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October 20, 2010

Wow, Fallout New Vegas is Infested with Bugs [Disappointment] | Posted at 9:48 PM

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What has happened to the industry when a brand new game comes out and feels like it's still stuck in alpha?

It seriously took me 30 minutes trying to get the game to start since it would crash every time I tried to start it.

I noticed this happens when I tried to do fullscreen on most resolutions, but worked okay in Windowed mode. It also didn't work until I downloaded the latest Nvidia drivers (it wasn't a Geforce, so it didn't have to do with the driver release after the game's release, I was only one version behind). Maybe because I restarted my computer it magically worked, who knows? The VS debugger said that a memory address was denied access or something.

Then, after finally getting into the game, it crashes during the weird blur effect during the intro. Awesome. It doesn't just crash, no, it shuts down my damn computer. I tried this 3 times with the same effect, and I was on Medium quality at 720p.

So then, I turn everything to low and run in windowed mode and everything seems to work, although it still stutters intermitently when it absolutely should not.

Just for kicks, I turn up the settings to ultra, same resolution in windowed mode, then load up my save. Of course everything is stutterville x 10, even though when it doesn't stutter it runs fine. The game is unplayable.

I literally spun around in place about 40 times and the game crashed. Yah.

Sorry, my recommendation right now is to pass on this game until the 4th patch is released when it finally works properly.

If it's possible to look past the bugs, there seems to be a good game underneath. I want to be excited for this game, I really do, but I can't until it actually works.

May 25, 2010

One Sentence Review: Red Dead Redemption [X360] | Posted at 4:45 PM

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Title: Red Dead Redemption
Platform: Xbox 360
Blurb: You're the most bad-ass cowboy in the wild west.
Review: Any game that lets you hogtie people and throw them on train tracks causing them to be run over by said train is an A in my book.
Grade: A+

March 25, 2010

One Sentence Review: New Super Mario Bros. [Wii] | Posted at 8:51 PM

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Title: New Super Mario Bros.
Platform: Wii
Blurb: IT'S MARIO. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT? GUNS?
Review: If you have friends, sign a contract saying whatever happens while playing, you never really meant to hurt them.
Grade: A

Buy it on Amazon

One Sentence Review: Mass Effect 2 [PC] | Posted at 8:46 PM

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Title: Mass Effect 2
Platform: PC
Blurb: More hooligans messing up the damn galaxy.
Review: It's like they took the first Mass Effect, dipped it in sugar, spice, and everything nice, then lined it with crack.
Grade: A

Buy it on Amazon

One Sentence Review: Battlefield Bad Company 2 [PC] | Posted at 8:42 PM

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Title: Battlefield Bad Company 2
Platform: PC
Blurb: NOT A WORLD WAR II SHOOTER.
Review: Engaging singleplayer experience and awesome multiplayer… I was brought back to the time I first played through CoD.
Grade: A-

Buy it on Amazon

One Sentence Review: Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver [DS] | Posted at 8:39 PM

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Title: Pokemon HeartGold / SoulSilver
Platform: DS
Blurb: If you don't know what Pokemon is then you probably shouldn't be alive.
Review: Brings back old memories and melds retro with modern to create love incarnate.
Grade: A+

Buy it on Amazon

One Sentence Review: Just Cause 2 [PC] | Posted at 8:33 PM

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Title: Just Cause 2
Platform: PC & Xbox 360
Blurb: Who the hell cares about the story.
Review: I am 3% done with the game and I can already tell you it's the greatest thing since Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Grade: A+

January 22, 2010

One Sentence Review: Dragon Age: Origins [PC] | Posted at 9:55 AM

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Title: Dragon Age: Origins
Platform: PC
Blurb: An epic dark fantasy filled with adventurers and bad guys.
Review: One of the best games ever made—amazing cut scenes, voice acting, and gameplay.
Grade: A+

Buy it on Amazon

One Sentence Review: Bayonetta [X360] | Posted at 9:49 AM

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Title: Bayonetta
Platform: Xbox 360
Blurb: You are a witch that has guns on her feet and you kill angels.
Review: As ridiculous as Devil May Cry and way more fun, Bayonetta is not only awesome graphically but incredibly fun to play as well.
Grade: A-

Buy it from Amazon

November 5, 2009

Of Dragons and Torches [RPGs] | Posted at 12:39 PM

Since I can't do one sentence reviews for these two games, I thought I might as well talk about how awesome they are instead.

Torchlight

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A team that includes some former developers of the acclaimed Diablo series as well as some other big RPG titles have started a firm called Runic Games and their first release, Torchlight, is pretty damn awesome.

Torchlight is a Diablo style, one hero conquers all, hack and slash RPG adventure that takes place in one city with a huge underground mine (over 30 levels). It's single player only and because of its limited scope, is a mere $20.

I was skeptical of this game before I tried the demo. It looked cartoony and I said to myself, "Yah just another Diablo wannabe." I was very wrong. I currently have 4 characters, 2 of which are maxed out in the demo.

The thing about Torchlight is that is a very rewarding single player experience. You get great drops to keep you interested and the quests are fun, though typical. The gameplay, and I daresay the graphics, make this game great. It's classic Diablo gameplay, even having a lot of the same hotkeys with some gameplay tweaks that just improve the formula (like auto-picking up gold when near). You also get a pet, who will lovingly return to town to sell any goods you give it while in the middle of a dungeon. You can also transform it into different monsters by feeding it fish. Sweet.

I really urge you to try the game, at least. I know I'm buying it. Runic says that it is currently working on a Torchlight MMO. I would be very interested if it had the right price (either one-time Guild Wars-esque or very small monthly fee). The reason is because I really want to play with my friends… I wish it had come with multiplayer. However I think what Runic was trying to do was test out the waters, Torchlight really seems like a concept game rather than a full-fledged offering. The great thing is that at $20 get up to 20-30 hours of gameplay per character. Plenty more if you're like me and want to have different builds.

Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age

If Uncharted 2 is the pinnacle of the action-gaming cinematic genre, then Dragon Age: Origins is its RPG equivalent. Created by the legendary BioWare (Baldur's Gate, KOTOR, Mass Effect), Dragon Age is what you'd call a "dark epic fantasy." It's bloody and real.

There is a lot to say about this game. First let me get this out of the way: while I appreciate the epicness and excellence of Baldur's Gate, I didn't really get into it.

Maybe that was because I am not a huge fan of party-based RPGs where you micromanage your team. I'm very much of a Oblivion/Morrowind/Fallout 3/Titan Quest one-guy-kicks-ass type of RPG player. I want my hero to stand alone…

That is why I am so surprised I love Dragon Age. Yes, it's party based but BioWare does an excellent job at letting you fight in real-time without worrying too much about how your party members are doing. Sure, occasionally I want to directly control my members and heal them or give them orders but more often than not I focus on my character.

The next part that makes DA amazing is its cinematic gaming experience. Mass Effect excelled at storytelling and letting you explore the world's history and culture. Dragon Age is the same way, only better. The voice acting, like Mass Effect, is top notch and the writing superb. Gone is the hold-your-hand moral choices, instead the game doesn't even tell you how evil/good/neutral you are and a lot of the choices you make actually make a difference. If you are a goody two-shoes, like my current character, the more chaotic characters in your party will show their disproval of your actions. Other characters that share your sympathetic nature will implore you to help. Sometimes making the right choice can be difficult as there are sometimes good reasons not to help.

Another thing I love about the game is that it keeps things simple. There is plenty of depth for a hardcore RPG player (character-specific tactics, specifically) but for those of us who aren't up on DnD jargon, Dragon Age keeps all that stuff in the background. If you've played an RPG like Fallout 3/Oblivion/Mass Effect things will be familiar. You level up, you get skill points, and you get talents. While perhaps not as simple as Fallout's system, it is still very manageable for someone like me who can't (and doesn't want to) get around all the DnD-style rules (ahem, Baldur's Gate).

The last thing I want to mention is the way you play the game and the presentation. You can play the game in both over-the-shoulder 3rd person style at ground level or zoom out anytime into a tactical top-down view. I thought that was ingenious because when you're in the action, it feels a lot like an action RPG even though it is essentially a DnD-style RPG. While you are adventuring, I find it really enjoyable hearing the banter between party members. The first member who joins your party is hilarious and I keep him in my party just to listen to him argue with other members or my dog.

I've only played for maybe 10 hours and am already heavily enjoying the game and its world. It reminds me of the days I used to play Morrowind for hours in a row without tiring… and as my friend told me yesterday, you just want to finish one more quest…

October 29, 2009

One Sentence Review: The Beatles Rock Band [X360] | Posted at 12:38 PM

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Title: The Beatles Rock Band 
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Blurb: You are The Beatles and you play Beatles music.
Review: If you like The Beatles you will like this game, plus the way it tracks achievements makes it pretty addicting and has lot of replay value.
Grade: A-

One Sentence Review: Scribblenauts [DS] | Posted at 12:32 PM

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Title: Scribblenauts
Platform: Nintendo DS
Blurb: You draw stuff and solve puzzles.
Review: This game's fun factor is directly proportional to how creative you are.
Grade: B+

One Sentence Review: Batman Arkham Asylum [X360] | Posted at 12:30 PM

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Title: Batman Arkham Asylum
Platform: PC, XBox 360, PS3
Blurb: You're Batman and you kick ass.
Review: This is what a superhero game should be: kicking ass and taking names.
Grade: A

One Sentence Review: LittleBigPlanet [PS3] | Posted at 12:27 PM

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Title: LittleBigPlanet
Platform: PS3
Blurb: You're a sack person jumping on everything.
Review: Super creative, super addicting, you must play this game with other people, because it is absolutely fantastic. 
Grade: A+

One Sentence Review: Uncharted [PS3] | Posted at 12:24 PM

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Title: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Platform: PS3
Blurb: Treasure hunter Nathan Drake is trying to find the lost treasure of El Dorado…
Review: Fantastic storytelling, classic gameplay, I feel like I am Indiana Jones when I play this game.
Grade: A

January 29, 2009

How To: Install Operation Anchorage for Steam Using Games for Windows Live [Annoying] | Posted at 10:01 PM

It took me around 20 minutes to find any shred of information about how to install Operation Anchorage to my Fallout 3 game on Steam.

Here's how to do it:

So, first you need to download the file from Games for windows LIVE file that is at around 594MB. Once you do that, I found my files at C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR LOG-ON NAME\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\XLive\DLC\425307d6\00000002\d96e635 e19d298dac6820680085d45c5d36b9130\Content

op-anchorage-data-folder

I just copied those files to X:\Steam\steamapps\common\fallout 3\Data

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When you launch it from Steam, on the first little box that appears, that allows you to play; Choose Data Files, and activate the one called Anchorage.esm in addition to the Fallout3.esm. Then launch the game.

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Then I started Fallout 3 from Steam. After I loaded the save I wanted to play - I started the LIVE while still being in-game. Half a second after I was connected to LIVE I got the radio signal in-game.

Note: You need to be able to see hidden files and folders to find the files, btw. Open any random folder, like My Documents. Tools -> Folder Options -> View -> Scroll down until you find Show Hidden Files and Folders.

A million thanks to Kaguya for doing all of this for us.

January 1, 2009

One Sentence Review: Penny Arcade, Episode 2 [Game] | Posted at 11:13 PM

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Title: On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode Two
Platform: PC
Review: As much fun as the first, short and sweet, and still hilarious.
Grade: A-

Buy it from Steam

Prince of Persia 4: Why do you do this to me? [A Review, Bittersweet] | Posted at 11:07 PM

Warning: This post will spoil the ending, so don't read it unless you've beaten it (or don't care).

Prince of Persia 4 (2008)

Title: Prince of Persia 4 (2008)
Platform: PC
Grade: B+
Rent or Buy?: Rent
Time Taken: 3 days, maybe 15 hours

First, let me say that I mostly enjoyed my time beating the newest Prince of Persia. There were parts that really ticked me off (camera angles, repetitiveness, etc.) Now let me follow that up with this: it was all going great until the end. The end was… frustrating. It was frustrating because I can see why it had to be done, but why couldn't it have been something that didn't totally undo EVERYTHING I DID IN THE GAME.

I did not want Elika to die. I was in the same boat as the prince… but I also didn't want to free that slow, half-retarded God Ahriman (seriously, he isn't smart enough to punch ahead of where you're going). It was like the whole game was about getting me to like the characters and I really did, then they drop the bomb even though I knew it was going to happen. I kept hoping they wouldn't ruin it, hoping that they would find another way to keep her alive without unleashing the God. THANKS GOD OF LIGHT, lots of good you did!

I wrote this post after talking with some people about it and standing back and thinking about why they did this. It is obvious that they are doing a sequel, otherwise it would have been the happy ending. Is it a testament to their narrative abilities that they pissed me off? Doesn't that mean it was a good story? Maybe. One thing is for sure, they can redeem themselves with the next game. If they leave Elika to die in the next game, then I'm really going to be disappointed. It's like those authors that have these epic trilogies and then at the end, kill a character you were really attached to. I hate it, I don't care if it's supposed to be a "tragedy" or whatever, I like happy endings!

Enough of the story, I don't want to think about it. What of the actual gameplay? I'm sorry to say that it suffered from the same problems Assassin's Creed did. Fun but repetitive. Sometimes it felt like they just put stuff in between things that really didn't need to be there. Like, for example, jumping and whizzing about the Temple at the end. Or that whole "boss fight" with Ahriman. He seemed pretty dumb to me.

Still, I have to say that it couldn't be all bad because I beat it in the span of 3 days. What kept me going? The characters, mostly… waiting for those two to get together, but also the environments were very well done. The fact that you couldn't die also kept me playing, knowing I could do whatever I wanted and suffer no consequences. During fights I really did not enjoy the "push the button quick or else the dude will regenerate half his health!" moments. I was playing on PC, and the icons were in the Xbox 360's colors for ABXY. That didn't translate well and I found myself pressing the wrong buttons all too often. This was mostly alright except that the worst part of the whole game was trying to maneuver The Warrior into those stupid wooden columns. I was almost going to just turn the game off because it took like 15 minutes to try and do it.

Understand that I am not someone who enjoys failing at the same thing 20 times ala Ninja Gaiden, God of War, etc. After 3 times I usually quit. That's just how I am. At the same time, I felt PoP was too easy… which is a paradox, I know. I think it was because of the almost fully automated platform mechanics. Just press the right button and the Prince will do his thing, without your control. Assassin's Creed at least let me do whatever I want, and I felt like it was me who was doing everything. In PoP, it feels like you're telling the Prince what to do and he goes and does it. Don't ask how it should have been, I have no idea. I feel like these complaints are just because of how the gameplay mechanic works and perhaps there's no real solution. My constructive feedback to Ubisoft Montreal is to add better puzzles, or just more of them. I did like how it broke up the monotony to take some time and solve a puzzle.

I also think that you should hold our hands less. We are smart people, us gamers, we don't need to be told what to do every second. Look at Portal. No hand holding there. Even if it used visual indicators, it still left it up to you to figure out how to get there. In this, scratch marks on the walls tell you where to go. Why are there scratch marks there? It is a sad fact that platforming games will never fully explain why everything is there for the player to succeed. How come that platform there is there? What use did it have before I came along? I can't hold it against the game, as I wouldn't hold it against the myriad of previous platforming games.

I've also heard about other reviewers complain about the voice acting and its lack of… ethnicity. This was a "problem" in Assassin's Creed too but if you asked around, the assistant tells you its because the Animus can't translate everything or whatever. Then again, why do the rest of the cast have good voice acting or ethnic voices? Like AC, PoP has Californians do the main characters. The small difference is that I actually liked PoP's voice actors… I actually didn't mind the lack of ethnicity to be honest, it was like Aladdin. I don't think it takes away any from the narrative. I don't know if the humor the Prince used would be lost on some other actor. I, for one, enjoyed the banter back and forth between the Prince and Elika. Maybe it was cheesy, but I thought it better than a lot of games.

Elika: Haven't you heard that good things come to those who wait?
Prince: Good things are good things, why wait?

I really do feel like the actors did a good job portraying their character's personalities. This makes sense for Elika, being voiced by Kari Wahlgren, a great actress that you've probably heard in other games (Soul Calibur IV, Tales of Symphonia, Ninja Gaiden 2, FF12, etc.). Matt Mullins, the guy who does the Prince has a great voice and he actually does put comedic inflection into his acting, which really helped portray the Prince's character well. The two of them go together very well, their voices complement each other.

My final score? I'd give the game a B+. It was good enough to want to beat but frustrating and lacking in some parts that dragged it down.

October 24, 2008

One Sentence Review: Far Cry 2 [Games] | Posted at 2:39 PM

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Title: Far Cry 2
System: PC
Review: I was pleasantly surprised to see that an open-ended world would really work for a FPS, since Far Cry 2 is actually pretty fun.
Grade: A-

Buy it from Amazon

One Sentence Review: Fable II [Games] | Posted at 2:34 PM

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Title: Fable II
System: Xbox 360
Review: Despite its semi-shallow combat offerings, the game is tons of fun and well worth the price.
Grade: A

Buy it from Amazon

September 26, 2008

One Sentence Review: Rock Band 2 [Xbox 360] | Posted at 12:29 AM

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Title: Rock Band 2
Blurb: You play plastic instruments to some awesome songs.
Review: It's like they took everything that was bad about Rock Band 1, threw it out, and put a nice yummy glaze on top with some killer songs.
Grade: A+

September 10, 2008

One Sentence Review: Castle Crashers [Games] | Posted at 11:33 PM

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Title: Castle Crashers
Blurb: Throwback side-scroller hack 'n slash with RPG elements.
Review: Haven't had this much co-op fun since long nights with Diablo II, this game is ADDICTING!
Grade: A+

August 26, 2008

B.C. Before Crysis: Thief III Deadly Shadows [Look Back] | Posted at 12:42 AM

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I was fervently following the Half-Life 2 mania like everyone else. I used to frequent the forums a lot, it’s kind of sad. Well, IGN had a sweepstakes going on that they’d draw a random member and they got to pick their top 5 games and IGN would send them for free.

On one cold night I was that winner. Out of the 5 games I got, 3 were some of the best games I’ve ever played to-date. One was Beyond Good & Evil, one was Half-Life 2, and…

One was Thief III.

Thief III cover

I can hear the collective cries of reviewers and critics the world ‘round. What the hell? Yes, I think that Thief III was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had, ever. I’ll tell you why.

Story

I own Thief: The Dark Project and I was always caught by its narrative. I still mean to play it through. In Thief III the narrative was one of the focuses of the game and as such it played an important role.

I think, for me, the reason I enjoyed the story so much was the drama and the whole creepy aspect to it. I felt like I was Garret, that I felt Garret’s feelings, and it just really pulled me into the game. I think that without the story I would never have finished it.

I think my feelings about this are similar to my feelings about Dreamfall. You either like it or don’t and that decides whether you’ll finish the game or not. From my first experience with the demo, I knew that I wanted this game and I was not let down.

The plot twist at the end had me surprised, I have to admit. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Atmosphere

I exclusively played Thief III on my headphones. I think that this was around the time I bought my X-Fi sound card so I wanted to take full advantage of it. The sound in this game is phenomenal. It adds so much it’s not even funny. I couldn’t imagine playing with the sound turned way down or muted, it just wouldn’t be the same.

There is one level, the Shalebridge Cradle, that stands out the most. In fact, if there was one reason you should play this game, it’s because of that level. I don’t think there has ever been one level, one experience, that can fully match the experience of the Cradle.

The Cradle is the scariest, creepiest, spine-tingling, piss your pants worthy level ever developed. It’s creepier than any movie I’ve ever seen. I had never experienced anything like it and I never have since. You know why? Not only is it an abandoned orphanage but children disappeared out of nowhere and they kept mental patients in there.

Maybe it was the slow melodic dripping of leaky pipes, maybe it was the soft creaking of floorboards when no one was around, maybe it was the whispering wind curling through cracks in the walls, maybe it was the distant screams of abandoned orphans or the wailing of mental ward patients, but if a developer could win an E3 award for "Best Level That Scared You Shitless"? than Eidos would win it for the Cradle.

Here’s what makes the Cradle such a masterful level. It makes you keep going. There is something about the level that just keeps you going through it, unable to quit and sob in your mother’s open arms. Oh, you want to. Oh, how you want to. But you can’t. I couldn’t. It scared the hell out of me but unlike most horror games where I can’t go further, it beckoned me like a silent, unconscious command.

The Stealth

I am a big fan of stealth gameplay. Eidos are the masters of the stealth game. The only other stealth games I played to the end were Splinter Cell’s Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory.

There is just something about sneaking around, trying not to get caught, and narrowly avoiding guards that I love. That’s not for everyone. One of my friends hates stealth games. I love them.

Thief was always about the stealth. You had your trusty blackjack and your bow to take out enemies silently.

It may be that you could probably run really fast to get past people but I always like to go slow, to scan my environment, and go at my own pace. Maybe that’s why I love stealth gameplay, because I don’t have to rush… I can beat the game at my own pace. There are moments where you have to run for dear life and I really enjoy those. The moments where you’re almost dead or almost caught but then you get some stroke of luck.

The Gameplay

And now we come to the meat and potatoes of all games: the gameplay. I think this is where most reviewers and gamers called Thief out. Since I haven’t played much of the original Thief games I cannot attest to its similarity or differences compared to previous installments.

There were a number of problems that kept Thief III from being a perfect game but I felt that the pros outweighed the cons.

Dumb AI

So, I plan to eventually replay the game on a higher difficulty because I played on Easy and it was way easy. Classic moments always include making lots of noise and then having a guard come over and claim, "It must have been a rat,"? and walk away/you stab him.

Dumb Physics

This game had flawed physics. Well, maybe not flawed, but easily forgettable and it didn’t provide any sort of gameplay mechanic. It’s like it was just there.

Animations

I think the game lacked good mocap considering character animations looked pretty silly.

It didn’t seem like any of this was a real dealbreaker for me. I still heavily enjoyed the game.

The Detail

I mean "detail"? in a game design sort of way, not necessarily the game world. One could argue that Thief III is not a dense game world, in fact, it’s fairly sparse considering you can’t enter most of the buildings. However, there are a lot of places to go for the story and while some people disliked the whole centralized city idea I really liked it.

The one part of the game that really surprised me in a good way was the "death"? mechanic. When I would be killed I was used to the regular routine of loading up a saved checkpoint. But one time I was killed and I just left it… and I woke up in jail.

Yes, that’s right, when you died in Thief III they locked you in jail. And it wasn’t just a "grab a key and walk out,"? no, it was an entire level! I was really surprised and that’s when I realized how great a game Thief III really is. Instead of just having a player die… they give him something to do.

I wouldn’t call Thief III a short game which I am glad for. I put a lot of time into that game and I bet half of it was me just taking my time sneaking around. The added jail level made the game even longer.

Conclusion

So that’s why I consider Thief III an amazing game. Maybe it had a lot of flaws but it delivered, to me, a very rich interactive narrative. It enticed me to keep playing, it was creepy as hell, and its stealth gameplay was a lot of fun.

Stay tuned for a look back on Beyond Good & Evil, one of the most underrated and overlooked games ever.

August 23, 2008

How To: Fix Beyond Good & Evil (BG&E) Graphics Glitches in Vista/XP | Posted at 1:15 AM

Today I let my friend borrow Beyond Good & Evil to play it, since it’s such an awesome game. He has Vista and when we ran the game there was some graphical corruption. He has an 8800GTS and it ran the game fast, but there were some artifacts in the menus.

After some Google searching I found this post. Here are the settings that you should set in the Settings program:

Beyond Good & Evil Settings

We actually set the Shadows to High. But it seemed like Antialiasing may be the culprit, we didn’t have a chance to test it with it turned on.

Thanks jackdewey.

[Beyond Good & Evil - Graphical artifacts in Vista via VistaReadyGames Forum]

July 24, 2008

One Sentence Review: Dreamfall – TLJ | Posted at 9:13 PM

dreamfalltlj

Title: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Type: PC Game
Blurb: An epic narrative told through the eyes of various characters.
Review: Average game play aside, the narrative is fantastic and I can’t wait to learn the conclusion.
Grade: B

July 7, 2008

Guitar Hero DS and Dreamfall: TLJ | Posted at 10:35 PM

Guitar Hero: On Tour [DS]

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My littlest brother got Guitar Hero: DS for his birthday. I was skeptical of such a game being made for portable... preferring my Rock Band or Guitar Hero plastic controller.

The game has 25 songs of no real "awesome" value. There are some nice songs that I forget but they are there, including one by Ozzy. It has a career, quick play, and multiplayer mode and the standard Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. It also comes with a plastic pick that acts as stylus, it's great!

I started on Expert. Now, it should follow that if I can play GH on a console on Expert, I should be able to handle the 4 buttons instead of 5 offered on DS. I was happy to see I could. Here's the problem though: with someone like me who has large hands, doing fairly quick button presses is a chore. When I got to Ozzy's song on the last tier, I couldn't do the solo. It has a lot of arpeggio motions, going yellow, red, green, a three-finger quick hammer-on-pull-off. My fingers in the DS grip can't move that fast easily. If I try to move real fast, the screen shakes making it hard to see anything. That and for doing fast note sequences, I am used to moving my hand a bit above the neck of the guitar to make sure my fingers can have breathing room. Not possible with the DS since I'm all strapped in.

In addition, after only a handful of songs, about 8, my hand starts to hurt and I'll have to put it down. I can't play too long.

With all of that said, however, I still find it fairly fun to play. I think that if you're on the go a lot and need that GH fix, GH: DS is a great game. I mean, the lineup isn't Rock Band but it's not bad either. I think with enough practice, you could probably get through the solos on Expert. I only played 3 times and I got to the last tier in no time. My little brother has finished Easy, Medium, and is working on finishing Hard tours.

Plus it's pretty cheap considering all you get.

There's one other thing about the DS that I like. A touch strum. Some people might find the touch screen a bit awkward at first, but I think a translation of touch to a real GH/RB controller would be amazing. I much prefer strumming on a touch screen than a friggin' lever. It's so much easier to do fast riffs on a touch screen, which is better. Just because it's easier doesn't mean it's easier, know what I mean? I feel like on the DS version I am actually strumming to the music because I can use a natural picking style versus grabbing on to the lever on my Rock Band controller. I noticed I can hit a lot more fast strum notes than I can on a plastic guitar.

Someone should mod their RB controller to use a touch screen, then post a How To so I can do it too.

The Good

  • Fun to play
  • On the go Guitar Hero
  • Multiplayer!

The Ugly

  • Fast note sequences might be too hard
  • Large hands get cramped
  • Only 25 songs

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

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Dreamfall: TLJ is a very overlooked game. I saw it on a shelf one day at Target and looked at the box. "Adventure game." Whoopee? After that I forgot about it. Not until I saw a demo offered on Steam that I decided to check it out.

I liked what I saw. It's a very story-driven game. In fact, I would say that if you don't like the story, you won't bother finishing it because the gameplay itself is pretty sub-standard. I mean, a few of the puzzles are challenging but overall it's fairly straightforward. I stopped playing for awhile due to a puzzle awhile ago but just yesterday I picked it up again. I figured out the puzzle and have played it for about 4 hours today.

That's another thing, the game isn't short. I think I must be up to about 15-20 hours by now and I feel like it's getting near finished but not quite.

Back to the story though. I enjoy it a lot. Some of the voice acting is bad but a lot of it is fairly good. Good enough to be enjoyable. In fact, Krow, who becomes the main character's sidekick later is my favorite personality. The other thing I like about the game is the variety of narratives. It isn't a one person story. It's about a lot of people and you get to play them to advance the story, very much like episodes of a TV show. It's like playing a book because you do get to see some scenes that are revealed solely to you rather than the cast of characters and they eventually link up at some point. I think what I enjoy most about the story is its originality and actual enjoyableness. It's set a bit in the future (year 2219) and deals with a parallel world scenario where "dreams" act as the transport between them, but there's more to it than that. Technically, you start out by playing an unknown character who is living in a monastery. There you lead him to some sort of ritual where he gets transported into a different dimension and weird stuff happens. Then, the game moves to the future where you start playing Zoe, a girl with an Australian accent who lives in Casablanca. The story is too convoluted to get into but suffice it to say there's something wrong with "The Wire" (like the Internet only it transports all communication) and it has to do with Dreams and a girl named April Ryan. It blows up into this immense narrative about a corporate conspiracy, a lost orphan, two dimensions, a drugged plant, politics, and the search for meaning. Trust me, it's cool when you play it. Here's the official plot introduction:

Zoë Castillo is about to get involved in a conspiracy that spans parallel worlds and hundreds of years.

Something is affecting our world: static interference disrupts technology, and it seems to be linked to a ghostly presence seen only by a few – a presence inhabiting a black house in a wintry landscape. As Zoë begins her search for a lost friend, she discovers that there is a magical world behind our own – and the search is now on for the one person who may help Zoë unravel the dangerous web she has become entangled in:

April Ryan.

Like I said, the story is where this game shines. It's an adventure game in the vein of classic graphic adventure games I seem to be playing a lot of lately ala Grim Fandango or Secret of Monkey Island. It's simpler in that you have an inventory but don't constantly keep things in it instead using them fairly soon to solve puzzles. It's mostly driven by conversations you have with other characters instead of using various verb commands to solve riddles. They did implement some fighting but they are horrible and I am so glad they happen only once in a blue moon. They should have just left out fighting, it's useless in this game.

There are many characters involved in the story and all have unique personalities (albeit one or two with poor voice actors). What I like about the characters you play is that they have depth. They aren't some vapid piles of skin and bone who just drop in and can do everything. They have feelings, guilts, uncertainties, backgrounds, and a history. For example, one of them is a member of the religious and military civilization that has occupied one of the cities in the alternate universe and one of them is a rebel fighting against said occupational forces. It is a different story for both of them but they run into each other and while you are witness to the narratives that tie them, at first they are unaware of each other's fates and how they are tied together. I still am not certain how it works out because I haven't finished.

I tend to enjoy stories that are mixes of fantasy and sci-fi so I really enjoy the story a lot. However, it's not for everyone and if after the demo you feel no real desire to answer the questions it poses, you should probably move on. If, though, you were like me and enjoyed the story you saw in the demo, I think you should give it a chance. My girlfriend even enjoyed watching the story progress way back when I started playing it.

I am one of those people that will play a game to the end if the story is compelling enough. Devil May Cry 4? No. Eternal Sonata? Eh. Thief III? Hell yes. Beyond Good and Evil? Loved it. It's the same idea here. While gameplay is lacking but still not horrible, the story makes up for it all, in my humble opinion.

If you want to try it, you can get the demo off Steam or buy it off Steam with its prequel. System requirements are small, the graphics look fairly good, and it runs quick.

I didn't realize that there was a game before Dreamfall, confusingly titled "The Longest Journey," and apparently it's done well for itself, garnering 91 on Metacritic. I bought it just now. Why Dreamfall's subtitle is the same as its prequel, I'm not sure, but whatever I guess.

The Good

  • Amazing narrative, characters, and cinematic storyline
  • Fun puzzles and adventuring
  • Nice graphics and colorful scenes
  • Easy interface
  • Nice and long

The Ugly

  • Fighting sucks but there's not a lot of it
  • A couple bad voices but not dealbreakers
  • Linear, but that comes with the territory
  • Average "actual" gameplay experience

June 25, 2008

One Sentence Review: Devil May Cry 4 | Posted at 10:29 AM

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Title: Devil May Cry 4
Blurb: You play some other annoying kid for half the game.
Review: Meh, it was cool at first and then just got tedious and annoying.
Grade: C

May 25, 2008

Extended Review: On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1 | Posted at 10:03 PM

Every once in awhile there's something I review that I enjoyed too much to limit to one sentence. One of those things is Penny Arcade's new foray into gaming, "On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness." The series is episodic and one can only hope that the episodes aren't Valve-style year apart releases.

You play a player-created character whose house is smashed in by a giant robot. Thirsty for revenge, you meet up with detectives Tycho and Gabe (the comic's creators) tracking the robot. Before you know it, you're up to your knees in hobos, urine, mimes, and vulgar little robots.

First, half of what makes this game is its style. The game is a 3d rendition of Penny Arcade's art style and let me just say it looks fantastic. It has its own unique look ala Psychonauts. If you've ever read any of the news associated with each entry of PA, you know that the authors have some way with words and that really shines through the game. Where other developers might have totally ruined the story with bad dialogue and un-funny banter, Tycho and Gabe fill it with hilarious writing and silly phrases. Dialog is split from the 3D scenes and instead in comic book form, with you selecting different responses to advance the conversation. In true comic book style, there will also be 3rd person descriptions of goings-on during the conversation (e.g. "The mime looked to his right, startled at the sight of his bloodied appendage."). Further, sometimes different sound FX will accompany events during the conversation, it's just very well thought out.

I think the most fun comes in the battles which are real-time turn based style. Each character can perform 3 actions along with 3 additional support character special attacks. You can use an inventory item, perform a basic attack, and then perform a special attack. Strategy plays into this sequence because you have to wait for each action to charge before using it and they charge sequentially, resetting if you use one. This means that if you want to, say, increase one character's attack you should use a different character's inventory action so that the target character can perform a charged special attack. In addition, there's a few cool enhancements you get in battles which I'll let you discover.

While the battle and inventory system incorporates RPG elements, the main game is an adventure game. You can click on objects to get a short witty blurb or to interact with them. The camera is fixed but it doesn't bother you or get in the way. NPCs are a bit lacking, providing only a few different lines of dialogue in an area but there are several you can do "quests" for and interact with. There are a number of cut scenes that are absolutely great and well-done. They preserve the comic book nature of the game very well.

Amazing art, hilarious story, and witty writing aside, RSPD is found wanting in a few areas. I would have preferred it to be longer, because 3-4 hours probably doesn't justify the $20 price tag. I was able to collect most of the bonus content and got all the weapon upgrades, robot parts, and maxed my characters. I think having more of the town instead of quickly traveling to your destination would have increased the time, as long as there were things to do on the way. I think there should have been more to do in general, as most cases (quests) get closed by the time you beat the end boss. The narrator of the game is amazing and I wish there had been more voice overs of the same quality because he is entertaining as hell.

That said, this is an independent game and is the first episode and because of that, it's an excellent first attempt (better than I could accomplish). They had the awesome combination of good artists and good writers (themselves) so all they had to get was good developers, which they did at Hothead Studios.

One Sentence Review: On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1 | Posted at 9:54 PM

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Title: On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1
Blurb: You are a guy tagging along with detectives Tycho and Gabe on an epic adventure.
Review: Psychonauts meets Paper Mario meets text adventure meets "Awesome."
Grade: A+