Hello gamers! Welcome to the 4th installment of the Buy it/Avoid it Report! This one took quite a bit longer to get out than I would have hoped and I have many great reasons for that. Well, I have one really good
reason: the Gears of War 3
beta. I have an unnatural love for that series and participating in the beta was tons of fun. Now I'm stuck with this hole in my heart until September 20th rolls around but it's cool. I'll find other games to play to take my mind off the sorrow.
In fact, I've played a few games which didn't fit into this issue so I'm saving for the next one. What that means for you guys is that #005 will be out sooner rather than later. I finally tackled some of the 3DS launch games that I purchased, played a couple big name titles and found a lovely indie game that gave me the warm fuzzies.
Let's do this!
When I heard that Portal
, one of the most widely beloved games of all time, was getting a fully realized sequel, I literally jumped for joy. My mind raced with ideas and new puzzle ideas. I imagined GLaDOS, as maleficent as ever, guiding me through her new maze of horrific test chambers. I am just a man of regular intelligence though and the geniuses over at Valve had much bigger things in mind. There are still plenty of cube and button related puzzles here, but those core concepts are fleshed out with lasers, light bridges, launch pads and (perhaps the biggest game changer) gels. These performance enhancing paints come in three flavors that can be splattered about the walls and floors of the test chambers allowing you to bounce, run faster, and create portalable surfaces, respectively.
The dialog from the original Portal
has almost been quoted to death. Instead of rehashing the same old memes, Portal 2
delves deeper into the history of Aperture Laboratories and crafts a tale of fragile alliances and overconfidence. This is aided by the introduction of a couple new characters which, due to some truly brilliant writing, manage to outshine even GLaDOS. Wheatley is a Personality Core you meet at the beginning of the game who helps guide you through the opening areas of the game. Heís chatty and nervous, often carrying on long conversations with the (completely mute) main character, Chell. A stark contrast to the bumbling Wheatley is the original CEO of Aperture Laboratories, Cave Johnson. Heís not a scientist himself and instead forces his Ďlab boysí to create and execute his insane ideas - all in the name of Science. He alone has some of the the best lines in the game and absolutely steals the show, in my opinion.
BUY IT if youíd like to pull back the curtains and expose the origins of everyoneís favorite Enrichment Center.
AVOID IT if youíre allergic to peanuts because thereís a 30% chance that your blood may temporarily become peanut water.
For those of you who donít know (or care), Steel Diver
is a submarine simulator. Exciting, I know. The top screen displays your underwater environment from a side-scrolling, diorama perspective as you traverse the aquatic obstacle course, avoiding the onslaught of enemy ships and occasional giant water fiend. There is also a periscope mini-game between each mission that has you firing torpedoes at ships from a first person perspective. This works best when seated in a swiveling office chair because youíll physically have to rotate your body around to simulate the rotation of the periscope. The 3D effects in this game are used only to add depth to the background, which works beautifully. Personally, I'd like to think of the 3D screen as a window into another world rather than a virtual eye-poking gesture.
The bottom screen, surprisingly, is where the real
action happens. As the captain of this vessel, all of your controls are right there at your finger (or stylus) tips. Your speed, depth, radar and weapons are all laid out like a real control panel, which is actually kind of overwhelming at first. I spent my first couple missions slamming into the side of coral reefs and detonating numerous naval mines in my feeble attempt to just move forward. After honing my skills though, I found a calm satisfaction beneath all the realism. I trained myself to take things slow and steady, keeping a watchful eye on my radar and air pressure levels. I felt genuinely relieved when I surfaced at the end of a stage, having taken minimal damage and scoring a decent time to boot.
BUY IT if you yearn to relive those lost days of playing in the bathtub and making your own sound effects.
AVOID IT if you have the feeling this game will be fairly boring and short as heck...because you're right.
Sin & Punishment Star Successor
I feel funny. Perhaps itís because this game is fucking weird as hell
. I have a not-so-secret abhorrence towards anything thatís way too Japanese. Iím not a big fan of their style of humor or their affinity for strange stories consisting of more metaphors than actual substance. Somehow, Sin & Punishment Star Successor
defies my personal tastes and carefully walks the line between completely nonsensical silliness and badass rail shooter goodness. It helps that it has more in common with the likes of Star Fox
than what I consider to be typical rail shooters, like House of the Dead
and Time Crisis
- the later of which have not aged well at all. Before I move on, it should be noted that the concept art for this game is absolutely gorgeous
ďNow we run like our lives depend on it....because they do.Ē Ridiculous story and horrible voice acting aside, S&P:SS
offers up really great action. Using the IR pointer on the Wii remote, youíre free to blast away hundreds of enemies, racking up your combo and multiplier. If you get within striking distance of something, you can whip out a sword and go to town on them. This sword can also be used to deflect missiles and other projectiles in whatever direction youíre pointing at the time. The enemies in this game were clearly designed to look cool and interesting and not necessarily make sense. Donít bother trying to justify exactly why
youíre fighting a chicken-like behemoth on the streets of a crumbling metropolis. Just destroy the beast and happily move on to the next unbelievable monstrosity.
BUY IT if you need a reminder of the unique experiences that are really only available on the Wii.
AVOID IT if youíre unable to keep your arm extended for longer than the time it takes to change the channel on the TV.
As I found myself flying through the skies of Woohoo Island, I couldnít help but feel a strong sense of dťjŗ vu. Itís not one of those weird instances in which it feels like dťjŗ vu, but itís really not. No - Iíve been in this exact
same location tasked with doing this exact
same thing before. When I played this 'mode' in Wii Sports Resort
, it felt like a sweet little nod to the Pilotwings
games of the past. Its reappearance here just feels lazy as hell because this is
game and Nintendo did little to enhance the experience. This island, on which all the events of Pilotwings Resort
take place, is completely unchanged from its previous appearances. Great, now I have feelings of hostility towards a fictional island, and theyíre making me to hate this game.
There are a three different flying machines you can pilot and all offer something slightly different. The events mostly involve flying through gates or rings for points. Sometimes youíll have to pop balloons or land on multiple targets, but you wonít care. Spot on controls and a clean presentation donít matter much if thereís nothing to motivate the player to continue playing. With no multiplayer of any kind, youíre basically stranded alone on this terrible island with nothing to do but perfect your own scores. The sad thing is, I do have fond memories of the original SNES game and the N64 sequel, albeit slightly less fond ones of the latter. Unfortunately, it appears my fondness for this series will continue its downward spiral until it crashes into the face of Woohoo Mountain in a flaming explosion of I-donít-give-a-fuck.
BUY IT if, upon seeing a plane and a sky full of floating rings, you donít ask questions - you fly through them forever.
AVOID IT if you believe Hell is a real place, but its name is Woohoo Island.
If I were to describe this game in the shortest way possible, Iíd call it a thinking manís dumb shooter. This basically means that you have tons of combat options in Crysis 2
but you donít necessarily have
to tackle encounters with any kind of premeditated plan. For me, the game is at its best when Iím perched on the top of a skyscraper, looking down on a few unsuspecting soldiers and plotting my attack. This usually boiled down to me sneaking around, cloaked and stabbing each one of them in their fleshy little necks. A simpler approach would be to search the landscape for sewer tunnel and avoid combat altogether. Perhaps an even simpler approach would be to leap from the top of the building, activate my super-armor in midair and mow them all down with whatever automatic weapon I happen to be wielding at the time.
I found the campaign in Crysis 2
really entertaining but itís nothing Iíll be discussing with my friends weeks from now. It involves the military attempting to contain an alien invasion that they are completely unprepared to handle on their own. Thatís where you come in. You are the wearer of the Nanosuit which bestows you with powers beyond that of a normal man. The suit can be ungraded even further with the bio-material you conveniently collect from the aliens youíre hunting down. An unfortunate thing that plagues this game throughout its entirety is spotty enemy AI. Itís kind of sad when you think about how long Crytek must have tweaked the graphics engine to look just
right, yet basically ignored major AI issues that cropped up.
BUY IT if youíll never grow tired of the classic ďAliens are attacking New York City and youíre our only hope!Ē scenario.
AVOID IT if it takes more than a pretty face and the promise of a fun time to get you into bed.
Blocks That Matter
Xbox LIVE Indie Games
Amidst the avalanche of massage programs and fart games in the XBL Indie Games marketplace lies a real gem. Blocks That Matter
is a surprisingly polished puzzle-platformer in which you play a little robot trying to save his creators. Seemingly inspired by ideas in Minecraft
, you destroy blocks made of various materials in order to traverse the levels. These blocks you eliminate are stored and used to build platforms, walls and bridges, which youíll need to get around. The catch is you need at least 4 blocks to build something. This forces you to build using only those 7 classic shapes we all know and love from Tetris
. Also, anything you build has to branch off of something that already exists, meaning you canít necessarily build a floating platform without some tricky planning.
The materials the blocks are made of become much more important as you get to the later stages of the game. Your characterís drill can only handle plain rock at first, but can be upgraded at different points in the story. Materials that are initially impassable later become valuable tools for creation. The developer used this to their advantage when they went about placing the collectible chests hidden throughout the 50 levels. Inside the chests youíll find references to 50 other block-centric games. These range from classics like Arkanoid
and Super Mario Bros
to more recent games like VVVVVV
and the soon to be released Battle Block Theater
. Collecting them all gives you a great reason to go back and replay some of the previous levels.
BUY IT if $3 sounds like a fair asking price for hours upon hours of head-scratching good times.
AVOID IT if $3 sounds like a FUCKING RIP-OFF for hours upon hours of STUPID DUMB SHIT.
That's it folks! Again, sorry it took so long to get this issue out. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to check this out. See you next issue!