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My name is Eric. I'm 33.
Here are some random things I'm into:

The Buy it/Avoid it Report - back issues
#001 - Ilomilo, Uncharted 2, Infinity Blade, Pac-Man CE DX, Battlefield BC2: Vietnam, PixelJunk Shooter
#002 - Batman: Brave & Bold, DJ Hero 2, Dead Space 2, Bionic Commando Rearmed, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Bulletstorm
#003 - Pokemon Black/White, PixelJunk Shooter 2, Monster Tale, God of War III, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, Torchlight
#004 - Portal 2, Steel Diver, Sin & Punishment Star Successor, Pilotwings Resort, Crysis 2, Blocks That Matter
#005 - L.A. Noire, Alice Madness Returns, Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D, Shadows of the Damned
#006 - GoldenEye 007, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, AC: Brotherhood, Sword & Sworcery EP, Trenched
#007 - Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Jetpack Joyride, Gears of War 3, The Binding of Isaac, Renegade Ops
#008 - Dark Souls, League of Evil, Uncharted 3, Batman: Arkham City, Super Mario 3D Land
#009 - The Buy it/Avoid it Report's Awards - 2011
#010 - Spelunky, Max Payne 3, Trials Evolution, Mario Kart 7, Escape Goat
#011 - Super Hexagon, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Lollipop Chainsaw, Mark of the Ninja

The Play it/Avoid it Report - back issues
#001 - Bioshock Infinite, Darksiders II, Dead Space 3, Far Cry 3, Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider
#002 - Dishonored, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Grand Theft Auto V, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Rogue Legacy

Secret Moon Base - episodes
Subscribe on iTunes - a podcast about video games and other stuff with my pals knutaf and Occam

Spelunky HD - blogs
Mega Guide - part one
Mega Guide - part two

The Binding of Isaac - blogs
Blood, Shit and Tears - a love letter
Instruction Manual - w/ tips and tricks for beginners

Social Network(s) - ugh
Twitter - @corduroyturtle
Facebook - Eric Janson
Following (53)  



Welcome back, fan of Secret Moon Base! Yes....it's been almost a year since our last episode. Yes, we are very sorry. Yes, we'll literally do anything we can to make it up to you. Hopefully that thing involves us recording our voices for 2 hours and providing you with a free digital copy via iTunes or our website, because that's what I'm offering you today.

And hey, is this the first time you're hearing of Secret Moon Base? Neato. We are a podcast that focuses (mostly) on video games, food, sex(?), humor and the power of friendship. The cast includes myself, knutaf, Occams and Mr Andy Dixon! We are all over 30 years old, which basically means we have over 100 years of video game playing experience combined! Not impressed? That's understandable! We actually met here on Destructoid years ago and have been friends ever since.

This episode is a reunion of sorts but we quickly get back in the swing of things. Occams has some strong words for Destiny's loot system, I talk about some issues I had with Batman Arkham Origins, knutaf confronts the P.T. demo head on, and Andy shares his thoughts on playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel way before the average gamer. On top of that, we chat a bit about PS4 vs Xbone (Wii U Master Race!) and talk about our favorite animals. Rivetting stuff!

#036 - Tina Turner Monkey

You can stream the episode from the link above, or subscribe to us on iTunes and take us with you!

We are going to try and record an episode once a month, so stay tuned for more SMB goodness in the near future. If you'd like to ask us questions or tell us what you really think, you can hit us up on Twitter @theSMBpodcast. See you guys next episode!

(FYI: knutaf's sandwich blog is real. For real.)


Listen up, nerds. I know you're all clamoring to get your hands on this very popular character, but back off. He's mine. I am officially calling dibs on the Prince of Darkness himself, Bowser Jr.! Though there is absolutely no reason I should have to explain myself, I will, if only to pad out the word count of this blog.



Look, this thing is basically the Swiss army knife of weaponized hovering clown vehicles. It has drill hands, saw blades, a freaking cannon and can deploy explosive robots! And the organizers of the Smash Bros tournament let him bring it with him! Hahahaha! He's basically cheating! That's a classic Bowser Jr. move, right there.



Just look at that magnificent bastard. Shit, I wish he was my dad. I'd get to live in a sweet castle. We'd roll around in our airship "kidnapping" pretty ladies and blowing Mario's shit up. Coins out the ass. What a life. Bowser Jr.'s a lucky kid.



By calling dibs on Bowser Jr., I'm essentially calling dibs on EIGHT different characters. That's Bowser Jr., Iggy, Larry, Lemmy, Ludwig, Morton, Roy aaaaand Wendy. Man, the look on your face is priceless. While you guys were all fighting over Shulk and Jigglypuff, I went and pulled the oldest trick in the book!



Boom. This whole time you though he was a koopa, didn't you? Yeah, well, it's pretty clear you haven't been paying attention at all. I wish I didn't have to play the race card but it is what it is. He's a turtle. I'm a turtle. Turtles are amazing. Get fucked.


Well, that about sums it up! I feel like I should apologize for the whole "get fucked" thing. It just sounded good at the time. Anyway, see ya on the Battlefield, suckers!!



Photo Photo Photo

Hello, Destructoid. Believe it or not, The Play it/Avoid it Report is back after an extended hiatus. I'm going to skip my traditional intro and dive right in. Let's do this.


>> On paper, Dishonored may not seem like an entirely new concept.  It’s a revenge tale about a bodyguard-turned-assassin (yep) who must rescue a kidnapped princess (sounds familiar) while taking down a cast of evil tyrants (been there) by sneaking across rooftops (uh huh) and stabbing them in the neck (totally saw that coming).  What sets it apart and gives it a unique charm, however, is the decaying city of Dunwall.  Its streets are wrought with plague infested rats, an oppressive police force and scheming gangsters lurking in the shadows.  Hidden safely behind walls of light (bug zappers for poor people) lie the wealthiest of Dunwall’s inhabitants.  Rich off of whale oil and drunk with corruption, these socialites get dressed up and throw extravagant parties in their mansions to keep their minds off the horrors that exist outside.  As for the middle class, well, there is no middle class.

Though not technically an open world game, Dishonored does set you loose in large, interesting environments where you’re free to explore and traverse as you see fit.  Ledges, rooftops, balconies, windows, ducts and poorly lit corners are everywhere, and a teleportation ability you acquire early in the game (called Blink) gives you the power to jump between safe points without being detected.  For someone who enjoys sneaking, it’s an empowering feeling.  You’ll never be stuck searching for a ladder again.  If you’re not so sneaky, you’ve got plenty of more violent options too.  On top of a some fairly standard weapons and gadgets, you can summon a bunch of bloodthirsty rats, blast people off ledges with wind and even freeze time so you can carefully line up the perfect headshot.  You’re basically a god.

The first handful of missions in Dishonored are a treat.  You’re often informed of a terrible person and then dropped off in their backyard with nothing more than a waypoint and your equipment.  Whether you choose to kill them or find a much more devious way of removing them from power is up to you.  Though it is tempting to sink your knife blade into their eye the moment you see them, the non-lethal options are immensely satisfying and often far worse a fate than simply dying.  Unfortunately, the story (and subsequent gameplay) takes an uninspired turn and the game ends with kind of a fart.  That being said, I enjoyed this game enough to play it to completion twice (back to back) which, for me, is very rare.

PLAY IT if you love games that encourage experimentation and respect you enough to let you make mistakes.

AVOID IT if hearing the screams of someone being eaten alive by a pack of diseased rats might possibly haunt your dreams for all eternity.


>> This sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns brings back the Kong family to battle a horde of vikings who have used a magical ice dragon to freeze Donkey Kong Island and steal all their bananas, I think. I have no idea why a bunch of owls, walruses and penguins are interested in large amounts of fruit but, like any Nintendo platformer, the story doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Tropical Freeze takes everything that was great about its predecessor (imaginative level design, interesting enemies and satisfying platforming) and kicks it up a notch. With no more motion controls to sour the experience, and no GamePad functionality shoehorned in, Tropical Freeze is pure, unadulterated platforming bliss.

This time around, Dixie and Cranky join the cast of playable characters and each have their own unique abilities. Dixie retains her floating ability from Donkey Kong Country 2, while Cranky can bounce on his cane (à la Duck Tales) to negate spike damage. Though their assistance is never necessary for completing a level, it does effectively double DK’s health and make certain challenges and secret areas much easier to reach. Swimming is also brought back, but vastly improved. DK and his buds glide through the water with a grace that would have been impossible to express on the SNES hardware. It’s little details like the way DK naturally twists through the water that make this game truly stunning to see in motion. And the music...oh god, the music. David Wise has completely outdone himself once again.

Speaking of details, Tropical Freeze is bursting with them. From the burning fields of an African savanna to a bustling juice factory full of dangerous machinery, each and every level feels totally fresh and exciting. And new concepts are thrown at the player constantly. In one stage, I went on a crazy minecart ride through a lumber mill which became a log flume mid-way through, then seamlessly transitioned back to rails. Another had me riding Rambi through an active tornado while avoiding lighting strikes and flying debris. On top of that, I found the boss fights to actually be challenging, which surprised me. I couldn’t stop playing this until I had collected every single “KONG” letter and puzzle piece, and now that I’ve unlocked Hard Mode, I can’t wait to jump back in.

PLAY IT if you consider yourself a fan of difficult 2D platformers -- it literally doesn’t get any better than this.

AVOID IT if it bothers you that the only non-pantless member of the DK family wears denim cutoffs.


>> I can already tell this is going to be more negative than positive, but stick with me. Grand Theft Auto is a hugely popular franchise, made by a company who has a ridiculous amount of talent. In the eyes of most gamers, they can do no wrong. After all, what other game lets you steal cool cars, do drugs, bang hookers, run people over, rob banks, skydive, get tattoos, punch everyone, play a round of golf, get drunk, cross-dress and play the stock market? With such a giant world and so many things to do, what’s not to love? Well, for starters, it’s pretty boring.

GTA V tries something new by letting you play three different protagonists. There's a crazy one, a cool one and a depressed one. They each have a different special ability and have their own story arcs, but to be honest, the story is uneventful, packed with pointless filler missions and ends on a real low note. A huge disappointment when compared to Red Dead Redemption or even Max Payne 3. The most touted feature -- switching between characters mid-mission -- is not only used sparingly (only a handful involve all three characters working together) but implemented in a way that doesn't allow you to experiment at all. Every mission feels very scripted, and if you don't switch to the right character at the right time, you'll typically fail and have to start over from the last checkpoint. In typical GTA fashion, most (if not all) of the supporting characters are horrible stereotypes or wacky parodies. Maybe I'm just getting older but they're not nearly as funny as they think they are and it's all starting to feel really stale. Like I said, they can do better.

My gripes with the campaign aside, there is fun to be had. The driving feels really tight and satisfying. The world itself is incredibly large, gorgeous and feels very real. There are distinct locales and enough square footage to really keep you entertained for a long time. One feature I really appreciate is the ability to actually hide from the police. Once you break their line of sight, you can hide in bushes or in alleys until your wanted level fades (which takes a weirdly long time). I tried the multiplayer once but was immediately kicked from the game. After all the negative things I read about lost character saves and questionable pricing of online items, I never bothered going back to it. Although the gun play is an improvement over the previous versions of the game, it still lags far, far behind other games in the genre. Say it with me now: They can do better.

PLAY IT if you'll kill or steal anything a game tells you to as long as they slap a waypoint on the mini map, put a gun in your hand and promise you a monetary award.

AVOID IT if you're tired of playing better-looking versions of creatively bankrupt game franchises.


>> I’ve made my feelings of the original Wind Waker no secret; it’s a brilliant game. Not only is it undoubtedly my favorite Zelda, but one of my favorite games of all time. So it should come as no surprise that when Nintendo announced it was getting an HD remake for the Wii U, I jumped for joy. I already knew the game would look absolutely stunning in HD, but the fact that Nintendo was going the extra step to fix some of the game’s faults made me even more excited. The end result doesn’t feel like a re-release of a decade old game; it’s a polished, tighter version of a near-perfect game that serves as a love letter to fans of the original, as well as a great entry point for those who never got the chance to play it the first time around.

The graphics in Wind Waker have aged incredibly well. The unique cel shaded look and Pixar-like animations translated beautifully to HD. Words like “sharp” and “crisp” don’t do it justice at all; it looks alive. Fabric flaps in the wind, colors burst off the screen and the improved lighting engine made my heart swell. But there are many other improvements beyond the cosmetic overhaul. MiiVerse (the social aspect of the Wii U) is integrated into the game in the form of Tingle Bottles. While traversing the oceanic world, you’ll come across these glowing green bottles drifting in the water and washed up on shores which contain messages from others players. These can be anything from written requests for assistance with puzzles to humorous selfies of Link in interesting situations. Their inclusion breaks up the seclusion of this single player game, and gives veterans an opportunity to help struggling players. I loved it.

The world in Wind Waker is quite large, but since most of that area is covered in water, sailing is your primary means of transportation. Personally, I loved feeling the mix of curiosity and anticipation when I saw uncharted islands appear on the horizon, but a lot of players complained that the sailing became tedious over extended periods of time. Thankfully, Nintendo addressed this issue by introducing the Swift Sail, an item that doubles the boat's speed as well as removes the need to play a repetitive song to change the direction of the wind. It’s an intuitive solution to one of the game’s only nagging problems. Well done, Nintendo.

PLAY IT if you cherish games that truly capture the feeling of exploration and discovery.

AVOID IT if you prefer the type of sailing that involves excessive amounts of pillaging, questionable prosthetics and scurvey-induced diarrhea.


>> Games like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac have already shown me how much roguelike elements can breath new life into well-worn concepts, so when I heard the name Rogue Legacy, I knew I was in for a treat. In spirit, Rogue Legacy is like Castlevania. Players choose from a pool of playable characters with different classes, spells and genetic quirks, and must traverse a dungeon full of evil knights, wizards and undead horrors in their quest for glory. Not only is the dungeon layout completely different every time you embark on a new quest, but things like items and enemies are randomized as well, meaning you never quite know what will be behind the next door. It’s an exciting but sometimes brutal experience that encourages experimentation and vigilance.

Death is very common in Rogue Legacy, especially when you’re first starting out, but the upgrade system in the game ensures that no run is a total loss. Any gold you collect is passed down to your next of kin and can be used to purchase skill upgrades (which affect all future characters), better classes, and even new equipment. Slowly but surely, you’ll increase your players health, magic and attack power, which increases your chance of survival, which lets you collect more gold, which of course allows you to purchase more upgrades. It’s a pretty satisfying gameplay loop that cuts down on a lot of the frustrations of permadeath, but it’s not without some problems of it’s own. These become less of an issue the longer you play, but early on it can feel like you’re taking baby steps towards an unreachable goal.

There were a few other niggling issues that became increasingly more annoying the longer I played. Being forced to re-equip every single new character with armor and runes to suit their class before each run was a chore. I would have loved the option to save a loadout for each class. I also think they could have added more game-changing genetic quirks to the mix. Baldness and IBS are funny to see the first time around, but since they don’t have any real affect on gameplay, they quickly become uninteresting. And since there’s a fairly small pool of quirks to begin with, they show up pretty frequently. I’m having a lot of fun with Rogue Legacy (currently playing NG++++++++) but I think I’m more excited about how much further they could take this concept with a sequel.

PLAY IT if you’re looking for something to satisfy your hunger for roguelikes while you wait for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth to drop and make all your dreams come true.

AVOID IT if you don’t have the patience for games that force you to fail repeatedly before they get “fun”.


Thanks for reading, guys. I wish I had the patience to write a better outro but struggling with the Dtoid blog editor has nearly ruined my weekend. See ya next time!

I freaking love Super Smash Bros. It's one of my favorite fighting game series of all time, but as fun as the games are, the anticipation leading up to each new release is almost just as fun! The speculation! The suspense! The horror! Each new Super Smash Bros. title has a more diverse and interesting cast that guessing who will be announced next is almost a game in and of itself!

Now, of course, there are the more likely picks (Pac-Man) and obvious fan-favorites (Ridley) but since this is my blog, I can be as ridiculous as I want. So completely ignoring logic, rational thought, your opinions and licensing agreements, I am going to list my top 10 most wanted characters for the new Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and 3DS!

Here they are, listed from "No fucking way" to "You've got to be kidding me". Oh, and if you're dying to see which Tales character I picked, you can stop reading now. Just a heads up! 



- You know if a list starts off with Waluigi as the most likely participant, it's all downhill from there. Waluigi is Wario's brother, I think. Not really sure. He shows up in Mario themed sports and racing games and not much else. He's lanky (like me), tall (like me) and pretty damn annoying (...) so I think he'd be a great fit for Smash Bros. Although Peach already has some Mario sports themed attacks, I imagine Waluigi would have his share as well. Part of his problem is he doesn't really have his own identity due to his lack of involvement in story based games. Maybe Smash Bros. could do something interesting with him.



- Professor Layton games are insanely popular on the DS, so adding him to the roster actually doesn't seem all that crazy. The only problem is, he's not really a fighter. However, that hasn't stopped Sakurai in the past. Heck, look at the Villager from Animal Crossing and the Wii Fit Trainer! Of course Luke would have to show up in some form or another and Professor Layton's Final Smash would obviously be some kind of thing related to his giant pointing finger. I'll let Sakurai-san sort out the messy details, I just want to beat people up with puzzles!



- Look, I loved the Pokemon Trainer from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but I also love dedicated stand alone characters like Pikachu. I also love dinosaurs. Slap a beard on a Pokemon that's also a dinosaur and I'm beginning to wonder why this motherfucker isn't in all Nintendo games. See ya later, Mario. There's a new mascot in town. Look at this badass! Real talk; there are enough cool Pokemon to justify their own fighting game, but there's still plenty of room in the Smash Bros. lineup for more 'mon. Or just get rid of Jigglypuff. No one will care.



- I fell in love with Chibi-Robo! back on the GameCube. Not so much his game (although it was pretty fun for what it was) but I just think his character design is classic. Also, since he's sort of like Inspector Gadget, he has a ton of potential to be an amazing Smash Bros. character. I think his energy mechanic could probably be implemented in a bunch of interesting ways. Maybe he could slap his plug into the ground to slowing reduce his damage percentage or use it to power up like Samus' charge beam. If anything, I think Chibi-Robo would be a fantastic replacement for R.O.B., who probably isn't coming back.



- Since Namco Bandai (or is it Bandai Namco?) is lending a hand this time around, it's incredibly likely that a Namco (or Bandai) character will be making an appearance. Although Pac-Man is almost a shoe in due to his classic status, I think Yoshimitsu would be a better choice. Not on is Yoshimitsu a veteran of two popular fighting franchises -- Tekken and SoulCalibur -- but he's a freaking immortal alien samurai. He'd fit right in with the crazy cast and since he is now playable on Wii U in the fantastic Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I think he deserves it. Fuck Pac-Man, especially the version with arms and legs.



- Twilight Princess may not have been a perfect game. It may not have been the best Zelda game. But it was responsible for bringing one of the best Zelda characters ever to life - Midna. Sassy. Abusive. Hilarious. Midna was, in my eyes, the perfect sidekick for Link. Everyone's favorite mute elf is much better off when he hangs out with someone who can do the talking for him or things get awkward pretty quick. Obviously, Midna would have to be riding Wolf Link to have the full Twilight Princess effect, but seeing as there are already two separate versions of Link announced for the game, this one is highly unlikely.



- Yeah, I know. Henry who? Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure is one of my favorite DS games and you've probably never heard of it. If that's the case, then you're missing out on a really unique puzzle-platformer hybrid with tight controls and plenty of difficulty. It also features some really imaginative characters and Henry turns into a giant teapot robot sometimes. If that's not a brilliant Final Smash waiting to happen, I don't know what is. TEA TIME! *cue heavy metal music*



- Okay, these picks are definitely starting to get into the "not in a million years" realm. Earthworm Jim is one of my favorite video game characters of all time but he hasn't been in a decent game since Earthworm Jim 2 on the SNES/Genesis. That doesn't mean I want to see him any less in Smash Bros., though. His wacky animations and sense of humor would fit right in with the rest of the eclectic crew, not to mention his stage would be amazing. I just really want a new Earthworm Jim game, guys. C'mon. Someone buy the rights and hire me on as a consultant. Let's do this.



- Chances are, if a single TMNT character somehow made their way into Smash Bros., it wouldn't be this bizarre-ass villain. It'd probably be Leonardo or some shit. Fuck that. Krang is a badass, and his mech-suit (I don't think it has a proper name) turns him into a giant badass. Just the thought of stomping around in a free-for-all match as one of my favorite TMNT characters makes me absolutely giddy. He was in a couple NES games back in the day, so this is totally viable. I haven't been keeping up with any of the new iterations of the cartoon but there's no way they're as cool as the original. My nostalgia is too strong for them. For the record, I'd also accept Rocksteady or Rat King.



- Not gonna lie, I know basically nothing about Ultraman. When I was compiling this list, I decided to search for Bandai characters to see what came up and apparently this dude had his own Super Nintendo game back in the day. That's good enough for me. Judging from most of the pictures I found, I'm a little concerned that he's always the size of a building but in my mind he's like Ant-Man and can change size. Look, let's be honest, this is never happening but I figured while I was making crazy predictions, I may as well throw a huge curveball at the end. Plus, he's pretty popular in Japan, right? There's a chance....


That's all I got. Let me know if you liked any of my choices or why I'm an idiot for forgetting some Fire Emblem character I've never heard of. Later.

Hello, bloggers.  I have been struggling with what direction to take The Buy it/Avoid it Report for a while now.  Although I have always enjoyed writing it, lately I just haven't been buying much.  Other than a few digital games here and there, I've mostly been renting games through GameFly in an effort to save myself some money.  I've never been much of a collector so this just makes more fiscal sense.

So, because I'm weird and I can't write about games that I didn't actually buy in a blog that makes purchasing recommendations, I changed the name.  It's more for my sake than yours, I assure you.  Also, "buy" and "avoid" aren't really opposite ideas, but "play" and "avoid" are.  That makes sense, right?  The only problem now is that I'm setting myself up for confusion between my "P/A Report" and the real PA Report.  Hopefully Ben Kuchera won't get too upset.  Anyway, let's roll.


>>  Going into this game without any expectations was, for me, an impossibility.  I found it difficult to avoid making constant comparisons to the original Bioshock.  The lighthouse, the magic powers (known as Vigors this time), the impossible city built entirely around one man's belief, the recordings scattered throughout the world -- it all felt so familiar.  And yet, it was very different in a lot of ways, too.  Unfortunately, not always for the best.

Let me just say, the city of Columbia is undeniably gorgeous.  It captures the feeling of the time period perfectly and is an absolute marvel from beginning to end.  Also, I absolutely love the sky rails.  The feeling of leaping to and from them was exhilarating every time, and they really nailed the roller coaster vibe they were going for.  Though the guns in general are fairly uninteresting, the shooting itself does feel tighter.  This may be a side effect of fighting in much larger environments, but overall it was a definite improvement over the original.  And the music?  Oh my god, the music!  Amazing beyond words.

However, the story (which was what I was most excited about) failed to resonate with me.  It's strange because I liked Elizabeth as a character, but I felt like the developers shoehorned her into the gameplay in way that just came off as rushed.  Her ability to open tears was nothing more than a parlor trick for Booker to use during combat, which is disappointing because it had so much potential.  The ending, which I won't spoil, did have some truly great moments, but ultimately felt very separate from the rest of the game.  It's sad to say, but the whole experience came off as condensed, compromised and cobbled together.

 PLAY IT because the brain of Ken Levine produces some of the most ambitious and fantastic concepts that video games have ever seen.

 AVOID IT because the original Bioshock set a bar so high, anything bearing its name must now be a masterpiece or nothing at all.


>>  Fun fact: The original Darksiders was the very first game I "reviewed" in this blog.  I liked it a lot.  Sure, it borrowed almost everything from other games, but it did it well, and I respected that.  The sequel follows that trend, taking elements from loot-heavy games like Diablo and melding them with the combat from God of War and the environmental puzzles from Zelda.  However, its Darksiders II's sense of style that sets it apart from the aforementioned games.  Like any game with such a strong look, its bound to be polarizing for a lot of gamers; you either like it or you don't.  Personally, I like it.

I found Death to be a lot more fun to play than his brother War.  He's faster, more agile and doesn't look like a fridge wrapped in a blanket.  He does sometimes resemble someone attending a Korn-themed Renaissance Faire but I found that charming in its own way.  The world was a lot bigger, too, in terms of both area and scale.  Massive stone statues and huge characters are everywhere, which honestly makes Death look pretty scrawny.  He can hold his own, though, and consistently outsmarts his larger foes using his size and speed to his advantage.  Combat is roughly 80% of this entire game, so it's a good thing that it feels really satisfying.

Almost everything you kill drops loot in this game.  Though I didn't get fatigued by this as much as in Borderlands, it was still a little much.  Anything that takes me out of the experience and forces me to navigate a menu better be quick and easy, and unfortunately that is a major flaw for this game.  The map, inventory screen, upgrades and missions were all tied to one button, which made opening up the pause screen and searching for what I needed a chore every time.  A game this big needs a dedicated map button, period.  There are also a lot of awkward load times scattered throughout the game which began to grate on my nerves.  Perhaps bigger isn't always better.

 PLAY IT if you can appreciate a game that's heavy on the mashy combat and light on the character development and meaningful plot.

 AVOID IT if the screenshots turn you off because this game is fucking long and the style never ever lets up.


>>  Dead Space is my jam.  I've never found myself wanting it to be more horror or more action; I love it just the way it is.  The gore is visceral (hurr), the setting is super neat and the lack of a HUD is one of my favorite features ever.  It's almost ignored at this point but health, stasis, directional markers, video communications and your inventory screen are all displayed on (or projected from) Isaac's suit.  They are woven into the game itself and add to the creepy, sci-fi atmosphere.  I think it's freaking brilliant.  But that's a feature in all Dead Space games, so what makes this one different?

One of the biggest changes is weapon crafting.  It might not sound like a big deal but I found it to be immensely satisfying after a little practice.  Weapon parts can be found all over the place, taken to the B.E.N.C.H. and assembled into many classic and new weapons.  They could also be imbued with different effects which add an extra layer of variety.  Two examples of weapons I made were a cryo-flamethrower with a force gun attachment and a burst-fire assault rifle with an underslung electric shotgun.  Weapon parts could be used indefinitely so if I needed to switch it up, I just deconstructed and started from scratch.  Universal ammo for all weapons was a slight downer, though.

For the record, I was never forced nor tempted to mess around with any microtransactions.  It's easy to point the finger at EA and claim their taking advantage of impatient people but, honestly, my playthrough was not affected at all by their inclusion so I couldn't care less.  They are easily ignored, and that's a good thing.  The co-op, however, was not as easy to ignore.  A few locked doors I came across suggested that I invite a friend in order to play.  And Carver (who a co-op partner would control) just sort of pops his head in randomly during the single player campaign.  It was strange but I definitely prefer this method to the alternative of having a constant AI controlled co-op partner getting in my way all the time.

 PLAY IT because killing nightmare flesh monsters in space is cool and wearing really badass space suits is cool, too.

 AVOID IT because EA made it.


>>  In Far Cry 3 you play as a 20-something douche bro named Jason Brody who single-handedly takes on an entire island of mercenary killers in order to save his awful friends.  Now, I'm not the type of person who needs a really good reason to run around and shoot up and entire island.  Just give me a gun and I'll conjure up my own motives if I have to.  I think what bothers me most about this game is that it tries to take itself very seriously even though the story and characters are all really goddamn dumb.  The only thing Vaas accomplishes by being great is making everybody else look that much worse.

Silly story aside, the gameplay is solid.  As almost everyone who's played Far Cry 3 will tell you, clearing outposts is an absolute joy.  There are many ways to go about it and even when your master plan turns to shit, it's still fun.  Once cleared, you'll find various hunting and assassination missions on the bulletin boards which can lead to better equipment and more experience.  There are also radio towers that need to be climbed and disabled, which allow you to see more of the map, which in turn lets you see more outposts.  It forms a surprisingly compelling gameplay loop which unfortunately (or fortunately) doesn't involve the campaign at all.

There are some strange design choices, I found.  Plants that can be harvested are clearly marked on the minimap (which is fine), but also flash white in game so they are IMPOSSIBLE to miss.  Besides being unnecessary, I found it to be very distracting.  Just let me enjoy the lush jungle landscape without constantly reminding me that I'm inside a videogame, please.  Also, Jason Brody apparently has very brittle bones because very small jumps will cause him to break his thumb and wrist all the time.  Oh, and tattoos magically appear on his arms when he learns new abilities because that makes sense.

 PLAY IT because there is a lot to love about this game, even if almost none of it involves playing the campaign.

 AVOID IT because at one point you have to burn a marijuana field with a flamethrower while dubstep plays in the background.  Seriously.


>>  Now here's a game that knows exactly what it is and executes that concept almost flawlessly.  Sleeping Dogs is about an undercover cop who's tasked with infiltrating a gang in Hong Kong.  It's certainly not a unique idea, but it facilitates this type of open-world gameplay very well.  People who want to be the good guy but wreck a bunch of cars and beat up lots of dudes in the process will feel right at home here.

Subpar driving mechanics can make or break games like this but, thankfully, the vehicle controls feel very natural in Sleeping Dogs.  It's really fun to speed up behind someone on the highway, leap out onto the roof of their car, toss them out onto the street and slide in the drivers seat all without ever dipping below 70 mph.  Guns are actually fairly scarce for a majority of the game, which is great because the melee combat is really satisfying.  It's all about bone-breaking counter attacks, flying jump kicks, melee weapons and environmental hazards.  I'd often just beat up innocent people in the streets; that's how fun it was.

What I wasn't expecting was for the story to be as compelling as it was.  A big part of that was how well the characters are voiced, Wei Shen in particular.  Being an undercover cop, he's obviously trying to blend in as well as get the job done.  As the lines between good and bad begin to blur, it's hard not to empathize with him.  I went into this game expecting some kung fu gangster action with a weak story, but came away very, very impressed.  It's a fucking shame about that karaoke minigame, though.  Holy lord that was the worst.

 PLAY IT because the streets of Hong Kong are corrupt as shit and all those delicate gangster legs aren't going to break themselves.

 AVOID IT if you're annoyed by Asian accents and bright, neon lights.


>>  If you had told me a couple years ago that the new Tomb Raider game would knock my socks off, I probably would have laughed in your face.  I had roughly zero respect for Lara Croft and assumed her popularity had simply stemmed from her big boobs and short shorts.  However, when this reboot came around and I started seeing footage, I instantly noticed a difference.  Lara was filthy, cut up, bruised and beaten but had a fire in her eyes that wasn't there before.  She looked tough as hell.  All of a sudden she was a compelling character.

This game does so many things right that it's ridiculous.  The environments are incredible looking but also brilliantly constructed.  Linear paths bleed into huge, open areas with tons of secrets to discover. Running, jumping and climbing are all tuned perfectly.  It's simply a joy to traverse the environments, and the animations for every movement are simply fantastic.  You get Lara's signature bow very early in the game and can upgrade it extensively.  It was so fun to use that I often forgot that I was even carrying guns at all.  I didn't need them.

There are lots of cinematic moments in Tomb Raider that feel heavily inspired by the Uncharted games.  Yes, I see the irony in that statement.  Stuff will crumble or break at the worst times and Lara will have to make countless life-or-death leaps before the credits roll.  The main difference here is that the theme of survival is constant.  She may survive a terrible fall, but she'll land on a piece of rebar and have to pull it out herself.  The character you start as and the character you finish the game as are two completely different people, and you get to witness the entire transformation.  It's an incredible journey.

 PLAY IT if you are craving a cinematic adventure with perfect pacing and impressive production values.

 AVOID IT if you're bad at quicktime events because the death animations are almost too violent to have to watch over and over again.


That's it folks.  This was a long one but it had been a while since the last issue so I guess I was making up for lost time.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time.

Alright, let me get a piece of this Top 10 action. I feel I should quickly preface this list by saying that I have yet to fully indulge in the likes of Hotline Miami, Far Cry 3, The Walking Dead (only 3 episodes in so far) and X-COM. It's safe to assume that if I had, this list would probably look a lot different. However, out of all the fantastic games I actually did play this year, here are my top 10, in alphabetical order.

- I don't play a lot of games twice but the open level design and intriguing moral choices in Dishonored were just too well done for me to ignore. The streets of Dunwall were dense, vibrant and rich with history. Here's hoping this isn't the last we see of it.

- The way Fez toyed with my perception (physically and mentally) was nothing short of brilliant. I didn't just "play" this game over the course of a single weekend; I was absorbed by it. It's a real shame Phil Fish's big mouth turned a lot of people away from this incredibly magical experience.

- It took a while for me to come around but I'm finally a believer! In spite of having no cutscenes, HD graphics, complex animations or spoken dialog, FTL manages to deliver drama and intensity like no other game this year. The hours just seem to melt away.

- I've never particularly enjoyed the single-player campaigns in Halo games but that all changed with 4. Cutscenes were effective, the environments were gorgeous, and the gameplay felt immensely satisfying. That goes for the multiplayer too. Just an all around great package.

- Put your hyperbole goggles on, kids: this game is perfect. The animations are great, the gameplay is tight, the game is a decent length, the story is well crafted and it absolutely nails the feeling of being a ninja. This is the new high bar for stealth games. (You can remove the goggles now.)

- For me, the Mass Effect trilogy is all about my squad. Sure, I want to save the galaxy (not that I really have a choice) but my main concern when coming into 3 was to conclude the story of Garrus, Tali, Wrex, Liara, Legion and all the other characters I love. I was not disappointed.

- I'm not really a fan of bullet-hell games mostly because I'm just plain awful at them. Somehow, Sine Mora managed to lure me in with it's biplanes, gorgeous visuals and incredible boss battles. Then I stuck around for the engrossing story, which features a bison in a wheelchair. Yep.

- I knew I was going to love this game. I only recently become a fan of roguelikes (mostly thanks to The Binding of Isaac) and everything about Spelunky had me excited. Randomly generated environments, permadeath and deceptively cute visuals. It's so addictive, I'm still playing it!

- Fans of fighting games all have their favorite series and Tekken is absolutely mine. What makes TTT2 so special is its 59 playable characters (like cybernetic ninjas, luchadors and bears), 2v2 tag battles, insane combo system and some of the most beautiful stages I've ever seen.

- Trials Evolution took everything I loved about Trials HD (ultra-sensitive controls, humor, punishing level design) and polished it beyond my wildest dreams. As great as the packed-in stages are, users can also share their custom built tracks meaning I'll never run out of levels. :D