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Review: Lumines: Electronic Symphony photo
Review: Lumines: Electronic Symphony
by Dale North

If Lumines was your drug on the PSP, know that it's been refined and made stronger. This is the hard sh*t, folks. You're in danger of totally crashing and burning with Lumines: Electronic Symphony on the Vita. This is the worst for those who barely managed to shake their addiction, as you're never getting off this stuff.

Side effects include dry mouth, red eyes, shooting pains in the arms, hallucinations, and spontaneous compulsions.

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Review: Rhythm Heaven Fever photo
Review: Rhythm Heaven Fever
by Jonathan Holmes

What does it take for a game to be universally enjoyable? That's the question most game developers would love to be able to answer, but it's easier said than done. My guess is that it comes down to exploiting the medium for what it does best -- utilizing multi-sensory connections to break down the barriers between the "real" world and the "game" world. If you look at the most popular game franchises in history -- Call of Duty, Wii Sports, Angry Birds, Guitar Hero, etc. -- you'll see that each one broke down those barriers in ways that deeply resonated with people on a primal level.

Will Rhythm Heaven Fever resonate with the populace at large in that way? I think it's possible. It definitely utilizes multi-sensory stimuli in ways that instantly make the player feel connected to the game world. It also comes packed with a kind of "Muppet cool" that historically appeals to kids, teenagers, adults, and just about everyone in between. It's way too strange and unconventional to ever come off as insincere or uninspired, and it's way too focused on blasting your brain with pure glee to be seen as anything but a whimsical delight.

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Review: Uncharted: Golden Abyss photo
Review: Uncharted: Golden Abyss
by Dale North

You may have had enough of hanging from glowing ledges, jumping from crumbling floors and narrow escapes from massive explosions, but I can't get enough of the adventures of "Dude Raider" Nathan Drake. I loved all of the PS3 games, with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception being my pick for the best game of 2011. 

That said, I had some reservations about the series going portable. How would the series' trademark cinematic style hold up on the small screen? I was also concerned that the title would not be coming directly from Naughty Dog, but from SCE's Bend Studio. Would this be a gimmicky, touch screen one-off?

All of my worries disappeared within 10 minutes of playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the new PlayStation Vita, both released in Japan on December 17. There's a huge review below to give you all the details, but here's what you need to know in short: Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the Vita's first "must buy." This game sets a new high mark for portable gaming. Also, if this is a launch title, the future looks very bright for Sony's new portable.

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Review: PixelJunk Eden (PC) photo
Review: PixelJunk Eden (PC)
by Jordan Devore

At this point, I think there's at least one game in the ongoing PixelJunk series for everyone. For the longest time, PixelJunk Monsters was the obvious go-to choice for me, but I've since flirted with the idea of giving PixelJunk Eden the top honor.

Much of this change can be attributed to the revamped Steam version of Eden. If you were expecting a straight port, you're in for a disappointment. While the co-op multiplayer regrettably didn't make it through the transition from PlayStation Network to PC, there's enough design tweaks in place to make this worthy of another look.

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Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword photo
Review: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
by Jonathan Holmes

If the Wii had launched with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, everything would have been different.

Instead, the console launched with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a game that sent all the wrong messages to third parties on how to create a successful Wii game. Twilight Princess sometimes utilized the Wii Remote in cool ways (like pointer aiming) but also tacked on motion control in unnecessary ways (like sword swinging), giving the illusion of added functionality while adding little to the gameplay. The game looked great by GameCube-era standards but did nothing to exploit the increased power of the Wii and/or work around the console's technical limitations by going with a less realism-focused art style.

Despite all this, the game was a huge hit, signaling to third parties that the cheapest, most effective way to make a successful Wii game was to make and/or port a standard PS2/Xbox/GameCube-era title and tack on some motion controls. Of course, we all know that strategy didn't really work for third parties. After the initial honeymoon period, Wii owners expected more than that.

They wanted something like Skyward Sword.

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Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim  photo
Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
by Jim Sterling

Preparing for a new Elder Scrolls game is like preparing to die. One must ensure they get all their worldly affairs in order, speak with the people who mean everything to them, and have a final meal. After all, once that disc goes in, the user may as well have departed from our mortal world. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a game that will murder you, for the time it steals from your life could rightfully be considered criminal. It is a game that will literally never end while simultaneously bringing you closer to your own end. 

This is all before the dragons show up.

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Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 photo
Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
by Jim Sterling

Whether or not Call of Duty deserves its status as the most powerful videogame franchise of the modern era is a debate that will likely rage long after its star has faded. No matter what one thinks of Activision's market-dominating shooter, one cannot argue that its influence has been huge and that it has helped define a console generation ... for better or worse. 

Each year, the series enjoys greater triumphs as every successive chapter earns more sales, enjoys increased marketing spending, and sparks ever-fiercer arguments among the gaming community. 

Nothing lasts forever, and one day, Call of Duty's unprecedented run of success is sure to end. It will not, however, end with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

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Review: Dungeon Defenders photo
Review: Dungeon Defenders
by Maurice Tan

A lot has been said and written about games being art in the last decade. Some games can elicit different emotions. Sometimes they aim to be interactive drama. And sometimes they are meant as a metaphorical reflection on a state of being, or even questions about life itself.

I didn't expect Dungeon Defenders of all games to make me ponder one of life's most poignant and eternal questions: "Am I really a Cenobite?"

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Review: The Binding of Isaac photo
Review: The Binding of Isaac
by Jordan Devore

If I weren't already so fond of game jams -- and rapid prototyping in general -- The Binding of Isaac likely would have pushed me into such fandom. It began life as a week-long project between Team Meat's Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, eventually growing to what it is now, a twisted roguelike centered around religious themes and classic gaming influences.

Given the unusual premise and genre itself, you might think that not everyone would be wholly receptive to this game. In my experience, though, people are coming in with an open mind and loving it. There are quite a few reasons why.

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Review: Kirby Mass Attack photo
Review: Kirby Mass Attack
by Jim Sterling

Kirby's Epic Yarn was a triumph, but there's no denying that Kirby's true home is on a handheld platform. It's where he debuted and it's where he's had his biggest adventures. Kirby Mass Attack brings Kirby home, both in terms of platform and visual style, but that's not to say it's without its fresh quirks. 

With an all-touch approach to platform gaming and a whole ten puffballs to play with, Kirby Mass Attack is a game that is both alien and familiar. Above all, however, it's thoroughly delightful.

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Review: The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection photo
Review: The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
by Dale North

Two of the finest PlayStation 2 titles I know of were created by the same team. Both Shadow of the Colossus and Ico were crafted by the creative minds at Team Ico, a group that is slow to release games, but makes masterpieces each time. I hold both in such high regard that I've been known to force people to play them. One friend of mine in particular came to my city for a short visit not too long ago. I insisted that he play Shadow of the Colossus, and I monitored his progress throughout, clearly stating that he was forbidden from doing anything else until he completed what I consider to be one of my favorite games of all time. If he didn't love it, at least he knew better than to tell me otherwise.

Obviously I was excited to hear that both games would appear on one compilation, remastered in high definition on the PlayStation 3. My heart wants to say that the original PS2 titles were perfect, but the game critic in me knows better. While both games are still among the most expressive, artful and influential titles ever created, they had their issues. Even this die-hard fan will admit that there were hardware limitations, graphical glitches, low frame rates and some control issues. So again, news of a HD remaster for PS3 was a dream come true for me. 

Yes, a dream has come true. I said that. I think you know where this is going.

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Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution  photo
Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
by Jim Sterling

In the year 2027, mankind is about to enter a new era of self-propagated evolution. Technology that blends man and machine has allowed "augmented" humans to run faster, think quicker, grow stronger, and rise above their genetics to be the person they want to be -- provided they have a lot of money and don't mind requiring lifelong medication to ensure their bodies don't reject the enhancements.

Oh, and they'll have to endure contempt from everybody who isn't like them, fear growing civil unrest, and live in a world rife with unchecked corporate power and corrupt political machinations.  

Yes, the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a miserable one. However, you won't want it to end.

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Review: Ms. Splosion Man photo
Review: Ms. Splosion Man
by Nick Chester

Twisted Pixel's Ms. Splosion Man is like 'Splosion Man, but with more pink -- and the lead character wears a bow in her hair. Wait, she doesn't have hair... how does that bow stay in? Why doesn't it just burn up? This game makes no sense.

Score: 2 out of 10 -- Lacks realism; too pink; every button does, like, basically the same thing

Just kidding. The game's pretty awesome. No duh, right?

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Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D photo
Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
by Jim Sterling

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a powerful game. It's a game that, once it sinks its claws into a gamer, never lets go. Equal parts innocent and morbid, charming and disturbing, silly and melancholic, Ocarina of Time is an enduring classic for a reason -- few games dream of being so iconic. 

Ocarina of Time is comprised entirely of things so unforgettable that the mere mention of them instantly throws up recollected experiences that have been seared into one's brain. The haunting face of the Happy Mask Shop owner. Escorting the princess through Jabu Jabu's belly. Stepping into a future Hyrule market for the first time and witnessing the devastation of Ganondorf's influence. Ocarina of Time is a game of memories. 

To carry those memories in one's pocket is, to me, far more important than enhanced graphics and refined gameplay elements. That Ocarina of Time 3D provides those things too? That's just icing on a very wonderful, very delicious cake. 

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Review: DiRT 3 photo
Review: DiRT 3
by Dale North

I love racing games, but my favorite kind are the ones that take you off the road and into the elements. Rally racing has always been my preference. Actually (cue harps and clouds), my money-no-object dream is to actually rally race across Africa. I'd probably roll and kill myself, though. For now, videogames will have to do the trick. DiRT 3 certainly does the trick. 

These past few days I've been blissfully lost in the outback, drifting through corners on dusty roads. I've been splashing through shallow puddles and sloshing thick mud. I've been plowing through snow storms, guided through the low visibility only by headlight beams. Every one of my off-the-road fantasies has been fulfilled with DiRT 3.

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Review: Portal 2 photo
Review: Portal 2
by Jim Sterling

08:57 - Default review scheduled to finish in 71:23:18
08:58 - Activating emergency distributed computing grid...
09:00 - GLaDOS@home starting...
09:01 - Recruiting cpus to force faster review publication...
21:26 - Calculations complete for Portal 2. Recalculating a new launch projection...
21:29 - Boot sequence complete
21:29 - Commence reviewing

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