Reviews by Salty_Roy

87

Oh My God Yes!

Salty_Roy | Dec. 1, 2013 | Review of Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year

No expectations of this game coming in. I bought this for my youngest brother in 2011 expecting a children's game. Instead I find myself being the one playing the game through to its climax and beyond. It is hard, it is fun, and reinvigorated the game movie license stigma since Spiderman 2 (Don't hold me on that). Arkham Asylum is a masterfully recreated simulation of well, Arkham Asylum without disrupting the lore of the Batman universe. Easter eggs are aplenty, and voice acting is fantastic. I'm not sure I've delved into the sickening world of Batman so well outside the comic books.

And as a game, it rocks. It employs a Metroidvania layout to service a close to perfected combat engine. Gameplay is silky smooth, and the progression of the game is phenomenal. As Batman endures the worst of his nemeses, he grows tiresome, and battle-worn, yet all the more driven to put an end to Joker and his escapades. Boss fights are rather interesting at first, but quickly boil to repetitive and transparent padding. The final boss fight does advance a little in creating tension, but ultimately is the Arkham's biggest drawback. Further drawbacks include the execution of the Scarecrow missions as the lowpoint int the game. They were a nightmare to complete, although I do appreciate the concept of fighting a mental battle that catalyses in facing your inner demons. Batman's cape gliding mechanic does also suffer from glitches, but oh my does Rocksteady has produced an impeccable effort.

All items feel grounded and purposeful. Batman is a detective and assumed genius tactician in combat, leveling combat and puzzles sequences to be settled through clever use of the arsenal. Arkham Asylum alternates between story segments, combat sequences and puzzle exploration, which helps maintain interest throughout the campaign. One minute you'll be sneakily ghosting behind a petty criminal's shadow, before unleashing out an onslaught of hell upon your opponents. The stealth in particular is surprising fast and frantic. You'll find yourself more often then not gleefully zipping by from gargoyle to gargoyle as your prey yelps and cries out for a hint to their inevitable demise. Arkham Asylum has cleverly nailed the notion of player empowerment, and this style serves as the game's greatest success.

The soundtrack is immense, and plays a major role in delivering the most important quality of the game: You are Batman. Not a poor man's clone, but the complete package.

You stalk your prey. You search for clues. You will endure the madness and mental hysteria of this prison. But your foes will fear you.

The night beckons, and you must answer. Don the cape, and become the true knight of the shadows.

83

A goddamn steal

Salty_Roy | Dec. 1, 2013 | Review of The Binding of Isaac

A couple of bucks, traded for a couple of hundred hours; what could go wrong? For those who still don't own the title, and are understandably on the fence, let us lay down the foundations first. The Binding of Isaac is a heavily inspired dungeon-crawler of the original 'The Legend of Zelda' (1986). The player is obliged to progressively enter a room and clear out every enemy haunting their path until they reach the boss room. Once defeated, the player descends to a lower level, until reaching the final boss. The game procures simple mechanics, with a number of heavy difficulty spikes at later levels.

This gameplay is definitely functional, but it is its themes and placeholder gimmick that take the cake. McMillen has crafted a devastatingly gorgeous (albeit sickening) art style to The Binding of Isaac. Dis-empowerment is fostered through the gag-inducing imagery, and Edmund's decision to employ a 'luck of the draw' randomised item system pushes player agency, as it creates indecision.

'Should I risk the next few rooms in the hopes that I've got enough hearts to tackle the boss? Or would it be wise to use up this item now, and gamble a throw of the dice that I can survive the boss at the end?'

Given the short runs and permanent death aspect,The Binding of Isaac demands quick-decisions and the expectation that you have experienced any obstacles it constantly drops on you in order to form tactics.

Make no mistake, the game's replay value is brutal, but a requirement to withstand. The reward is typically similar to videogames developed within the 1980s. Experience the unexpected, recollect your thoughts, and jump back in to reach a new game over screen again. Failure is learning, and McMillen will whip you so help him into finding your groove. You will get better, but this is the game's greatest leaning curve.

Yes, there are flaws: Game play can feel rather tedious when game progress does stall, which it will early on. Being an Adobe Flash game, glitches do naturally appear. Item mapping can occasionally be found floating on empty tiles, and bosses on occasion are no exception. I can attest to one instance of a game-breaking bug during a boss fight for further note. The lack of quick save is a major nuisance, and playing on a Mac means achievements are impossible to unlock without access to a Windows copy of the game.

Despite all this, the choice of items are refreshingly vast and reduce repetition of gameplay. In particular, I appreciate the cosmetic changes to your character as they attach and consume to your body also boast narrative and progressive value. They nod to the mutation and personality change Isaac possibly has incurred as toll as a simple desire to just playing well in the game. He can easily be compared to the enemies he endures by the conclusion of a full playthrough.

The art also just cannot be praised enough. It is quite possibly the main reason I own both the full steam version and physical copy. That and I picked it up on sale for approximately two dollars. The Binding of Isaac stands proud as an original concept that delivers anexperience paralleling its indie compatriots and eighties videogame nostalgia.

82

For newcomers, a brilliant entry into the trilogy

Salty_Roy | Nov. 16, 2013 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Warning: This review is obviously more tailored to those who are interested in jumping right into the trilogy for the first time. I hold personal bias considering Human Revolution was my gateway into the series

Yep. That's out of the way.

So, if you're considering Human Revolution to be your first foray into the trilogy, you can be assured that Eidos Montreal have done a lavishing job for both newcomers and long-term fans of the series. I remember last year picking the title up on sale in-store for $35. At the time it felt like a gamble, but oh boy did it pay off. The narrative (albeit borrowed) is smooth and engaging. As is with any good speculative fiction, it takes an ideal and places it into the future. Unfortunately in this case, I found the message Eidos intended to deliver by its climax as fairly out-of-focus, but regardless, credit due to the team. What Deus Ex instead champions so well is the interlocking of both narrative and environment to complement an already fully realised universe. It will take consecutive playthroughs to explore Human Revolution's to the brim, and it pays further discovering the game's homages to the series. Crawling within the underbelly alleyways of Hengsha, or completing side missions for employees in Detroit, it's all focused to elevate the backstories and character of these cities. Traversing apartment buildings and alleyways makes up the first part of the gameplay, and scouring every crevice is extremely rewarding and downright refreshing. It is fairly laid-back, purposely built to allow time to be lapsed to inject information and understanding of the player's surroundings to the universe.

When taking on HR's main missions however, gameplay seamlessly drifts to cautious movement throughout multilevel factories encasing tight corridors and sprawling hallways to outdoor environments, tiered by catwalks and cover. If you're a fan of the stealth genre, Deus Ex will feel like slipping on an old glove (that's the phrase, right?). Regardless, although the description proclaims "action-packed close-quarter takedowns with intense shooting", it isn't really tailored for the 'run and gun, trigger finger player'. As with Dishonored, you'll find delight in taking unorthodox methods in completing missions: Exploiting the AI by hurling a vending machine to distract the guards. Discovering a hidden route to bypass a heavily guarded room. The levels are laid out for the player to instigate experimentation.

The RPG elements are functional enough to permit variety and fun. This is HR's main gimmick, as character progression is focused on upgrading your abilities past the realms of superhuman. It's pretty awesome. They range from helping you hack doors, systems, turrets and robots, to timed invisibility and seeing through walls. This also acts as a tunable difficulty curve. The upgrades you choose are programmed to help alleviate the challenges ahead and foster replay value. I found the levels to sometimes feel repetitious on my first play through, so experimentation in how you approach each situation through these augments is the game's saving grace.

Before I end this review, now's possibly the best time as ever to address the elephant in the room. His name is tacked-on boss battles, and nobody likes him. They're a constant speed bump throughout Deus Ex, and forcefully tear apart the meticulously developed flow of the game. Sure, you can play it the right way and be consequently eviscerated for choosing a pacifist-skewed gear, or, play a more sneakily method and stock up mines. Although I'd highly recommend experiencing the game with new eyes, boss battles can at will devastatingly destroy a single play through despite Eidos' counter methods of cluing in the player with trails of scattered items. It doesn't help, as from the conclusion of the introductory mission, players are deceitfully led to assume there is always a pacifistic approach to every situation. It sucks, and goes against game design.

Despite all this and given these damn sales, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is beyond worth the asking price. Praise is due to the team in the deep craftsmanship into constructing and bringing to life the world of Human Revolution. The narrative can be weak at times, but the connotations with current events such as Occupy Wall Street do benefit the overall experience. Most of all, it's a lot of fun, and respects the foundations originally built by its predecessors. If it weren't for the bosses (and there are way too many), and a somewhat non-interactive climax, it would be an almost perfect gem. I can only recommend it if you are able to bypass these flaws, which you will.

On a side note, if you're not using fridges as weapons, you're playing it wrong.