out to solve this problem.

If you play games for the awesome graphics then the visuals in Beyond Divinity won't impress you. If you like a long, challenging quest filled with plenty of humor then you won't be disappointing. If you have never played Beyond Divinity then I would suggest you do so first (although it is not necessary as the stories are not linked) but make Beyond Divinity your second choice.

70

A world of magic awaits.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Dawn of Magic

Dawn of Magic is an interesting action role playing game where magic is the focus. Players used to a choice of warriors or thieves will have to make peace with playing as a mage but fear not as there is still plenty of scope for customization.

Dawn of Magic is definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea but it is a nice departure from the typical hack and slash titles that rule the genre. While the game has received mixed reviews it is not without its fans and if you get hooked on this one you will stick with it right to the end. Overall I recommend it, especially at this price point.

68

Watch out Robocop there's a new cop in town.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of ESWAT: City Under Siege

E-Swat is a classic side scrolling platform game with shooter elements that started life in the Arcades before becoming a Megadrive hit. Arcade fans will notice that this version has different levels and enemies but the core gameplay remains the same.

The progression from human to cyborg as the game progresses is quite cool and as the plot develops you will go from busting crooks to taking down an evil corporation. E-Swat looks a bit basic when compared to other Megadrive classics but if you are unfazed by dated graphics and can appreciate some old skool gameplay you will have fun with this title.

While it is not an essential game to add to your collection you can do far worse than E-Swat. With only five levels this one shouldn't take too long to complete but at its low price point it is still value for money.

55

Falls short...

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Fatal Labyrinth

The village you live in is in an uproar since a ghoul has invaded and stolen the holy goblet. Apparently this goblet is the source of light that illuminates the world and if it falls into the claws of the evil dragon the world will be plunged into eternal darkness. Already Dragonia the legendary castle has risen and this is where you must go to save the world.

Fatal Labyrinth is a very simple dungeon crawler. Combat is as basic as can be and reminded me a lot of the early Ultima titles. Enemies are visible on the screen but as soon as they come within striking distance the game becomes turn based. All you have to do is press the D-Pad in the direction you want to attack. There are loads of weapons, armor, potions and scrolls to find but this still can't help dispel the sense of tedium. There are also some very annoying gameplay elements like foes that steal or destroy your equipment and traps that dump you back to the previous floor. Soon after killing all the enemies on a floor they regenerate anyway so finding the stairs is your top priority. You also need food to survive but consume too much and you die. Although there are potions for health simply strolling around also regenerates your HP so the game isn't too hard. The game only saves on certain floors but you have unlimited continues at your disposal.

It might be a nice lightweight alternative to huge RPGs like Phantasy Star 2 but in the end falls victim to it's own inadequacies. If you still have fond memories of Rogue ( which this game badly wants to be ) you might have some fun but even that game was way better.

70

Could have been better.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Project Snowblind CAP

Hong Kong of the future (2065 to be exact) isn’t a very friendly place to be. A soldier called Nathan Frost finds that out the hard way when he’s injured in battle and wakes up in hospital heavily augmented as part of a new top secret military project. Unsurprisingly that soldier is you and you have to go back into battle and save the day. There’s a lot more to Project Snowblind (mad generals, devastating secret weapons) all told via cut-scenes between missions but all you really need to know is that this is yet another console first person shooter that got dumped on computer. Which is not to say it’s a bad game but don’t expect the next Half-Life or anything.

Snowblind has some tricks up its sleeve in the form of your augmented powers so you can do all kinds of cool stuff like slow down time (but no slow motion dives I’m afraid), turn invisible or put up a ballistic shield. You also have a large selection of cool weapons like the Carbine, Flechette gun, rocket launcher, Rail Laser, Shotgun and of course Shotgun. To even the odds even more you also have a selection of grenades at your disposal. Yet despite all this the game still fails to excite sometimes. Maybe it’s because the stages are so short and relatively linear. Or maybe it’s because enemies are as generic as they come. Whatever the reason is Snowblind was hardly captivating and even though it’s very short I have no intentions of ever playing it again now that I’ve finished it.

With a bit more depth to bring it up to the same level as Deus Ex this game might have fared better but if all you are looking for is some explosive action with very little thinking then you might want to give this one a try.

95

An experience not to be missed.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition DNS

Cyberpunk. A word that describes William Gibson's vision of the future and also a good description of Ion Storm's Deus Ex. Like the System Shock series Deus Ex turns it's back on the fantasy and magical settings usually associated with First Person Rpgs and delivers a dystopian world of tomorrow where humanity is slowly being decimated by a mysterious disease known as the "Grey Death". With a 93% fatality rate in the fist 100 days it's clearly not your average virus. To make things worse the only known cure "ambrosia" is available only to a select few who will do anything to keep it that way.

You step into this world in the shoes of JC Denton a special covert operative for UNATCO ( United Nations Anti-Terrorist Agency ) trained to be a terrorists worse nightmare. Brimming with nano augmentations and the capability to learn a variety of skills you have to potential to become a one man army and is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The problem is lately you've been having some issues with who you can trust and even have doubts about your allegiance. To say any more would spoil the excellent plot but suffice to say that the game is very faithful to it's cyberpunk roots and you are going to be immersed in a world of paranoia and conspiracy. Even cooler is the fact that the storyline draws on real life conspiracy theories like Majestic 12 and the Illuminati to make things even more interesting.

Playing Deus Ex takes a lot of patience and dedication as there are times when the game will frustrate the hell out of you. Missions become long and arduous and you'll have to travel back and forth a lot to make progress. In the end it's all worthwhile though and few players especially fans of the System Shock and Thief series will be able to resist it's lure. While perhaps not suited to the casual gamer it's a nice break from your average run and gun games and definitely one of the classics in the genre. The game was groundbreaking when it first came out and remains great to this day.

60

Worth playing but don't expect a classic.

GAMERamble | April 11, 2011 | Review of Dark Sector

Meet black-ops agent Hayden Tenno, not a very pleasant fellow with a bit of a psychotic past. Hayden’s latest mission takes him to a former eastern bloc nation for some covert stuff but things don’t quite go according to plan and he’s infected with a mutating biological compound. Of course this being a videogame, Hayden does not die but instead gains incredible powers, in this case a huge, three-bladed weapon called a “glaive” which can be thrown at enemies. Much like some nightmarish boomerang the glaive always returns to Hayden after each throw and most of the game revolves around this mechanic.

Visually and gameplay wise this game has a very Gears Of War style look and feel to it. Although running on its own propriety “Evolution” Engine instead of the now customary Unreal Engine favored by most games in this genre (3rd Person Shooter), Dark Sector doesn’t really stand out from the pack. The graphics is very stylish and moody but often marred by repetitive textures or clipping issues. There is some nice lighting and special effects but you will often find yourself stumbling through the dark with just your flashlight offering some illumination. There are a few standout levels like the trek through a crumbling graveyard at night but the ten chapters felt a bit samey looking for my taste.

One thing there’s no shortage of in this game is blood so if you are the squeamish type then you should probably avoid this title. Decapitations or even amputating enemies is par for the course and the game even has a few gory “finishing” moves with which to take out stunned foes. Enemies aren’t in short supply either but sadly ammunition is and to ad insult to injury all enemy weapons in the game can only be used for a few seconds before they self destruct. This means you’ll have to rely a lot on your glaive which unfortunately feels somewhat underpowered or melee combat which is pathetic. The game becomes very frustrating later on due to these factors so consider yourself warned.

This being a console port the usual array of “issues” rear their ugly heads. The game will auto save when it sees fit even if that is in the middle of a messy fight. If you like to save wherever you want I’m afraid you are out of luck. At least the checkpoints are fairly spaced. The controls are stolen straight from Gears Of War and work well for the most past but dodging involves some finger cramping key combinations and a careful avoidance of the dreaded “Windows” key. Remapping the keys causes the game to sulk and crash every now and then plus playing with a gamepad felt way too slow and cumbersome.

What I liked about the game was the glaive related puzzles that break up the action. Early on you gain the ability to control the glaives flight path in first person view which is not only nice for rooting out enemies behind cover but also for hitting switches otherwise inaccessible. Your glaive can also be powered by hitting fire, electricity or ice with it which makes for some cool puzzles.

The story left me somewhat cold and Hayden is not a very likeable lead but his actions are explained later in the game which redeems him somewhat. The black market aspect of the game, accessed via conveniently placed manholes, allows you to upgrade weapons or buy new ones but the shortage of cash limited this feature a bit. The boss fights were pretty spectacular and rarely straightforward which is nice.

The audio in the game is quite good and a few of the levels are genuinely creepy due to the excellent sound effects. The voice acting is decent and Hayden is voiced by quite a famous actor. Despite its Gears Of War similarities Dark Sector feels like a game better suited on console than computer. I had fun playing it but it falls far short of greatness in many areas and there are lots of small things that just sour the whole experience.

If you can live with the dodgy controls and uneven difficulty level then give DS a try. The game has a decent length and many cool touches but just don’t expect a triple A title.

74

Ninjas and dogs, what's not to like.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Shadow Dancer

Shadow Dancer has Side Scrolling Arcade written all over it. The story line is typically sketchy for this type of game and involves some vaguely defined evil that has taken over the world. All it is however is an excuse to grab you're katana and shurikens, call you're dog and go kick some ninja ass. Yes that's right I said dog. While the main character is a ninja he has brought along his dog for the battle. By holding down the attack button you can sick him on one of you're enemies distracting them long enough for you to move in for the kill. Just don't try it on an enemy that's blocking or you're faithful sidekick will be cut down to size, literally.

The graphics are above average and very detailed in their animation. There's loads of enemies attacking from all side and they all have unique attacks and animation's. Shinobi (Joe) himself is very impressive. While you can chuck shurikens to dispose of most of the enemies if you move in close you can deal them a fatal blow with you're katana. Jumping and attacking near an enemy results in a kick. The aim is to wander around the levels rescuing hostages. Once the required amount of hostages has been found and rescued you wander over to the exit and then it's on to the next one. There are five levels each with three sub-levels so the game isn't very long, again showing it's arcadish origins. Another bad point is that it only takes one hit for you to die and some of the motherships are downright nasty. While it is certainly a fun game to play you're still left feeling like there should have been more to it. This is especially frustrating as the graphics and animation is of such a high caliber. Arcade fans will probably love it though. The areas that you play through are also quite good and you start off from the city streets, progress to the Statue of Liberty and later some caves.

There are some nice touches like the ability to jump from the foreground to the background to avoid or attack some enemies.One level also has the background tearing in half during a earthquake and rocks falling from the sky. Besides you're katana and shurikens you can also find an powerup that increases the shurikens strength and turns it into blue energy bolts. Another feature is the ability to use you're super ninja powers. This can only be used once per level, but is devastating in power. There are a few different ones and these range from a tornado that clears the screen, meteors that clear the area or fire columns that lay waste to the enemies. Using it on the motherships only result in them losing one or two blocks of power though. After each level is an bonus level where you get to test you're skill by shooting as many ninjas as you can. This is done while free falling from a building and you'll get a reward depending on how many you hit. For Shinobi fans and arcade game lovers this game is a delight, but for the rest of us it's just another short arcade blast from the past.

92

Blast processing bonanza!

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 CAP

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is the sequel to the smash hit Sonic The Hedgehog. All round bad egg, the evil Dr. Robotnik is yet again up to no good and has yet again enslaved all the cute and cuddly creatures. It's again up to Sonic to free his friends and defeat the crazy doctor. So far so familiar. This time round though you have some help in the form of Miles "Tails" Powers. This is a little fox that has two tails and follows you around the whole time. There's even a two player mode now where each player takes control of a character and can play together via a split screen. This is a very worthy addition.

The graphics in the game is almost the same as part one and apart from a few new frames of animation or a bit more colour you won't really notice any major differences. There are still some nice parallax backgrounds and the level layout is still as chaotic as ever. Levels range from hills and caves to giant pinball machines and large mechanical cities. Each level is packed with enemies and powerups and those used to playing a platform game where you simply walk from left to right is in for a surprise. You'll be all over the place in this game and there are a whole bunch of jumps, loops, platforms, lifts, slides and other obstacles between you and the exit. You don't have a power bar, but instead collect gold coins that you lose when you're hit. Fortunately you can pick these up again before they all disappear, but when you're hit while carrying no coins it's back to the last restart point.

You're controls are the same as part one. Keypad for moving around and A,B or C for jumping. You can still crouch and look up, but by holding down and pressing jump you can spin on one spot and pick up some speed. The game follows the same formula as it's prequel and there are still some underwater levels and lots of loops and ramps. There is one stage where you're flying on top of a small airplane flown by Tails, but this plays virtually the same as the platform levels. Each mothership is also still Dr. Robotnic except for the second last one which is a robot version of Sonic. The game is tricky in some places, but with some perseverance you'll soon be able to complete it. It's still one of the best platform games of the 16-bit era and fans of Sonic won't be disappointed. If you overlook the few annoying parts and the lack of real innovation you'll find a good solid platform game.

88

Rediscover a classic.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of VectorMan

It's the year 2049 and what's left of Earth is basically a compost heap. Not wanting to live amongst the mess they created the humans left for space leaving a group of "orbots" behind to clean up the garbage. With the main machine "Raster" keeping a eye on everything things went smoothly until Raster got hooked up to a discarded nuclear warhead frying his circuits and making him a bit loony. Now calling himself Warhead he turns all the other orbots against mankind and instead of finding a clean planet when they return someday a group of angry machines await them. Fortunately Vectorman was busy dumping some garbage into the sun while all this was going down so he was unaffected. Now he's mankind's last hope and has to bring down Warhead and his minions.

A strange storyline but after supersonic hedgehogs and Italian plumbers I guess anything is possible. It's a pity Vectorman came out so late in the Megadrives lifespan as most serious gamers has already moved on to the new consoles like the Playstation and N64. Coming from Blue Sky who has already proven themselves capable of making a good game Vectorman blows away most other platform shooters.

Blue Sky has definitely been studying some Treasure games as this game is fast, smooth and explosive. The graphics in the game is excellent and also quite unique. Being made up of different globes Vectorman not only looks cool but has super smooth animation's and movement. Most of the enemies also consist of multiple moving parts instead of one big sprite. The effect has been used before in games like Gunstar Heroes and Ernest Evans but it never looked this good. In fact the game runs at something like 60fps which is not bad for a 16-bit title that looks this good. The 15 levels themselves might not be as big and sprawling as those in Sonic or Earthworm Jim but they have loads of cool effects and some of the backgrounds are awesome. One level where you walk around at night with lightning flashing in the background looks really cool. You'll also travel through icy caves and large factories.

Because of all the cool graphics in the game it seems the music had to be toned down somewhat to make space for it all. There are only a few music tracks and not of them really stand out as excellent. Fortunately the sound effects more than make up for this with some booming gunshots and explosions, often drowning out the music completely. The controls are responsive and you control Vectorman with only a jump and shoot button. That's far from all he can do though as he has a handy double-jump and can shoot in any direction. With the right power-ups he can also change his shape to make things easier. Everything from a bomb to blow open secret areas to a parachute to float through the level can be found.

As you travel around blasting enemies, collecting photons and wrecking televisions you sometimes meet up with some really nasty bosses. These things are usually good looking but deadly and can really sap your health. Each have their patter to learn and overcome and even the worse ones has a weak spot to exploit. Every now and then you have to do a "bonus" type round which differs from the main game. This can be anything from riding a railroad car high above the ground while a giant pair of hands try to ram you off the track to climbing around a maze trying not to get crushed by the giant hands. These levels can be fun and look truly impressive but they can be quite annoying and you have to complete them to progress. It would have been much better if they were optional bonus stages for a extra challenge only. The game is quite difficult and you have no saves or passwords to help you in your quest. In fact you don't even have any continues so you're looking at one long hard quest. One thing that really sucks is that Vectorman can take repeated hits and this can be fatal while fight a boss and getting trapped in a corner. You also sometimes get hit out of nowhere by creatures swooping in from the roof. Although there are three difficulty levels I still wouldn't recommend this one to newbie platform players.

If Vectorman came out a bit earlier it would have been a instant classic and eclipsed all the other games. While it was overshadowed by the newer consoles back in the day it deserves another shot just to see what the Megadrive was really capable of.

91

A new star is born.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Ristar

In some far-off galaxy a evil alien called Greed is up to no good, enslaving the people and corrupting their rulers. All hope seem to be lost as even their great hero is captured. Still they send out a desperate plea for help which is answered by none other than the hero's son Ristar. OK so the plot isn't that original but the rest of the game more than makes up for this. It just so happens that Ristar is a small yellow star with telescopic arms. I always wondered who would star in platform games after they run out of a supply of small furry creatures but even I'm surprised at the choice of a celestial object as game character.

Ristar might look small and cute but he definitely has what it takes to save the day. It was released in an are where the Megadrive games started to wind down a bit as the bigger, better 32-bit consoles loomed. The levels in the game is big and colorful and presentation wise this game cannot be faulted. Levels are filled with tricks and traps so if you try to blast through them like in a Sonic title you are bound to lose. Instead each level must be explored thoroughly and since there's no time limit to worry about you can find all those secrets and bonus levels at your own pace. Some levels even throw minor puzzle elements at you making you think for a change. Each of the levels end in the usual mothership encounter and these guys are impressive to say the least. Visually they use almost every trick in the book, leaping out of the background and dazzling you with special effects.

Unlike your usual platform hero Ristar cannot jump very high or far so he must rely on his telescopic arms to latch onto things and swing him around. His main form of attack is also to grab enemies and then cannonball into them. The game throws lots of arcade elements at you like carrying a object through a series of hazards or triggering traps by throwing a decoy at it. Besides his jumping and climbing skills Ristar can also swim and this makes for some very cool underwater levels. Ristar don't have to worry about breathing so you are free to explore without worrying where your next air pocket is. Even with five continues and two skill levels Ristar is far from easy. It will take a few tries to master everything he is capable of and almost every level throws something new at you. There is a password feature but these aren't just given away and you have to earn them.

I'm surprised that Ristar doesn't run around collecting stars for points like your usual platform character. Instead the few stars that are scattered through the levels give you health and can be pretty well hidden. The only other collectibles are gems that give you a score increase. These are also hidden on some seemingly out of reach places so it takes a bit of extra effort to get them all. You enemies are a wacky bunch and come in all shapes and sizes. They'll squirm around in your grip as you grab them before you head butt them to pieces. Some of them also have cool attacks where they jump at you from the fore or background. A neat touch is how you can hang on to some flying enemies and use tome to cover some extra ground or reach higher places. Ristar himself is richly animated and include loads of idle animation's for each of his environments. This means if you leave him alone on the ice levels he'll start building a little snowman or sit down and look hot on the lava levels.

Ristar is a manoeuvrable little sprite but his unique way of attacking and moving around does take some getting used to. Luckily the restart points are pretty fair considering the size of the levels and there isn't much repetition. The bonus levels once you find them are pretty tricky and you only have one shot at them. There are loads of treasure chests and secrets to find on each level and if you explore thoroughly you'll be handsomely rewarded. Like the rest of the game the audio is brilliant and there's even a excellent " Sound Theater" sound test mode where you can listen to the tunes. Tomoko Sasaki has done a great job and songs like "Du-Di-Da!!" is sure to make you tap your feet. The sound effects are also of a high standard with tons of whimsical speech samples.

Although Ristar might seem childish at first after playing for a while you'll soon realize how great this game is. Finding everything is quite a challenge and if the normal and hard levels still feel too easy try entering " SUPERB " as a password for the expert mode. If you enjoyed the Sonic titles but want something fresh or with a slower pace then Ristar comes highly recommended. The game is fun and addictive with enough cool gamplay to keep you coming back. One of the coolest16bit characters since Coolspot.

72

A cult classic not without its faults.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Kid Chameleon

When a new arcade machine is released that uses holograms to create a virtual reality like experience everyone of course lines up to have a go. Too bad for them things get a bit too realistic and the boss of the game starts capturing everyone that enters his game. Now it's up to Kid Chameleon to take up the challenge and free his fellow gamers from the machine.

As Kid Chameleon you have to travel through a huge amount of levels where your goal is simply to find the exit flag at the end of the level. This is easier said than done seeing each level is almost maze like in layout and lots of searching and backtracking is required to find the flag. It can sometimes be right in front of you with only a wall blocking access to it but you have to travel halfway round the level to find a teleporter to get you to the other side of the wall. What makes things even more complicated is the fact that your main character can change into a huge assortment of other characters each with their own abilities. Change into a samurai and you can jump higher and slash enemies with your sword, a knight on the other hand has more health and can climb walls. The large amount of characters include a tank, axe thrower, fly, hoverboard and a whole bunch of other strange creatures. Changing into these characters is as easy as smashing some blocks to find the right icon that will transform you. If you lose all your health while in another form you will transform back into Kid Chameleon who can only take two shots before dying. Your character stays the same when going into the next level and this can sometimes make things a lot easier or trickier depending on your form and environments.

There is a large amount of levels ranging from caves, sewers, mountains, forests and ice levels. None of these levels are very long but getting through them gets progressively more challenging and with no password feature you're going to have to finish them all in one sitting. Getting to level 25 took me about two hours so I don't know how many levels there are in total. The graphics are nice and varied with a whole bunch of cool characters. Levels are pretty cool but none of them really catches the eye and they lack that visual appeal that some platform titles have. The different characters that you can change into is a cool touch though and some of them has some cool animation's. Sound wise the music is pretty mundane with no tunes really catching your attention. The sound effects are pretty decent with some nice effects and voices. One area that is sure to lose the game some fans is the control. You use three buttons to make Kid Chameleon jump, run or use the special ability of whatever form he is in. The problem is that most of the levels have lots of platforms that has to be traversed and you always have a time limit to keep a eye on. This is fine but your character has the nasty effect of slipping around a lot while jumping. This makes accurate jumping tricky and I found myself falling off platforms quite a lot. These falls are usually not fatal, but cost you a lot of time and it's tedious falling from a series of platforms only to start all the way from the bottom. Ultimately it's this that made me stop playing the game and I'm sure lots of players will feel the same way. It might not be immediately apparent, but play the game for a while and it's sure to annoy you. Overall Kid Chameleon is a above average platform offering that has some clever touches but some of the smaller flaws keeps it from being a classic. It's still fun to play but there are better games out there.

95

One of the highlights of the Megadrive era.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Gunstar Heroes

If you are looking for a good platform shooter don't pass up Gunstar Heroes. Especially if you prefer the emphasis firmly on the shooter part. This little gem from Treasure is filled with enough explosions to level a small city and more enemies than you can shake a very large stick at. The storyline is a bit of a letdown though with the usual evil bad guy trying to take over the world plot. You take control of one of the gunstar heroes in a effort to foil the evil plans of the empire. You can go in alone or enlist the help of a friend in the excellent two player mode.

The graphics in Gunstar Heroes are way cool and how Treasure managed to squeeze this much into a 16 Meg cartridge is amazing. There is never a dull moment with enemies swarming you from all sides and bullets zigzagging the screen along every step you take. Naturally anything blows up after enough hits so your in for a pyrotechnics filled ride. You get to pick what type of firepower you'd like to start each level with and there are some cool choices on offer. Each one also has their own strengths and weaknesses like the Firepower that cause devastating damage but has a short range or the laser force that fires rapidly but has a smaller blast radius. Of course you're not limited to what you start with and new firepower can be acquired along the way. You can carry up two types of firepower at a time and these can be used either individually or combined for a totally new type of firepower. This means you can end up with homing blasts of fire or lasers that bounce around the screen. Finding the coolest combinations is half the fun. Combining two of the same types of firepower also gives excellent results as the firepower stays the same but is greatly improved. Besides your gun your character also has some other nifty forms of attack at his disposal. If a enemy gets too close you can perform a handy throw on him where you pick him up and fling him into some of his buddies. While jumping you can also press jump again for a leaping attack that can take out some midair baddies. Lastly while on the ground and pressing down and jump together you perform a slide that can get you out of some tight corners or cut through a path of incoming bad guys. Overall your character is very responsive and the wide range of moves and firepower makes for a very enjoyable experience.

The gameplay isn't just limited to platform action either. On almost every level there is something new and unique going on and the whole game is filled with original ideas. Besides the platforming action there are levels where you have to travel through some tunnels in a mine-cart that can also ride upside down along the ceiling, a level where you have to travel along the squares of a boardgame by picking up and throwing a dice, the square you land on deciding what type of boss you'll be fighting until you reach the end and even a level where you get to fly around in a space ship in a side scrolling space shooter type level. Then there is the motherships. These guys must rank as some of the best seen in any type of game on the Megadrive. Before each encounter you're given the bosses name and some vital data like what type of attacks he uses. Some of these guys are huge and feature some very impressive effects for a Megadrive cart. Detailed characters with some excellent scaling all on detail backgrounds are just some of the features you can expect. Depending on your weapon type these guys can also soak up huge amounts of damage so be prepared for some epic battles. Fortunately you are shown just how much health your opponent has left so you can see exactly how long you still have to battle.

Gunstar Heroes also feature some great tunes for each of it's levels and the sound effects are just as good. The huge explosions and gunshots mixed with the screams of enemies make the game just as hectic sonically as it is visually. You are given the choice of four different skill levels so player of any skill can take part in the action. You also have the choice of continuing which is handy seeing as you only get one life per game. If there are some criticisms it's that the game is a bit on the short side. Cranking up the skill level will prolong the challenge but at the end of the day the game can still be completed in just over a hour. The reason this stands out though is because it's such a great game and you are left wanting more. Overlook this small niggle though and enjoy one of the greatest games of it's type on the system.

90

More fun than a barrel of beans?

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine CAP

At first there was Puyo Puyo, a completely mad Japanese Puzzle game which was as frustrating as it was addictive. Sega obviously saw the potential and decided it wanted a slice of the action and so Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine was born. I had the misfortune to play the Master System version first and absolutely despised it. Then I discovered the original Puyo Puyo on Megadrive and loved. Which brings me right back to DRMBM on Megadrive.

I knew Puyo Puyo was weird and although I didn't understand a word of the plot I'm sure it was as mad as the characters but DRMBM reaches all new depths in the storyline department. Apparently the evil Dr. Robotnik ( you might have heard of him ) is trying to rid the world of Mobious of fun and music forever. For this he has created the Mean Bean Steaming Machine to dispose of all the fun loving Jolly Beans of Beanville by turning them into robotic slaves. This is where you come in as savoir of the Beans. While the beans are falling from the top of the screen you have to rotate them so that four or more of the same colored beans are grouped together. This allows them to escape and dumps a bunch of refugee beans on your opponents side of the screen. These beans cannot be grouped and can only escape along with a neighbouring group. First player who's beans touch the top of the screen loses. It's simply, fun and at times very, very frustrating.

Apart from the new Sonic characters the graphics remain exactly the same as in Puyo Puyo. They even kept little Carbuncle ( the character that starts each round ) in his spot in the middle of the screen although he's now called "Has Bean" (Urgh!). Before each match in scenario mode your opponent attacks you verbally with some of the most horrendous puns I've ever heard and then it's into the fray. Things start out nice and easy but it's not long before you are swamped in refugee beans in the time it takes a preying mantis to blink. It's almost ridiculous how fast you can be game over at times but practice makes perfect. Don't rely on the skill levels to make your job easier since the CPU characters show no mercy no matter what difficulty level you're playing on. Thankfully Sega has decided to add a password feature which really helps when you need to take a break from all the madness. There's also a practice mode to hone your skills but the real fun as always lies in the two-player mode. The best part about this is that there is actually a target sitting right next to you to take your frustrations out on when you get repeatedly trashed. This spares your gamepad although you might gain a few bruises and lose a few friends.

I can't really remember but the music sounded a bit different than Puyo Puyo and the new tunes aren't bad either. While thirteen levels might not sound like much it will take you a few hours to complete them and on the higher skill levels you might never see the ending. One strange thing I've noticed is that when battling a foe they all have the name "Dr R" above their portrait instead of their name like in Puyo Puyo. Then again you can't really shorten names like Davey Sprocket, Dynamight and Skweel to four letters either.

If you are a Manga fan and don't mind a bit of Japanese text I'd still recommend Puyo Puyo instead but for the general public and puzzle fans in specific DRMBM is a decent conversion of a great game. If you can forgive it's faults, have a good supply of friends and extra controllers and don't mind being repeatedly trashed b a guy called Lord Fuzzy Logik then you'll have hours of fun

92

One of the best overlooked classics.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Comix Zone

Sketch Turner is a comic book artist that gets a nasty surprise when one of his one creations pops out of his comic one day and traps him inside his own drawings. Now Sketch has to fight for his life while his nemesis is on the outside drawing more adversaries. His not alone though. Along for the ride is his pet rat Roadkill and providing useful information is Alissa Cyan. Comix Zone is not your usual run-of-the-mill Side Scrolling Beat 'Em Up that's fore sure. The first thing you'll instantly notice about the game is the outstanding graphics. These must surely rank as some of the finest graphics that has ever been coaxed out of the Megadrive. Keeping with the comic theme everything is drawn in style with all the small touches you would expect to find in a comic. Speech bubbles, BOOMS! and CRASHES! are all over the place and each scene that you do battle in resemble a comic book panel to the finest detail.

There are lots of humoures exchanges between Sketch and his own creations as they do battle and Allisa has her own spot on the top of the page where she keeps you up to date or provide some help on your current situation. The animation in the game is over the top with loads of cool touches. Just leave Sketch alone for a while to see him take of his shoe and smell it to see how much detail was put into the characters. The basic idea is to make your way from the first panel at the top of the page down to the last panel on the bottom. You do this by beating up the multitude of comic baddies that get drawn onto the page as you look on. These dudes are mean and have their own unique personalities. Each has a wide range of moves and to make things worse they can also block your attacks. Of course Turner himself is no helpless artist and can bust some mean moves himself. Punches and kicks are common with flying kicks and combos not thrown into the mix. Of course your little buddy Roadkill can also be unleashed once you find him to soften up your enemies. Along the way items can also be picked up to help you out like energy drinks to restore health or one use weapons like knifes and grenades.

It's not all fighting though as at some points you have to solve a little puzzle to progress. These won't tax your brain for longer than a second but provide a nice break from the all reflex action. The comic book you are fighting through is littered with deadly traps and wicked foes and each location has a beautifully drawn comic background. This can be anything from a temple (where you have to fight in a Mortal Kombat style tournament) to underground lava caverns or the ruined streets of Newer York. Comix Zone is packed so full of small touches that you just have to keep playing to see what happens next. Enemy projectiles can shred parts of the page your on, little bits of paper litter the air while you beat up a foe and a whole bunch of other cool effects are everywhere. There is even one part where you frantically try to make your way down the page as it burns down above you. At certain parts you can choose your next route so there is some replay value if you want to see and do it all.

Besides the excellent graphics it's clear to see that Sega spend some time on the audio as well. Besides some very cool tunes the game is packed with some of the best sound effects in a Beat 'Em Up. With the usual grunts and grounds there are also some cool speech samples and booming explosions. All of the characters has some trademark sound effect and fights really do sound like fights. The game can either be played with a three or six button controller and everything is very responsive. Busting out killer combos is a breeze and the auto blocking can help you out in sticky situations. Sketch is easy to control and except for the occasional slipping off ledges respond to your input well.

All is not good and well however. It's a shame that the game is one-player only as the two-player mode is usually the highlight of these type of games. The game is also pretty short and tries to make up for this with a very high difficulty level. You only have one life and falling down chasms kills you instantly. You can restart after you die, but have to go all the way back to the start of the page. This is not that bad though as the level themselves aren't that long. With loads of cool touches (Like the way Sketch turns into a superhero with the right powerups) outstanding graphics, awesome sound and killer gameplay Comix Zone is a must have title for your collection. Sure it could have been bigger and include a two-player mode but it's still a excellent game that should not be missed... again.

75

Time to exterminate.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Alien Storm

I guess Earth is just too lucrative a vacation destination for aliens as once again we find ourselves invaded. So pick up your plasma rifle, strap on that flame-thrower and go give the bastards a "warm" welcome. Preferable take along a partner as this is not going to be a easy assignment. Besides the usual guy and girl you also get to pick a nifty robot so everyone is catered for. Each character also has their own weapon and special power so pick carefully. Standing between you and the evil alien mothership is about ten million of the smaller creatures. Everything from slugs to gremlins as well as some other genetic freaks await you.

Alien Storm looks like you typical side scrolling beat 'em up but all the characters carry around huge weapons to kick ass with. You do have energy levels to keep a eye out for which goes down each time you use your weapon or special power. Run out of energy and your reduced to beating the aliens over the head with your gun. Besides running and shooting you can also perform a John Woo style rolling jump to get out of those tight spots. The aliens come at you thick and fast and only the trigger happy will survive to the last encounter. Every now and then the perspective also changes to a first person view like in Operation Wolf where you get to mow down hordes of aliens in locations like a convenience store or lab. Everything in these scenes are destructible and laying waste to everything in sight rewards you with health and energy. Of course there are also some mean motherships out to get you and these guys are anything but pushovers. Again taking someone along for the battle helps a lot. Although there are three difficulty settings Alien Storm can still prove quite challenging. You only have one life and health is exactly readily available. The fact that you also only have two continues between two players will ensure that you don't just waltz right through this one. The later stages especially throws everything in the book at you and just when you think it's finally over another tribe of aliens come to spoil your day.

The graphics in the game is quite cool with loads of disgusting aliens and over the top special abilities. Playing as the robot you can use your head as a bomb while other players have skills like dropping down a huge missile or calling in backup firepower. These all use up precious energy so save them for those really dire situations. Although there are tons of detail and cool backgrounds the overall color scheme is a bit limited. The animation's are also a bit on the stiff side. The creatures you battle all look cool in a disgusting freakish kind of way. Just try to imagine that garbage can you just passed sprouting a mouth and a slug like body and you'll get the general idea. It's also cool to fight and then spot some gremlins eating someone's house in the background or hanging form the ceiling. It's not so cool when they jump down and start chewing on your face though. Stages also show a lot of variety with battles taking place all over the city as well as inside the UFO and other spots. The first person shooting levels are fun but a bit on the short side.

The sounds in the game is a bit of a letdown though. The music never rises above average and none of the tunes will exactly stick in your head. Sound effects are also not that good with the usual screeches and bangs going on in the heat of battle. The annoying civilian screams of help are particularly harsh on the ears. The controls are responsive and you can customize everything to your liking. Performing a running jump is easy and every now and then I even managed to jump over a enemy while shooting down at him. Quite fun. Enemies have the nasty habit of ganging up on you and without a second player to watch your back (or act as bait ) your in for a tough time. Not a impossible game just challenging.

If you are looking for a fun two player game that focuses more on firepower than brainpower Alien Storm is your game. Shooting at the aliens instead of beating them up is fun for a change and the first person shooting levels are some of the most fun I've played in the genre. The challenging gameplay will also keep you playing for a while. Not bad in one player mode but you really need a friend to get the most out of the game. While it's not exactly a classic it's still very entertaining and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a arcade thrill.

75

A low price for a classic slice of console history.

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Sonic Adventure DX CAP

I still remember when this game first came out looking at it in all the magazines and really wishing I could play it. Of course that was way back in 1999 when it was a Dreamcast launch title. Fortunately I was never tempted to buy myself an ill fated Dreamcast and when it went under Sega of course went on to focus on their software instead. This then is how Sonic Adventure makes its’ debut on computer and I didn’t hesitate to finally check it out. The computer market differs quite a bit from consoles so I can’t imagine what the average computer gamer would think of playing an aging console title in this day and age but I think this game is aimed squarely at the fans of the spiky blue one.

In case you don’t know the story by now it centers around the evil Dr. Robotnik and his latest madcap plan. He’s once again after the seven chaos emeralds this time to summon up some powerful monster called “chaos”. Sonic is there to make sure this doesn’t happen though and he’ll also meet up with a few of his friends in this adventure. Although this game is getting a bit long in the tooth by now there’s still a lot to get excited about here for Sonic fans and while it might look like just another simple console game at first glance you’d be surprised at how long this one will keep you busy. You can of course just breeze through in two or three hours if you do the bare minimum and don’t’ care about any of the extras or endings but true fans will find themselves hooked for days unlocking everything on offer.

Since this was a Dreamcast game like I said the graphics which once looked so awesome look a little dusty compared to recent fare and unfortunately Sega hasn’t done much to improve things for the computer. The gameworld is quite big and everything is fully 3d but the textures are pretty basic and don’t expect any fancy new features like bump mapping, pixel shaders or anything like that. The level designs are some of the craziest I’ve ever seen though and twist and turn in all directions. You might be running down the side of a building one moment or soaring high up into the heart of a tornado the next. Playing as Sonic the game is lighting fast and all those loops, twists and turns now look better than ever. There are about ten levels set in locations like the Emerald Coast, Windy Valley, Twinkle Park, Lost World and more. Of course this wouldn’t be much of an adventure game if there weren’t adventure segments too and while these parts are pretty basic they do flesh the game out a bit more than just running around would have. You’ll mostly be strolling around Station Central or the Mystic Ruins taking to people and following very basic clues to the next location but it’s a nice touch none the less. It will also be in these segments that you usually meet the other characters that you can unlock and then use to play the game. In total there are six unique characters (not counting Super Sonic which only the hardcore players will unlock) to play with and each one is totally unique.

While the Sonic levels might be all about speed playing as Big the cat sees you catching fish to finish levels. Or how about searching for emerald fragments as Knuckles. If you like a bit more action and shooting then E-102 is your man er robot and for those with a cutesy side Amy Rose will brighten your game. While these extra characters might not have as much levels as Sonic they are a lot of fun to play with and change the way you play completely making for some varied and unique challenges. It’s clear to see that Sega tried to cram as much as possible into this game and the effort really pays off. The game is also jam packed with little bonus games like playing pinball in the casino, snowboarding or even a fully fledged breeding/racing game where you raise little creatures called “Chao”. This segments (which are completely optional) alone can keep you busy for ages. Completing levels and objects also earns you emblems and the good news is that for every twenty you collect you unlock a new mini game. These aren’t your average mini games though as they consist of previous Sonic titles that came out for earlier consoles like the Game Gear. Show me what true Sonic fan won’t be thrilled to have these earlier classics. You’ll have to work hard to get them all though.

If the replay value wasn’t high enough already with all the characters once you complete Adventure mode you’ll also open up Trial and Mission modes for that character. Trial mode simply allows you to redo levels with new objectives like time limits or other goals in order to earn more emblems. Mission mode is more like an adventure game as you wander around finding cards that give you a specific goal to aim for and then go try and complete it. So while you might complete the game with Sonic in a day or two doing absolutely everything you can possibly do in this game could literally take weeks. Knowing the average computer player I have my doubts as to whether many will go this far.

The audio is just about bearable and each of the characters has their own corny theme tune always playing in the background. All the main characters also have full speech and overall the voice overs aren’t too bad. If you plan on seriously playing this game I highly recommend a gamepad though. In fact mine got busted in the middle of the game and playing with the keyboard met with disastrous results. I rather waited until my gamepad was fixed than muddle on with the keyboard. Bottom line is if you don’t have a gamepad get one or prepare to suffer severe carpel tunnel syndrome.

So far I haven’t really gone into any negative points and unfortunately the game has quite a few. The dated graphics I can still live with but the horrible camera problems really suck and at times almost spoil the game. The camera has this nasty habit of constantly switching angles while your playing and this can result in some untimely deaths if you don’t pay attention to what direction you’re traveling in. In the slower segments the camera is also often obscured by parts of the scenery or struggle to keep up with you if you move around too fast. You can manually reposition the thing but it’s still a hassle and considering the level layouts in this game something that should have been more polished. The game can also become slightly repetitive after a while and the challenge level isn’t that high. There are a few other annoying niggles but nothing as bad and nothing that will detract fans from playing the game.

Sonic Adventure is going to appeal only to a certain type of player who loves squeezing every ounce of fun out of a game. Those just looking for a game with graphics that will impress their friends and the usual computer style gameplay won’t like this. While Sonic Adventure might not be the landmark title it was when it first appeared it’s still a fun and long lasting game that will thrill action fans. At least it adds some variety to the usual stale assortment of computer games.

86

A treasure worth checking out

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Light Crusader™

If you don't know about a company called Treasure then you've been missing out on some of the best games on Megadrive. If you do know them then you might be surprised to learn that they have a role playing game in their catalogue. Seeing as almost all their other games were platform games featuring heavy firepower it's interesting to see how they handled this one.

You start the game as David Lander, one tired knight badly in need of a holiday. Fortunately he has no problem in convincing the king to send him to the neighbouring town of Greenrod for a bit of rest and relaxation. Upon arriving there though things seem a bit out of place and he soon realizes that the towns people are disappearing one by one. Talking to the king reveals that some sinister things have been going on and that's about the time David's holiday comes to a end. Now you have to take him through the six level dungeon beneath the town to rescue the people and find out exactly what's going on.

About the closes game to Light Crusader you'll find on Megadrive is Landstalker. You've got your same skewed top down perspective and all combat takes place in real-time. There are also some devious puzzles and traps to overcome along the way. Unfortunately Light Crusader falls a bit short in the gameplay department compared to Landstalker and players of the latter might be a bit disappointed by Light Crusaders short quest and lack of variation. The six dungeons you explore are pretty short and there is none of the town travelling and character interaction that made Landstalker such a hit. Every now and then you'll find a villager caught beneath the dungeons and freeing him might provide some info. Other than that it's pretty much just combat and puzzle solving. Some of the later levels are really cool and you get to travel to different time zones but these cool levels are sadly all too brief.

The graphics in the game are quite nice and David has some nice animation's. There are also some cool enemy characters and the rooms you explore are pretty detailed. David seem to be hyperventilating most of the time although that could just be due to stress and the lack of a holiday. Special mention should be made of the bosses which is something that Treasure know how to do right. Most of them has some kind of technical trickery involved and if you've played any of the other Treasure titles like Gunstar Heroes you'll recognize some of the animation styles.

Although Light Crusader looks and plays like a standard role playing game there are some aspects of that drags it down a bit. You only have a few items to equip and old equipment can never be sold. Likewise although you can find hordes of food items you cannot discard or sell these for cash but are forced to use them to free up space. There is also very little of the usual "special" items normally found in RPG's and the game focuses more on puzzle solving and combat than exploration and talking. The combat system is good though and arguably better than the one in Landstalker. Enemies can hit each other or get in each others way making combat more involving. David can slash or perform a diving attack as well as attack with magic. You have four elements which can be combined for quite a few spells but your elements need to be restocked when you run out.

It's also cool to see enemies die in different ways than just simply disappearing. Goblins can be cut in half or decapitated while zombies sink down in a pile of goo. Kill a enemy with a fire spell and you'll also see him fall down in flames leaving a charred corpse. You can only save in certain "save rooms" but since the dungeons are pretty small your never really that far from a save point and the emulator interface makes in-game saving not such a big issue anymore (unless you are a purist like me.) Some puzzles reset however forcing you to go through the whole tedious process again just to backtrack. Upon dying it's also game over unless you happen to have a pendant which grants you another life. These are pretty expensive so be careful. Light Crusader also enables you to turn on auto item use which automatically uses a potion when your health gets low or cure when you get poisoned. This is a bit annoying at first but helps a lot during hectic boss battles. Seeing how much damage you give or take displayed above your character is also handy.

The music in Light Crusader won't be winning any awards anytime soon but it's good none the less and serve as a good backdrop to the action. Some tunes are better than others but overall I've got no complaints. The sound effects reminded me a lot of Landstalker although this game also has a few speech samples thrown. Some get annoying pretty fast but again overall not too bad. Controls are responsive and with a touch of a button you can access your inventory, auto-map, equipment and magic menu. Another cool thing is you don't have to get in someone's face to talk to them but simply turn towards them and press attack. This is much more realistic but with so few people to talk to not something you use a lot.

If you prefer combat and puzzle solving above travelling and exploration then Light Crusader is your game. Although there are some hidden rooms you never really get that feeling of being part of a gameworld like in RPGS such as Landstalker and Phantasy Star. Being confined to just six small dungeon levels is a bit of a letdown although later levels get really cool. I missed traveling around, talking to people and putting clues together but Light Crusader has a decent storyline and more than enough to do. It might not be one of the best RPGs that the system had to offer but Treasure did a good job with it and fans will enjoy it.

91

Frustrating but fun

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole™

Landstalker is the story of Nigel, a wood elf that makes a living from being a treasure hunter. Planning to do a little relaxing after his latest adventures in the Jypta ruins his plans are altered when he rescues a mysterious forest nymph from the clutches of some bad guys. The reason that they were after Friday the nymph is that she knows the location of the legendary treasures of King Nole. Spending all his cash to hitch a ride to the island that Friday spoke of Nigel sets out to find the treasure hoard. Things take a turn for the worst though when he gets knocked unconscious and wakes up in a village of strangers that took care of him. Before he can get back to his search he has to help a few people and gather some clues to the whereabouts of the treasure. Things get a lot more complicated than he bargained for and he soon ends up in a far greater adventure than simply dodging a few traps.

If you're thinking Lanstalker bears a passing resemblance to The Legend Of Zelda on SNES you'd be right. It's a action Rpg where you have to fight as much as use your brains. Your quest is vast and you'll need quick reflexes as well as some logical thinking before you even have a shot at gaining the treasures. Combat takes place in real-time so strategy fans is going to have a hard time here. You have virtually no time to think and enemies will decimate you in seconds if you don't have quick reflexes. I was a little disappointed with the combat system seeing as it can get very unfair at times. Your character can only attack with swords and have no way to defend himself. You can also get into situations where you can't attack because trees or whatever is blocking you. This doesn't stop enemies though who attack in large groups, can seemingly hit through anything and take loads of hits to die. You also stagger backwards when you're hit so there are lots of scenarios that happen likes this : You walk into a room with five heavily armoured knights. All the exits close and you have to defeat everyone to exit the room. You do so and enter the next room. A bad guy instantly hits you, knocking you back into the first room where you have to fight the knights again. Yes sadly the bad guys also respawn as soon as you leave a room. Things like this can really spoil your day and getting cornered by a bunch of enemies usually spells your demise. The original had limited save areas but since this version is emulated its not such a big deal anymore. A cap on the amount of health potions you can carry still makes this a challenging game. Be prepared for boss fights where you can get killed in two or three shots even with a full health total.

If you though the combat was hard though wait until you see the puzzles. Almost every room you enter in the dungeons or caves of the island is filled with traps and puzzles to bar your way. These are also coupled with quick reflexes and arcade skills like platform jumping to make your life more difficult. Trust me, by the end of this game not only will your gamepad be knackered but your fingers and brain too. All of this could have destroyed any chances of Lanstalker being a classic but it's such a damn good game you just have to keep on playing. Landstaker was actually the first Megadrive game I bought and although I couldn't complete it back then I could have kicked myself when I saw how close to the end I came before giving up. The graphics in the game is pretty good with lots of cool details everywhere. Character and monster designs are of a high quality and everything has a unique look to it. The entire game takes place from a 3D-Isometric viewpoint and your character can only walk in four different directions. Due to the viewpoint some of the jumps in the game are extremely difficult as it can be hard to make out if a platform is above or below you, but after playing a while you get used to it. The same with the control system. At first you'll struggle to get to grips with moving your character but after a few hours of play it becomes second nature.

There are a few towns that you'll have to visit and talking to people can be vital to your progress. There are some funny situations and talking never become a chore. Buying items on the other hand is a bit laborious for my taste. If for example you want to buy health restoring herbs (called Eke Eke) you have to walk into the shop, pick it up, listen to the shopkeeper tell you what it is, put it on the counter, get asked if you want to buy it, answer yes and only then it's yours. Unfortunately there is also only one or two in the shop so to max out your Eke Eke (you can only carry nine at a time) you'll have to buy the two, leave the shop, enter again and repeat the whole sequence. A simple question of how many do you want to buy would have saved a lot of time and patience. Later on you'll also find a casino where you can play games like Chicken toss, Chicken race and roulette for more cash. Although you won't be playing these for long it adds a little extra to the game.

Sound wise Landstalker is good but not impressive. There are some very nice tunes in the game but the sound effects let things down a bit. All of the enemies have the same annoying screeches and Nigel sounds like a baby when he gets hit. This can get on your nerves very quickly. In the original game you could only save your game in towns at a church and if you're lucky you'll find a priest that can do the same for you in some of the dungeons. This makes this emulated version a tad easier since you can save at any time. If you lose all your health Friday will use a Eke Eke on you to restore half of it, but seeing as you take so much damage and can only carry nine of the herbs things get very frustrating. Fortunately you can also carry nine Dahl that will fill your health up to it's max.. These are best saved for those mothership encounters that are infrequent but extremely tough.

Landstalker isn't going to be a game that will appeal to novices. The cool old skool graphics might draw them in, but they'll soon tire of the unending puzzles and frustrating combat. You also have no statistics to improve so unlike other RPGs combat serve no purpose other than to acquire more cash. If the enemies didn't respawn so quickly it would have been ok but having to wade through hordes of them only to find you have to backtrack and take another route makes killing them pointless. Avoiding them in the narrow passages also cost you more health than fighting so you really have no choice than to hack away. The game is also fairly linear and to trigger certain events you'll have to visit a certain place or talk to a certain person. There's never really a time when you don't know where to go next, it's more of a question of what do I have to do to get there? All this might sound very negative but once you start playing Landstalker it grows on you and you'll want to see what happens next. This game was a classic back on the Megadrive/Genesis and is still worth playing today.

90

The charm...

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Columns III: Revenge of the Columns

Well this is a first, a Columns game that actually better than just "good". While previous efforts in the series always played second fiddle to classics like Tetris and Puyo-Puyo this time round Sega really stepped up the presentation and finally achieved a classic entry. While previous Columns games were fun to play, the re-play value was a bit low and although it could get quite addictive it wasn't one of those games that you just couldn't put down. Columns 3 increases the presentation a bit over previous efforts and everything looks a bit more colourful and pleasing on the eyes. It still won't win any awards for outstanding graphical achievements, but everything looks nice and sparkly and the few enemies you face doesn't look bad at all.

Surprisingly Columns 3 even sports a story line where you as an adventurer set out to discover the secret treasure of the pyramids. Along the way you'll encounter a whole host of wacky creatures that stand in you're way. You get to chose from three different entrances at the start which effect to outcome of the game, but take practice or normal and you end up with the "bad" ending, so only those that complete the game on difficult will see the true ending. Beating a opponent nets you a a treasure chest that contains a power-up that will help you later on. The gameplay mechanics has also changed for the better. You're no longer aimlessly making blocks disappear only for the honour of getting a high-score but now you're going to have to do some real brain-work. For every ten blocks you remove on you're side of the screen you can increase you're opponents "crush-bar" by one. Of course he can do the same to you, so you're constantly battling to unleash you're ability on him before he can do it to you. Combos also play a big part in the game. Not only do they raise you're removed blocks counter very fast, but if you can get three or more combos you get a power-up. Once you unleash this on you're opponent you can inflict all sorts of misery like turning his screen upside down, making his side of the screen monochrome, or inverting his controls. This is a lot of fun until it happens to you. Every twenty lines that you remove also gives you a magic gem which can either decrease your "crush bar", increase your opponents or simply remove all the blocks of a certain color, depending on how you turn it. While all these play mechanics are quite cool ( watching your opponents face as you smash his magic block with a well timed crash bar assault is always a treat ) you can't help thinking that things like inverted screens and monochrome blocks aren't really going to spoil the CPU opponents day. These guys has trashed me many times from situations that would leave a human player in blind panic.

The music in the game features some Egyptian flavoured tunes to accompany your quest through the pyramid. The tunes are not too bad and compliments the on-screen action perfectly. The higher your "crush bar" goes the more frantic the tunes become until you can't help but feel a bit of panic. Sound effects are nice as well and nothing beats the squeal of alarm as you do something nasty to your opponent. The controls work well and you only use one button to rotate your blocks. The other two is used to cause your opponents grief. The nice thing is if you are playing with two friends you use the middle button to rotate your blocks and the A or C button to harass your opponent to the left or right of you. This makes quick strikes in the heat of puzzle solving a breeze.

If previous Columns left you unimpressed then Columns 3 might be just the thing to convert you. The single player game is hard enough to keep you playing but it's the frantic multi-player modes that will keep you coming back for more. Definitely a must have for any puzzle fan.

84

Not quite the charm

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon

Nobody would have thought that an American patent lawyer from Idaho would make a good computer game character but that hasn’t stopped George Stobbard from uncovering conspiracies and saving the world twice. In his third adventure George finds himself in the Congo trying to meet up with a client but it’s not long before things go pear shaped and the world is in danger once again. I’m not going to give away anything about the storyline except that it was good but not as good as the first game.

The biggest change from other games in the series is definitely the graphics and BS:TSD features full 3D graphics instead of the beautiful hand painted ones of the last two. While everything looks good and it’s nice to see some of the old locations in a new perspective I can’t help but miss the 2D graphics. The original game set new standards with its colorful animations and vibrant scenes and while this game is certainly colorful it wont’ be winning any awards for outstanding graphical achievements.

Since it’s also being released on console I guess it makes sense for everything to be in 3D but graphically there’s just nothing that really sets it apart from all the other similar looking games out there. Along with the new look also comes a new control scheme so you can forget about manoeuvring your characters with a mouse. The keyboard does an adequate job but for the best results you really should invest in a decent gamepad, another clear example that this game was designed with the console market in mind.

Taking control of your characters whether it’s George or Nico is fairly simple and examining, picking up and using items has never been easier. It’s a relieve not having to pixel hunt with a mouse cursor anymore as your character will automatically look at any interesting items nearby. This control method reminded me a lot of Grimm Fandango and it doesn’t take long to get used to. Unfortunately Revolution seems to be running out of ideas for good puzzles as there is a depressing amount of crates in this game that needs to be pushed, pulled and shoved into the correct places in order for you to progress. It almost felt like I was playing Soulreaver at times! Even worse is the obligatory stealth sections where you have to sneak your character past some guards. These areas are mercifully short but make no mistake making a wrong move will get you killed and overall I found this aspect of the game to be tedious and not much fun. There is also some interactive cut-scenes where you’ll have to quickly press certain buttons in order to make the correct choices and survive whatever is happening onscreen. These are quite entertaining if you get them right but unfortunately you cannot skip any dialogue or cut-scenes in this game resulting in major frustration if your reflexes are a bit slow and you end up dying only to watch the whole thing right from the start again.

The audio was quite nice and I’m glad to hear that George still has his original voice. All the other characters have decent voice actors as well and the dialogue is witty and entertaining. Sound effects were adequate and the music wasn’t half bad either.

If you are a fan of the Broken Sword series then you should have fun with this one even though it’s a bit of a departure from the last two games. There are a few areas that are really cool but one or two sections were definitely a drag to play through for me. The game isn’t all that long either and while you get some nifty concept art if you manage to complete it there’s no replay value whatsoever so make sure you savor what you can the first time through.

90

They don't make 'em like this anymore

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Bio-Hazard Battle

It's seems for once it's not Earth that got invaded by ravenous mutant aliens but the planet Averon. The results remain pretty much the same though with the place in shambles and disgusting alien freaks crawling all over the place. Instead of a lone pilot send in to clean up the mess you have control of the Biowarriors, four flying genetic fighting machines, each with their own unique look and style.

Bio-Hazard looks and feels pretty much like your average side scrolling shooter but is also a lot more polished. Up to two players can play at the same time and the option to pick from four different fighters is cool. This makes a welcome change from the norm where player two is just a different colored version of player one. You also have the option to set the difficulty although be warned if you play on practice you'll only get to play until level five. Increasing the difficulty makes a drastic change to the amount of enemies and bullets against you so be glad that you have ten continues at your disposal. It's a pity that the player that dies first has to sit and twiddle their thumbs until the other player is game over before they can continue and I would have preferred five continues each that could have been used at any time. Not having to restart the entire long stage after being annihilated by the mothership would also have been welcome.

The graphics in the game are something else and are often so hectic with movement that finding yourself is tricky , never mind enemies or bullets. All the creatures are ray traced giving them a smooth and detailed look while the animation's was top notch for its time. Enemies rotate and move in and out of the backgrounds with ease and some of the larger enemies look so cool you have to force yourself to concentrate on the bullets and not stare at their movement. Likewise levels are detailed and varied and feature a host of cool locations. Fallen cities, infested jungles, spooky caves, underwater lairs and even a showdown with a huge space shuttle crawling with parasites make up the levels. There are only eight levels but they are so challenging that even with ten continues you won't be completing this game in a hurry.

The motherships were a bit of a missed opportunity though. There were one or two awesome ones but looking at the smooth movement and detail of the other enemies I think more could have been done. The last mothership in particular is nothing spectacular although it does take a pounding before going down. At times it's also almost impossible to dodge the bullets coming your way due to the swarms of enemies and obstacles on screen. Your firepower can be upgraded in the usual side scrolling shooter tradition and each power-up has it's own colored icon. The more of the same colored icons you collect the more powerful your weapon becomes. The difference though his that it's not your main gun that upgrades but instead a small drone that hovers around your ship R-Type style and fires while you do. Each Biowarrior also has different styles in which their turrets fire making sure that you'll have a favourite. You an also hold in your second fire button and release it to unleash a devastating concentrated attack best used to clear the screen of smaller enemies or large behemoths.

The sounds in the game were a definite highlight, although the sound effects were a bit of a letdown compared to the awesome music. Instead of the usual hectic music found in shooter games you instead have some eerie and atmospheric background tunes as you cruise through the alien infested areas. The music also builds gradually complementing the onscreen action perfectly. Controls are very responsive and you only have your fire button to worry about. It's also set to autofire so at least your thumb is still working after playing this game for a while. With the variable difficulty settings Bio-Hazard Battle is ideal for veterans looking for a new challenge as well as newbies to the genre. The fact that you can "practice" the game without spoiling the ending is a good thing and the four fighters something I'd like to see in more shooter games. The graphics are great despite the usual limited Megadrive palette and even the music is good. Fans of the genre should definitely check this one out. Frantic and fun.

95

A blast from the past

GAMERamble | April 8, 2011 | Review of Shining Force™ II

The kingdom of Granseal in the land of Rune existed in peace and harmony. That is until a thief steals the ancient gems of light and dark that seals a great evil inside the tower. With the jewels removed the king of devils awakens and proceed to wreak havoc across the land. Still confined to the valley of the tower his power is growing and the people are forced to flee their island to make a new home on the mainland. You take control of the main character who has come in possession of the jewels. This makes you a prime target for the devil king, known as Zeon to destroy. Teaming up with friends and allies along the way though you start to assemble the legendary Shining Force that must put an end to this evil once and for all.

And that is Shining Force 2's story in a nutshell. To say any more would spoil some very cool plot elements and besides there isn't enough time or space to fully explain the whole intriguing story. Suffice to say this game is very plot driven and shows that even if your story isn't all that original it can still be gripping if you throw in enough plot twists and unexpected events. If you haven't guessed by now Shining Force 2 is a role playing game and it seems that the SNES didn'tt have all the best Rpg's after all. The graphics in the game might not strike you as particularly excellent, but all the characters are nicely animated and there are loads of cool touches everywhere. All the characters are drawn in a very nice manga kind of way and the enemies also show some imagination in their designs. The main part of the game takes place in the towns and caves of the gameworld and everything can be searched for new items or a special metal known as mithril. Each town is also populated by loads of characters that can either help you with information or join you on your quest. This is a fantasy game so don't expect just humans to populate the world. You'll meet everyone from bird people, dwarves, elves, centaurs and all the other types of characters you'd expect in such a world. You'll also spend some time exploring the gameworld on a larger scale map and this is where you search for the towns or caves to further your adventures. The game didn't have the benefit of mode 7 like the SNES has so everything is basically flat, but in some areas there are some nice use of parallax to give the feeling of depth. This is especially evident when fighting on areas like cliffs or bridges over lava below.

The sound and music in the game borders on superb. Mostly it's your usual Rpg fare, but there are times when a really cool melody strikes up, usually at vital plot junctions or important scenes. The sound effects could possible have used a bit more punch, but their not bad either. Shining Force 2's best element though is it's gameplay. This is one game that sucks you in and never lets up until the end many hours later. It's almost impossible to put the game down until you know what's going to happen next or what your next goal is. While you're not led through the gameworld by the hand you'll rarely spend time wandering aimlessly about not knowing to do. It's usually a matter of knowing exactly where to go or do but not knowing how to get there or accomplish it. Another excellent point is the combat. It seems that someone at Sega has also realised that random combat every two steps can get a wee bit tedious and as such there is virtually no random combat in this game. Instead you get scripted battles at certain vital areas that has to be completed before you can continue. Combat itself is also a joy to behold and with it's large amount of characters on both sides can get very long and involving. With the loads of character classes on your team combat is rarely dull and the enemies are also quite devious. Later on it becomes a real headache to decide who to keep on your team and who to retire to the background because there are so much cool characters that join your force. After battle all the characters that survived gets fully healed which eliminates those annoying moments after a serous battle that you have to limp back to the nearest town with one character that only has one hit point left. Characters that were killed in battle still has to see a priest to be revived so don't get to complacent. With loads of stats to improve and a wide variety of characters and weapons this is a Rpg heaven. There are also lots of unique items that can help you and cursed weapons that can hinder you. It would have been nice if your characters could equip different types of armour, but I'm just being picky here. The game gets really tough towards the end and battles can last quite a while, but by then you'll be so engrossed in the game you won't stop playing even after getting killed for the hundredth time. This is one of those classic game that once you start playing you will complete it no matter what. Possible the greatest Rpg on the Megadrive and one of the best on all systems. If you somehow managed to miss out on this gem back in the day then there really is no excuse not to pick it up now. The emulation is good and the gameplay stands up to this day.