Reviews by pickelsurprise

80

A Nice Casual Experience

pickelsurprise | Nov. 13, 2014 | Review of Zuma's Revenge (NA)

Zuma's Revenge does everything you'd expect it to do, and it does it reasonably well. The level layouts are varied and interesting, and most of the time it isn't too difficult for when you want to pass the time.

On a less positive note, however, there are still one or two questionable choices in the game's design. Some powerups are helpful, but others are woefully useless. Also, while the difficulty curve does mostly make sense, on occasion an extremely difficult level will be stuck between two that are significantly easier. This makes for a somewhat jarring playing experience, though even the hardest levels can be overcome with enough time.

While not perfect, Zuma's Revenge fulfills its purpose, and it's certainly a good deal at $5 if you're looking for a nice casual game.

80

Stylish but Sometimes Frustrating

pickelsurprise | Nov. 13, 2014 | Review of Cloudbuilt

Cloudbuilt is difficult. On a positive note, however, it's difficult because it wants to be. The controls are fluid and the game's design philosophy makes sense, but it is still often very hard to master. The game begins with a short tutorial section, but while it covers the basics of movement, you might still feel like you've been thrown out of an airplane without a parachute once the first real level begins.

Again, little if any of this challenge is caused by faulty controls or other kinds of artificial difficulty. The only truly irritating element of the game is that it's sometimes difficult to know where you're supposed to go. If you take the time to learn the game and keep up a good sense of direction, Cloudbuilt will be a blast.

80

Godlike Swordplay and Gunslinging

pickelsurprise | Nov. 13, 2014 | Review of Shadow Warrior

But you might never quite feel like a god yourself.

Shadow Warrior is jam-packed with epic fighting moves and fantastical powers, but you'll always find yourself being challenged. After the opening section of the game, weaker foes will fall before you with ease, but their tougher comrades aren't going to let you off the hook. However, this can be both a blessing and a curse.

Constantly challenging enemies serve an important purpose in gaming: they keep the difficulty from dropping so low that the game ceases to be interesting. At the same time, however, this can lead you as a player to feel like you're never improving as you progress. Shadow Warrior unfortunately falls into this category from time to time. New sword techniques will always look and feel impressive when you first learn them, but eventually it will start to seem as though your enemies are shrugging them off with little effort.

Similarly, the gun combat sometimes feels downright neglected compared to the swordplay. There are weapon upgrades and a few relevant skills, but the absence of anything resembling gun-kata makes firearms feel like somewhat overgrown support tools rather than their own beasts.

Despite the above criticism, however, Shadow Warrior is still a greatly entertaining experience. Although the guns aren't as interesting as the sword, few games allow you to slice and shoot quite as fluidly as this one.

75

A Divisive Sequel

pickelsurprise | Nov. 13, 2014 | Review of DG2: Defense Grid 2

People complain when sequels don't change, but in all honesty they complain just as much when they do. That's precisely what Defense Grid 2 does: while it's still clearly part of the same universe, it feels very different from its predecessor. Whether or not these changes are good or bad is completely up to you. Because of that, be aware that enjoying the first game does not at all guarantee you will enjoy this one, nor vice versa.

For the reasons detailed above, my review of this game is inevitably going to be biased, so keep that in mind as well. Many of the changes in the way the game technically works are fairly subtle, but overall the game as a whole feels like it's trying to go in two directions at once.

Evident from the impressive and diverse voice cast, great care has been put into the game's story. At the same time, however, the gameplay itself is much more focused on high scores than anything else. Additionally, every level is unlocked from the start, and it is possible to complete a mission without earning any medals at all. These factors combine to give Defense Grid 2 the bizarre texture of an arcade game with rich storytelling.

75

Shoot 'N Loot... Again...

pickelsurprise | Oct. 31, 2014 | Review of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (NA)

And that's about it, really.

However, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Borderlands The Pre-Sequel is another solid offering in the series in a very similar vein to Borderlands 2. If you liked Borderlands 2, you'll probably like this one too. That is, however, unless you were expecting something totally new.

Obviously laser weapons, the cryo element and especially low-gravity are all new additions. While they certainly feel well thought out, they also don't revolutionize anything like you might hope a (pre)sequel would. They don't feel tacked on like an afterthought that doesn't matter; they do change the way you play, but not enough for this to feel like a completely new experience.

On the positive side, the characters are still interesting and the gameplay is still fun. At the end of the day, however, many of your questions will still remain unanswered, and while this game is certainly very entertaining, it feels more like a tease before the inevitable Borderlands 3 than truly its own beast.

90

One of the great modern RPG experiences

pickelsurprise | Sept. 23, 2014 | Review of Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut

Shadowrun Returns was already a great take on the classic turn-based RPGs of old. Then, when Dragonfall was released, it added what was, in my opinion, an even better campaign to play after the first. It brought back the same great gameplay from the original campaign, but with even more character and story depth. Some players may not appreciate having a whole team of powerful runners available for free, but it makes sense within the context of the story, and bringing your main team along with you is quite possibly the best way to experience every mission.

The director's cut edition is even better in every way. While Dragonfall remains the same at its core, this edition makes several subtle but important tweaks to reduce frustration and add in many features that players have been asking for. Even better, it is now available as a standalone game. If your budget is tight and you can only choose one campaign or the other, I highly recommend this one as an alternative to the base game.

95

An Instant Classic

pickelsurprise | May 27, 2014 | Review of Assassin's Creed® 2 Deluxe Edition

I didn't get into the Assassin's Creed games until very recently, and boy was I amazed by what I'd been missing out on for all these years. Part of why I stayed away at first was because I'm an avid PC gamer, and I was skeptical of how a free-running movement system could work on a keyboard and mouse. However, once I finally decided to just try it, I was pleasantly surprised to find the controls were very fluid and responsive. Everything from movement to stealth to combat is smooth as silk.

Additionally, considering the game's (relative) age, the graphics are still fantastic. Ezio's story in the past is very interesting, although now I fully understand why so few people care about Desmond and the present-day timeline. Ezio simply overshadows everything else, and luckily, there are two more games with him at the helm for your perusal.

Overall, a great open-world experience with great graphics, smooth controls, and solid gameplay. The only thing you'll be left wanting when you finish is more.

85

Great Gameplay, Great Characters, Okay Story

pickelsurprise | May 27, 2014 | Review of Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order seemingly does the impossible. It gives us a first person shooter with solid gameplay as well as interesting characters that we actually grow to care about. No more stereotypical mindless muscle-bound soldier beefcakes. Instead, we get to play as one such character after he's become hardened and introspective. We still get the occasional one-liner, but we get just as much internal conflict and realistic despair, if not more.

As previously mentioned, the gameplay is fantastic. There isn't a huge variety of different weapons, but every role is covered by at least one weapon. Furthermore, the perk system allows you to develop your favorite play style without shutting you out from the others. You will naturally get some of the more basic perks as you play, but outside of the starter-tier, none of them are strictly required to play successfully. If you want to clear one room silently with your knife and then charge akimbo-guns blazing into the next, there's nothing stopping you.

This game's one shortcoming is perhaps the story. It starts off strong, and while the characters remain interesting, there are a few developments from the halfway point on that do little to maintain the immersion this game so carefully creates in its opening hours. I will avoid spoilers, but I will say that the vast potential of the real-world nazis' fascination with the occult is ignored in favor of other, less subtle mysticism that may make you roll your eyes, even compared to the older, campier Wolfenstein games.

On the whole, a great FPS experience, even if the storyline may leave you unfulfilled.

80

An Interesting Idea

pickelsurprise | May 27, 2014 | Review of Magicka: Collection

The magic combination system featured prevalent in this game is a blast to play around with, sometimes literally. You aren't explicitly told what every single spell will do, so you'll probably end up killing yourself a lot as you figure things out. Also, the variety (and strangeness) of the weapons you can carry only adds to the mayhem.

That being said, the campaign is probably best enjoyed with friends for a couple of reasons, one possibly not intended by the developers. Until you really get the hang of things, combining elements and casting spells is going to feel horrendously slow compared to the AI-controlled enemies who can react more quickly. It's still always fun to accidentally summon a rock from the sky and squish yourself, but sometimes it gets frustrating having to spend more time fighting against the magic system in frantic moments than against the actual enemies.

The competitive multiplayer, as you might expect, is always a blast. Again, sometimes literally. Killing your opponents, watching them accidentally kill themselves, or doing the same to yourself can all be equally satisfying.

Overall, an okay single player game, a great multiplayer game, and a fascinating concept.

90

A Triumphant Return

pickelsurprise | April 19, 2014 | Review of Age of Empires II HD Edition

The Real-Time Strategy game that defined the genre for a generation has returned to us on Steam. Everything you knew and loved about the original game is back, and there are plenty of welcome new additions to go around. At least a couple of AI updates are also in the works, but for now they appear to still be under the knife.

Perhaps the best alterations to the game are the new avenues for community support. Setting up an online game with your friends, or even other random players, has never been easier. On top of that, Steam Workshop integration allows you to easily grab new maps, skins, game types, and dozens of other mods. Most of the updated graphics do look pretty good, but if you want even more eye candy, there are plenty of fan-made graphical mods, and at least one of them is bound to suit your fancy.

This updated release of Age Of Empires II is everything I could have ever wished for, and I definitely have high hopes for the similar re-release of Age Of Mythology. If you're an RTS fan, new or old, definitely check this one out.

95

A Much-Needed Port That Actually Works

pickelsurprise | April 1, 2014 | Review of Resident Evil 4

This was actually my first experience with a Resident Evil game, and boy was it a good one. I wanted to get the older PC release of Resident Evil 4, but I was told by many people time and time again that it was a terrible port, largely because it completely lacked keyboard and mouse support. With this new HD re-release, this unfortunate truth is no longer so.

If you're a modern gamer, the controls will probably still take a little getting used to (mostly because you can't move and attack at the same time), but there is full keyboard and mouse support this time around. There's even an option to use an updated aiming system that will be more familiar to fans of current games who haven't played something in this style before.

It took me a little while, but eventually I acclimated to the controls. Once I passed that hurdle, everything about the game was smooth sailing. The story is interesting, the characters are entertaining, and the gameplay is frantic without becoming annoying.

If you want to get into the Resident Evil games, this is your gateway drug. If you're a long time fan who wants to give it another go, you won't be disappointed.

95

A wonderful story-driven experience

pickelsurprise | March 21, 2014 | Review of Bastion

I love a game with a good story. Bastion may not have multiplayer or too many extras to tackle, but for a gamer like me, this little game has it all. Solid gameplay, great visuals, and some downright beautiful reactive narration. While the story of the game doesn't necessarily change based on your actions, the narrator's dialog will actually respond to what you do and what happens to you. While this does little to advance the plot, it makes the game feel so much more immersive.

On the whole, Bastion is a great ride from start to finish. New Game Plus mode adds to the fun, letting you play through the whole game with your favorite weapons and skills without the need to unlock them. Some may say this makes it too easy, but for someone like me, it lets me experience the story again without having to worry too much about the difficulty.

If you're looking for a smooth, stylistic action game with some light RPG elements, and above all, great storytelling, this is definitely a buy.

85

All good things...

pickelsurprise | March 21, 2014 | Review of Crysis Trilogy (NA)

...must come to an end. And, unfortunately, perhaps not a great end.

Everyone remembers the first Crysis. Mind-blowing graphics and solid gameplay. There was the infamous VTOL section in the middle of the game, but nobody's perfect. Plus, it is ultimately balanced out by the amazingly immersive zero-gravity sections toward the end. Overall, with a satisfyingly long campaign, great weapon customization, and amazing set pieces, Crysis remains a great entry point to the series.

Crysis 2 made some significant changes, some of which have been a little divisive, but one thing everyone can agree on was that the stakes were raised through the roof. Instead of fighting in a jungle in the middle of nowhere, the war has come to the streets of New York. This does serve to make the game more linear, but that's not always a bad thing. Unlike the first game, groups of enemies can generally not be avoided by a mile on either side, but there are still multiple ways to approach every situation. On the whole, Crysis 2 keeps the best of its predecessor and adds several great new standouds like an epic score by Hans Zimmer and a silent protagonist who is actually interesting.

Unfortunately, Crysis 3 is where the series begins to drag somewhat. Although the city has changed since the previous game, the setting is ultimately still New York. Gone is the fantastic musical score, being replaced by more generic fare. The campaign is also by far the shortest of the three. On the whole, Crysis 3 is still a decent enough game, but it has clearly fallen victim to generic modern FPS syndrome. Still, the series' solid gameplay makes a return, and if you want to play the complete trilogy, there's little reason not to grab them all.

75

Great ideas, passable execution

pickelsurprise | March 21, 2014 | Review of Anno 2070 (NA) other

This was the first RTS game I played in a long time. I used to live on Age Of Empires 2 back in the day, but then more modern strategy games like StarCraft drove me away from the genre with their hyper-fast gameplay. It just wasn't for me. Then, Anno 2070 came along. There have been several games in the Anno franchise, but this was the first one for me, and it immediately drew me in with its great atmosphere and more relaxed emphasis on city building over combat.

There were a few ups and downs, but overall I have enjoyed my experience with this game. My only major complaint was that there is basically no tutorial within the game itself. The campaign does teach you a little bit, but overall it assumes you already know too much about how to play. You will be better served watching tutorials on youtube, and thankfully there are several good ones.

Otherwise, the only other reason I can't rate this game higher is because it didn't hold my interest for quite as long as I'd hoped. I've logged around 34 hours, completing maybe half the campaign and a few random maps. Eventually I grew bored of it, but that's not to say I'll never play it again. The graphics are amazing, there are a lot of little things to take care of in gameplay, and for the most part none of it is frustrating. Plus, best of all in my opinion, is that you actually have the time to kick back and admire your epic cities.

If you want an engrossing, futuristic city-builder, definitely pick this up.

85

The Definition of A Romp

pickelsurprise | March 16, 2014 | Review of Just Cause 2

In a sentence, Just Cause 2 accomplishes everything it sets out to achieve. It's total, unadulterated destructive mayhem. Go anywhere, do anything, break everything. You can even ignore the story if you want, and just hunt for upgrades and things to destroy as you go along. There are tons of secrets to find, dozens of destructive vehicles to steal, and an unending tie of enemies to lay waste to.

For me, there were only two downsides to the game, and neither of them detracted too much from the overall experience. One, the story is fairly short and relatively uninspired. The game is still a ton of fun without an epic story, but it could have been even better with one. And two, the island on which the game takes place is perhaps a little too big. There's a reason why the final completion achievement doesn't actually call for 100%.

Overall, Just Cause 2 is a great destructive adventure. If you've ever wanted to tether a car to a plane and then crash it all into a mountainside, this is the game for you.

35

Not For Fans Of The First Two

pickelsurprise | March 16, 2014 | Review of F.E.A.R. 3

I came into this game quickly off the heels of F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2, expecting a satisfying conclusion. While the gameplay is fairly solid, F.E.A.R. 3 fails to deliver as a proper continuation of the series.

Despite being labelled as horror games, the F.E.A.R. series has never really been one of the scariest games around. However, the first two games blended moderate horror and action together into an effective combination. Not the scariest experience, but still a satisfying one. F.E.A.R. 3 on the other hand is hardly scary at all. This is an especially large problem because it is clearly still trying to be. Nearly every horror moment in the game falls flat on its face.

Perhaps F.E.A.R. 3's worst offense is its pitiful conclusion to the series's story. These games never had the most amazing, inspiring storylines, but they were at least moderately engrossing, and I for one wanted to know how the series would end. When F.E.A.R. 3 was essentially reduced to a 5-hour-long arcade shooter, any hopes of a proper story were lost. This game does conclude the trilogy, but not in any satisfying capacity.

Personally I can only recommend this game to players who need a passable co-op experience. Fans of the previous two games should keep a wide berth.

70

A good time-waster with a sense of humor

pickelsurprise | March 16, 2014 | Review of Deadly 30

Zombie survival is something that has been done to un-death in recent years, and for the most part Deadly 30 is no exception. There's not a whole lot of innovation to be had here, but the experience you do get is solid. Good gunplay, defense mechanics that make sense, and three different characters that all have solid roles that are all useful for survival.

For me, there were really only two downsides to this game, considering what it is ultimately supposed to be. One, while the overall sound design is passable, the spoken dialog is noticeably lower quality. It sounds as if the voice actors frequently overloaded their microphones, resulting in static whenever a character shouts or speaks loudly. And two, while you can freely switch between any of the characters you've found, you can't choose which one to start the game with. That alone would have added a good deal of replayability.

Despite its flaws, I can still safely recommend this game to anyone interested in a quick but challenging survival game.

95

Something For Everyone

pickelsurprise | March 16, 2014 | Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim®

Skyrim is very clearly a "quantity over quality" sort of game, but that's not to say the quality you get is lacking. It does have some of the infamous Bethesda bugginess, but all things considered, Skyrim is much more stable than Oblivion and Fallout 3 were.

This game's greatest achievement is probably just how much you can do with it. Of course, some character builds may be more powerful than others, but there is really no wrong way to play the game. You can be whatever kind of character you want, and you can engage in whatever shenanigans your heart desires. Plus, if the stock content isn't enough for you, there's so much modding support that you will quite literally never run out of things to do.

Now go forth and make a name for yourself.