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11:15 AM on 09.29.2012

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit Review

As I try to make clear in most of what I do, I love things that are weird, odd, unique, eccentric, or just plain old different. So when I see a game that looks to have a unique angle from it, with a studio whose previous Xbox Live Indie Games I enjoyed, it makes sense for me to schedule a review slot for it. But does this wild looking title shine through, or is it just a nice coat of paint that makes the titles sound even stupider? Letís find out and also see if my quality of reasoning degrades under a self-imposed deadline! Yay for trying to be topical!

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit Review
Release Date: 26/9/2012
Platforms: XBLA(Reviewed), PC, PSN
Developer: Arkedo Studios
Publisher: Sega

First, let me explain what I could gather about this gameís history. Arkedo was working for a publisher who was limiting their creativity and they wanted some creative freedom from their dull lives, and started work on an anarchic project that became Hell Yeah! And after they realized this anger filled project could be something people would buy, they went to Sega in order to help give them some guidance with their chaotic project. And since the staff was forced to make lots of cute things, they wanted the game to be centered about killing and enslaving them.

The gameís plot is fairly simple, you play as Ash, an undead rabbit who is the king of hell after he murdered his father. But Ash is also a ďsexual deviantĒ, god it hurts to type those words, who likes ducks, and some swanky photos of him and his duck got leaked to the ďhellternetĒ and he needs to kill the 100 demons who viewed them. It is fairly simple, and is centered more around the frame work for its style than normal storytelling. However the little bits of dialog all seem to fall flat.

You are an angry cute character going through a world in which you kill cute things, how hard is it to just give him a few dialog cues and a few witty lines that someone voiced. Iím sorry, interrupting a game that is primarily centered on action through text boxes makes me just want to skip past them. I had this same problem with Moon, but seeing as how this game is suppose to be humorous, I just find it hard to care about what is going on with the world. I am one of the few people who love little bits of lore, yet when you have 100 entries about the demons I killed and their former lives, some of them are bound to sound samey, and you will get bored of reading all of them

However, Arkedoís never been huge on the story, so maybe the gameplay can help this title stay afloat. Sadly, that is not the case, but it could be fixed in a remarkably simple fashion. To quickly summarize, this is a platformer where you move around on a mix between a buzz saw, tire, and jetpack. Although, when you are not leaping, drilling, and sawing through foes and hazards, you are shooting at foes with the right stick to aim. However, there are two massive oversights with the shooting that could be fixed in about a day of work, tops.

First of all, the jump button, which you use a lot seeing as how you have a jetpack, is the A button, and you cannot remap your controls on the console version. So if you want to shoot and fire your weapon at the same time, enjoy jumping with your tilted left index finger. Secondly, the gameís camera is in too close, 90% of the time. Now, I have this gripe with a lot of titles, yet here it is just pathetic. You see, by pressing the right bumper, you can pause the action and zoom out the map. And since enemies can attack from offscreen, they are clearly rendering them through the map, if not then why would the loading screens be 10-15 seconds long for a 2D platformer? But I might be able to deal with that, except for how firing off screen results in your weaponís fire being destroyed.

I need to question whether or not anyone tested a game when I see problems as simple as these. They are not intricate schemes. I mean, I nearly failed my AP Computer Science class, and I could at least remap control inputs. And you barely ever zoom out, so it being activated by the A button would really not change anything for it. Well, it would make the three demons that you kill by using it harder to kill. Yes, three of the 100 ďuniqueĒ foes in this game are killed just by pressing one button. Hell, there are about six guys who run around and need to be juggled by sawing into them. And even then, none of the battles with these colorful beasts are all that memorable. I mean, I ended up accidentally killing about 10 of them.

But hereís the kicker, after you kill these cute neon... They have no consistent theme, so Iíll just call them things. You get to play a little Warioware style minigame. Now, I actually enjoyed Warioware quite a bit with the first GBA title and the DIY DS one. And my favorite thing with these was practicing them so I could get a long combo going. So when it turns out there are only about 30 or so of these, with them only being one per demon, I was a bit disappointed. That, and they can be a lot harder to understand, since the one word prompt is trying to be funny, and they have to deal with several buttons, rather than just doing it with two at its most complex point.

After plowing through this title within 3 days, which totaled at about 10 hours, I can hardly even remember what the beginning of the game was like. All of these little annoyances like money you collect for personalized items, the abundance of insta-kill spikes, because they are just wonderful and fair. The somewhat floaty controls, where every jump is a leap of faith, because the developers donít understand that jetpacks fire in bursts. It all becomes one great blur on minor design errors that make this really feel like it was designed by people who had no idea what they were doing.

Granted, this game is at least 10 times more complex than Arkedoís other titles, with things like multiple weapon slots and an entire metagame where you use your slayed foes as day laborers, in a main menu option known as the island. Let alone a few dozen customizable one piece outfits, and multiple coverings for your buzz saw. So I should feel some understanding that the gameplay is very rough, and I might be willing to, since the game can get pretty intense and fun when the invincibility frames are not being reduced to less than a secondís worth. It is just a mess of ideas that could fit, but donít really mesh well. And the same could be said for the visuals.

Now, I absolutely adore 2D art, to the point where I find Rayman Origins to be the best looking videogame of all time. And I will say that all styles are fine in my book, yet Arkedoís art direction always felt a bit off to me. I think the game is trying to be as cute as it can be so the blood splatters feel all the more potent, by the way, this is somehow a T rated game. But it is almost to the point where it just gets annoying. I love primary colors and things that are both disgusting and adorable, yet these deformed creatures just look like random doodles from the artist, with no real consistency or quality control, just the first 100 miniboss ideas they could muster up.

Now, I wouldnít call them especially poorly designed, some look great for the minute they are alive but with the entire world being a stylized rainbow mesh that is trying to be as colorful as possible, the entire game starts looking bland later on. It is somehow both anarchic and very, very safe, trying to wallow in the fact they are killing monsters that are very cute, and it just gets dull the tenth time you do it. Moderation is the key to impact, keeping a superb engagement flow of peaks and valleys is how you keep an audience, but here it is always on, and always hitting either the same or very similar notes.

I do actually like some of the tracks, with the second area and the happy-happy worlds having either a very cool beat, or a French woman seeing a song that oozes TwistedPixelís style. Yet the entire game could benefit more from getting some voice work than nearly any other I could think of. Seriously, the game is ripe for a psychotic sounding French guy to voice Ash and cackle as a madman, while tearing up insects and... Seriously, what the hell are these designs? And donít worry about subtitles, this game is suppose to be insane, and another languageís direct translation would already sound wonderfully mad for people who donít speak French, and just the fun kind of mad for those who do.

To condense this into something that is just 3 pages in length, I am actually shocked at the final product of Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. Not by the fact the game is bad, since there is some fun to be had in small doses. Rather how the title has so much that could be done well that seems so easy in hindsight. It did not frustrate me as much as some other titles, but I certainly was not smiling a lot during it. From the relatively boring visuals, the lack of sound clips that would enhance a game like this tremendously, the repetitive gameplay, and a stupidly short blink time, I cannot recommend it either. It is what I call a failed shuttle of a game, one that can only be learned from, but is really not worth playing. perhaps a designer can find some interesting lessons about planning ahead, but for the average buyer, it falls downhill after the demo. Feeling mishandled at the best of times, and processed at the worst.

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4:33 PM on 09.27.2012

Jet Set Radio HD Review

I have heard that it is a better stance to be indifferent toward everything from the start, in order to prevent disappointment. However, if you are indifferent towards entertainment from the initial standpoint, why would you ever bother purchasing it, when you are not able to portray an emotion towards it, good or bad. I say this because I was fairly excited for this game and it did indeed let me down, yet by how much? When I break down this game on paper, it sounds like a prime contender for one of the best of all time, so by default it must be a disappointment, but how so and how much? Letís dive on in!

Jet Set Radio HD Review
Release Date: 19(18)/09/2012
Platforms: XBLA(Reviewed), Playstation 3/Vita, PC, iOS, Android
Developer: SmileBit, ported by Blit Software
Publisher: Sega

Set in the semi-futuristic city of Tokyo-To, a wave of graffiti spraying roller skaters, referred to as Rudies, have been assaulting this town with their creative expressions. You play as members of one of the gangs, the GGs, who are trying to obtain more territory over the city so that they could spray it with more of their art and style. Thus begins a struggle for power involving several themed gangs and their eventual stumbling onto a massive corporation that is trying to take over this city and bring on the lack of individuality.

Yeah, Japan has this thing where, and Iím paraphrasing someone with more knowledge than me, the end of high school brings forth a life that shuns creativity and desires every worker to just be a machine who spends literally half of their life working. Taking refuge in a spouse early on, in order to plant the seeds of their next kin, and repeat this cycle all over again. So they need to make media that reflect that fun time, hence their love of characters in high school.

However, beyond my first paragraph, the game is very lean on things like plot. You see, instead of seeing the characters do anything, this game tells us what happened through an eccentric DJ known as Professor K, the only character with more than 30 seconds of voice clips. So right out the gate it provides a pretty solid and, at least in recent years, formulaic set up, but then drops the ball and does something that breaks the first rule of filmmaking, let alone gaming. Now, I am attracted to this gameís lore like iron to a magnet, so it was incredibly saddening when I discovered that the 10 or so characters you get through the story mode, the changing antagonists, and a lot of the world itself, all feel very basic and flat. I understand limitations and the expected level of story, but would it kill them to include a paragraph to describe every character?

They all have a unique design, so I am attracted to learning about them, but I am not really given anything. Subtleties within gameplay are a great way to learn about characters, but they all feel pretty much the same, and there is not a lot of incentive other than how many spray cans and health these characters can hold. I understand removing a learning curve with all characters, yet this is not a good way at making everyone feel like any more than a skin. I only complain because of how much I care about seeing this world be fleshed out, but the entire plot of this game is the cliffnotes of a modern gameís plot, which just makes the potential feel utterly wasted in the narrative sense.

But hey, this game is trying to pull off an arcadey vibe, so I can understand having a brief plot, I guess, and the gameplay would be where this title really needs to stand out. As stated prior, the game centers on a gang of roller skating youngsters who like to graffiti things beneath arrows. As explained through both the game itself and its hard as crap tutorial, because discouraging you by telling you to do a 50 part combo is a great way to get you to teach you the ropes. Every normal level of the game has the same goal of stylishly getting to spray points through grinding on rails and doing jumps and wall runs. You gather around spray cans so you can spray more points and enter the QTE, which actually do sorta feel like spray painting something, required for them.

However, there are really only three large areas where you search for things to spray with your customizable graffiti, but all of them depict a different time of say and section of the city. Sure, you have two large urban areas with a very nifty pier and housing section, but I actually had a blast going through and memorizing how to best get through these areas, although sometimes I feel as if I shouldnít have. You see, during the later levels, the game limits the number of spray can to just being one or two areas, and since these places are, in the end mostly linear. You need to either try to power through the areas or skip through a bunch of it in order to spray the larger sections, which take more time and leave you vulnerable to attacks from police officers, helicopters with machine guns, katana wielding afro men, and machine gun jetpackers. It sounds pretty awesome, but this is what I classify as a Flow Game, which is a title more about style and finesse, rather than just going through it without getting your ass kicked too much. So getting hit often due to some tricky to dodge machine gun fire. And with some hard to make jumps, it is easy to feel like you just suck at the title.

The game also does not allow you to quickly reset a stage unless you die or the 10-15 minute timer runs up, which it did a ton for a few stages. This lead to scenarios where I spent 3 hours desperately trying to get through one single level because I couldnít get the wall run to work properly, and guys were whipping my Asian girlís ass. Now, this could just be due to how I suck at games, which I kinda do. I couldnít get the last purple coin rolling mission in Super Mario Galaxy 2 or beat Cave Storyís hell level. But Iím pretty sure that it is due to how the physics of this game are, well, kinda crap. And not the controls as some have said, the only problem with them is how the spray button repositions the camera, which disorients you up while spraying moving targets.

This game originally came out in 2000, before Havok and Unreal were used for 60% of games, and in house engines were made for pretty much a game by game basis. Pair it off with the fact that the only game like this, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, was set in part specifically made for skating, and it is easy to see why traversing the streets of Tokyo-To can be difficult. But it still feels like crap a ton of the time. I am no expert on physics in any regard, but the way that speed can just be completely lost like it is here, just feels wrong. As do the moon jumps which can be a pain if you want to keep your speed while grinding, and not making an ass out of yourself.

It is hard to explain, but it is not comfortable to traverse this world, when you can screw it up this easily. The challenge should not be in execution, it should be in using the mechanics to build up enough points to get a high rating if that is your thing. And having sharp corners in a game that requires you to be smooth, along with little gaps you need to awkwardly jump over, a bit of a misfire in level design. Now, I like how it looks like a city that could exist, the game is cel-shaded, you can get away with things that are stylized.

Oh yes, the cel-shading. I will go on record by saying that cel-shading is one of the greatest things to happen to gaming since it came into 3D. It is actually very saddening to see there being so few titles that bother to use this. I am aware that people prefer to use preset shaders, since they are easier than making several new ones. But so far, Borderlands 2 and the The Darkness 2 have been some of the best looking games of this year, because they decide to adapt a style that ages really, really well. Hell, as a title that came out in 2000 for the Dreamcast, the game looks a bit low in terms of polygons, and could use some more environments, but still looks great despite that. The vibrant colors, great looking character models, and surprisingly busy world all make for a game that, despite the lack of polygons, is one of the best looking 3D games Iíve seen.

And the music is also pretty great, taking a good amount of up-tempo tracks that manage to fit the vibrant and lively look if the title to a near fault. And considering that the soundtrack contains everything from J-Pop, Jazz, Rock, Electronic, and funk, it is impressive how going from one song to another does not have any large tonal shift. Iím pretty sure there is a song or two missing, but even as a collection of 28, although some might be cut due to regions, but I think that was amended, it is varied, upbeat, and always picked me up when the physics and level design disagreed on how I should do an action.

Through the glasses of modernity, I can still declare Jet Set Radio to be a game that is good, yet owes a lot to the positively lovely aesthetic sense it has. The wonderful style of the skater culture the game is influenced from, and the sheer brilliance of the very concept help forgive a lot. While the story is underbaked and pretty poorly executed despite a cool narrator , and the physics are kinda broken, especially with the way the levels can be set up, do break the flow the game relies on. But the satisfaction of getting things to work properly, and the fact the game stay so damn happy throughout, help make the title worth playing.

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1:48 PM on 09.23.2012

Addressing the New Dante

This is a response to the utter rage over the DmC reboot and reactions like, well, this. I felt like giving my two cents about the issue, because I don't see my views being shown in this whole... kerfuffle.So read my words if you feel like it, since it'd make me happy!

To be honest, I kinda understand where people are coming from with the character design.Now, I am not much of a fan of the original Dante's design, so I don't think I have a major bias towards the old design. At the same time, I don't think this redesign is all that good. When you break it down, the new Dante is a lean guy with brown hair, a white tank top, jeans, and a red jacket. In terms of character design, it is really just cutting back the muscles and making it look a bit more realistic. However, he doesn't look overly appealing as a character in a game where you use weapons to beat up monsters.I had a similar problem with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the developer's previous title. Where the main character was just a muscled guy with some weird spiky hair. If you showed me just that, I'd think the actual design was pretty lame. However, I ended up enjoying all the characters in that game for one simple reason, they were given character. You see, the appearance of a character in a primarily visual medium is still important, but it is not necessarily a deal breaker. For example, just look at the wave of nondescript movie stars in games aspointed out by good old Jonathan Holmes. None of them are very appealing to look at, yet my good, and pretty much only, friend adores the character of Nathan Drake warts and all. So why would it matter that Dante looks like Travis Touchdown if his lost the shades and got all of his outfit from a bin?

Seriously, am I the only one who noticed this?

Or looking into, say, Silent Hill 2, the main character looks just like a regular dude, but how many people fell in love with his character? Hell, all live action media requires very simple character design that you will only remember if the character itself is good. And even with a character who doesn't seem likable, that doesn't mean that the game will suck, since based on this, and the other trailers, the environments look wonderful and gameplay looks like a blast. It is healthy to utilize caution with redesigns, but at least give the game a chance until you call in garbage. If you really want a reason to hate the game, pull out the whole anti-Capcom spiel. They throw coffee at employees, they don't let you go to the hospital if you feel like you're going to have a heart attack. They overburden their employees and make them beg for not doing the impossible. They have development teams of 600, and expect their title to sell 7 million because of it. Those are good reason to not buy a title. I am not trying to say that you shouldn't play it since it looks great and my town's tax dollars are so going towards it. But if you are going to hate something and not buy it because of it, don't bitch that a character is changing their hair from platinum blonde to brown. Besides, his old character is pretty dated nowadays, so they're at least identifying that and are doing something different.

Have a positive or negative response? Please leave one below, it's the only way I'll improve. Like my work? Check out my personal blog, NigmaBox, if you want to see more.   read

12:38 PM on 09.17.2012

Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney Review

I enjoyed 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and Ghost Trick Phantom Detective, So it would make sense that I would end up playing the most well known visual novel for the DS, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney! But is this series of murder cases interesting enough to have me search through the series? Letís find out!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review
Release Date: 11/10/2005
Platforms: DS(Reviewed), GBA, WiiWare, iOS
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Price I Paid: $14

The game centers around Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney during his first trial. His job consists of three tasks, searching around crime scenes to steal little knickknacks, showing people everything in his pocket, and pointing out contradictions in witnessís testimonies via evidence. However, he is a newbie, and always need the help of his tutor Mia Fey, and she is needed in every single case. And I do mean all five of them And even when she is nowhere around, he still has epiphanies about her telling him what to do. I think that might be a way of showing how he defend murder suspect himself, but it makes him feel incompetent. And he really isnít since the trials you get into become simple murder, to elaborate schemes spanning a decade of deception and destroyed evidence.

The game keeps on saying how he needs to get 3 years under his belt, but he seems to be just as good, since he mostly engages against a somewhat ruthless prosecutor, MIles Edgeworth. Serving as the closest thing to an enemy in this game, Edgey has over two years of very successful experience, and he gets foiled every time you meet him. I appreciate that they are establishing him and not having a bunch of adversaries, but seeing as how colorful the supporting cast of suspects and witnesses is, I must wonder why they feared to add more. This is the exception to my rule of keeping the character count low, from the hyperactive kid who has been held back twice, the 1337 5934k1ng film director, and the cartoonishly overconfident posh final boss. Well, heís the final boss of the fourth case, but the fifth one was added for this remake, since this was a GBA title. And guess what? It has next to nothing to do with the first three titles.

Speaking of characters, to juxtapose Phoenixís straight man logic based approach that is not afraid to joke, we have a hyperactive 17-year-old sidekick. Miaís sister, Maya Fey is a spirit medium who, and this is fairly common knowledge, so I donít feel bad about spoiling it, channelís her... Well endowed older sister so that she can talk to Phoenix and present withheld evidence. And moving to the gameplay, that is something that really ticks me off about certain items in this game, more than once, you lose a piece of paper that you could have just as easily copied the document, and you wouldnít have lost it. This also applies into the contradiction search, which is called cross-examining. There are a lot of descriptions that request them to do things in a certain way, and for presenting a related piece of evidence, I was penalized by losing one of my five points. Writing a very precise cross examinations would take hours upon hours just to write for a game like this, but who uses the term, ďsound the clock,Ē when the clock states the audio of the time?

But the actual writing has a lot of clever twists, funny lines, great characterization, and it keeps on feeling fresh even though you repeat the pattern of, search for stuff and talk to chaps, use your evidence in court, leave and find more info, over 15 times. But the actual searching part amounts to just placing a cursor on something, move to another room when you ran out of stuff to do, and hope the green text appears to state the area, because that means you are on the right track.

And I understand having a linear path structure, but most areas feel jumbled together, rather than important sections in a city. A simple map system could have remedied this, since that at least gives you a sense of location. However, regardless of the lack of gameplay in these parts, it is where you get the majority of the character bits, and the constant revelations do push me through figuring out what was going on that boat on Christmas Eve, and why people think thereís a loch ness monster here.

But the cross examinations in the courtroom remind me a lot about the puzzles from Portal 2. You have all the time you need, but if you do manage to get the contradiction right, the sense of satisfaction is most certainly noteworthy. Especially because of how on the surface level, the cases should be done within a day, rather than three, which is the maximum for cases in Japan, I think. Well maybe not, since the game takes place in 2016, where black and white photos are the norm.

Visually this is still a GBA title, except for the final case which has 3D models and touch screen segments. However, due to the nature of visual novels, they are allowed to be very well drawn and this game offers one of the best mixes between realistic proportions, and anime style expressions. And while limited, the animation is very smooth, but I praise a 2D game for having more than two mouth movements per characters, so maybe itís not that great, but it is very distinct in the designs of the characters, and the backgrounds look lovely, so that must amount for something. Oh, and the music is pretty great as well. There are only a few tracks, but all of them are memorable, grant the title personality, and enhance the mood. A sound cue and screen shake can really help the mood a lot, and when you are basically taking a script and putting it into a game, you pretty much need that to justify it.

Overall, Phoenix Wright impressed me. The gameplay is what I refer to as the good kind of repetitive, where the structure remains the same, but the set pieces are good enough to hold it through to the end. It also does something that I really enjoy seeing from a game, make you feel really smart when you figure out what is wrong with the information provided to you. And while you can often be overloaded with supplies, especially during the last case, that just amplifies the feeling of accomplishment.

The characters you interact with are memorable and very expressive, with each of them having a clear personality by the end, and I do mean every character to have a very well drawn series of animation cells. Tie that in with memorable music that Iíve been humming since I started playing, and sound cues that make it feel like a waste of time to play the game without them, and you have a very well done package that is more than good enough for me to dive into the other 4 games we got thus far. Well, when I find them for cheap.

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3:59 PM on 09.12.2012

Moon Review

I tend to use the site Glyde for a ton of my impulse buys, because the price is cheap, and they sell both new and used titles. It is basically a less jerkish, more pro-consumer version of Gamestop. So I ended up finding this little title for cheap, and picked it up. From developer Renegade Kid, who I know as the guys who made Mutant Mudds, got their start making FPSes for the DS, with this being their second one. And as somebody who always thought a simplistic DPS could work well on the DS, can this result in a forgotten gem, or is the idea of an FPS on the DS a very stupid idea in reality? You know the drill!

Moon Review
Release Date: 13/1/2009
Platform: DS
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Mastiff

Why would you pick a name as broad as Moon for your game? No subtitle or anything, no extra words at all? Nobody had trouble searching for the game? Whatever, the year is 2058, and man has several bases on the Earthís moon, which they are planning on colonizing while preparing the same for Mars. You are some guy named Ed Kane, a military person who was called in to investigate an anomaly. And we know the plot, aliens wreck your stuff, you have an officer telling you what is going on, and it is up to you to save the world. This is textbook stuff, but then we got to the truth that aliens have been kidnapping humans and smelting them into tubes of... Stuff, that increases a personís vitality and makes them more athletic. Other than that, I could barely make it out. There are disjointed boxes of text that tell you some backstory, but interrupting an FPS with text never really bodes well.

But hey, Painkiller had a moronic story, and it is considered to be one of the best FPSes in the past decade. And did anyone care about the plot of Doom? No, they wanted to shoot demons in the face! But those only represent one third of what I consider to be the FPS paradigm. On one hand, you have your Serious Sam and Borderlands, games about the fun of the frantic shooter gameplay. On the other, you have your Half-Life 2 and Bioshock, games with a sense of survival and carry a strong narrative. And the other one is the multiplayer focused games, mostly having to do with war, the most boring subject matter ever made, unless it is in space, but space makes everything better. So where would I place Moon? Well, at the beginning, it felt a lot slower paced and had a more narrative focus than the plot would have me believe. But by the end of it, I was fighting an indescribable alien by shooting circular explosions at him.

So we have an indecisive title that wants to marry these two warring cousins, while not bothering with the one who was raised by children who consider war to be the ultimate joy. As such, I am a little conflicted when describing the gameplay. You only have seven weapons, ammo is limited for the most part, and there are exploration elements for upgrades. But on the other hand, enemies drop a ton of ammo, take the default weapons hits like you are shooting them with a BB gun, and they are floating metal eyes, golems, and robotic spiders. And speaking of the default weapon, for something called the Super Assault Rifle, it has a hard time killing rat sized bugs in more than 3 shots. I appreciate how it has infinite ammo, but that just made me try to use it for the majority of the game. I only used the other weapons during the last chapters of this gameís 17. Oh yes, and when a chapter that takes me nearly an hour is followed by one that takes me about 3 minutes, you might want to fix something.

But back to the exploration, the areas are linear corridors that occasionally have a small door that you main character cannot get inside, since he can only move, shoot, open doors, pick up ammo and ammo upgrades, and open doors. So Mr. Kane needs to find an RC car called a RAD, which looks like an alien form when you are controlling it, that can stun enemies, and temporarily flip switches. You use it a lot, but even during the five or so dungeons in the game, this puzzle was used to death. I understand maintaining the usefulness of an item, but I would like to see one area where the only secrets arenít hidden behind an orange door that needs to have a switch shot before I can get my alien artifacts for a VR mission Iíll never play.

There are also vehicle sections, where you drive around in a car with a laser gun, and it controls like a literal brick. Despite being on the moon, it is controls like it is very heavy, and just doesnít want to turn, instead it want to run into yellow indestructible mine put out by your colleagues. And we only see this three times, making i feel like it couldíve been cut, and all weíd lose would be a chapter or two. And speaking of the chapters, why is the boss a chapter separate from the dungeon? They average at about 5 minutes, and just make the game look longer than it actually is.

I also have gripes about the results contain something known as merits, but it never says what they are. I missed three during my run, but I thoroughly explored the area, well what I could access. There is often an inaccessible area on the map that just holds a set piece, meaning that you can never really clear out a map. It has no real purpose, but why even include it the set piece area on the map? I feel really annoyed when I beat a boss, but canít clear their room, since there is a foot high ledge around the area that most of them sit in.

The enemies are pretty run of the mill, as stated earlier, and only fire projectiles that are pretty much always in a pattern, and only get annoying when you are in a cramped area and you are hoping that you pink space suit steps on a full heal item, which looks just like the minor heal items, which look just like a certain type of ammo. Seriously, this thing is the difference between dying and beating the bosses with your eyes closed. You are down to your last hit, step on some compressed human turned into juice, and are back to 100% health.

Speaking of bosses, these are some of the worst bosses Iíve fought in a while. The bosses are blatantly recycled, so Iím not spoiling much. There is one robot with four arms that you first encounter around columns, so you hide behind them and take potshots at his flashing red weak points. The you meet him again, but you have no columns, and it spins around to fire in every direction, and he kicked my buns like they were stale egg rolls. Then there was a rotating column that shot the same large and easy to touch balls of energy that every enemy uses, but if you stay back, his balls evaporate and your assault rifle can still hit him. And when you take out all four panels covering him, it is a giant yellow pillar that shoots four thin lasers at once, but you can still hide from them. Or at least I hope so, since before I developed this strategy, I had to travel the preceding area 4 times because there is no save point before this bass.

And in a later area, you need to fight three of them as separate minibosses. Except they no longer spin, and now toss grenades that have a stupidly large range. So it is again with the potshots between those and the three balls it fires. And then you fight one again, as the second to last boss. Only difference is that he has more health. But the worst boss needs to be the rolling one. Now, I defeat this boss in many ways. I got his face stuck between terrain and fire at it with your assault rifle. Then I had it ram into me, stuck in a loop, but never actually dealing damage, when it shouldíve cut off a third of my health. And I simply circle strafe around it, while it did not roll at all. This is what you call greatly designed enemy AI. It is the kind of stuff that allows me to shoot odd a spider turrets feet while it is behind is corner, and somehow kill it. And a lot of bosses are protected by an eyeball door, kind of like the one in Metroid. Except this guy takes 3 minutes to kill, while I am standing still, holding the L button, not even touching the bottom screen to aim. This is what you call a pointless obstacle, since if I just use my infinite Assault Rifle that destroys its projectiles, I cannot be defeated by this thing.

Speaking of Metroid, there are three instances where Kane needs to escape a base or get to a location before a timer dings. This is a staple of the Metroid series, often done after the final boss, but they do not do that here, and there is no tension or challenge to leaving an area after you just did that twice with a lot of time left to go. The first time was pretty cool, with enemies firing at you, and you tried to keep them back while making it out of the area. But seeing the playable character carefully get out of a land rover is just boring, and distracts from the fact that you are being timed. These are like the Moon traveling, pointless and forgotten come the end.

So there is a lot of pointless crap, the difficulty curve is like a rollercoaster, and the shooting in unsatisfying, but how about the audio-visual stuff? The game does indeed pull of some of the best 3D on the DS, but there is a very notable fog, enemy filching is hard to notice, and everywhere looks the same. And as for technical stuff, it is impressive based on the hardware, but there is so much technology littering the corridors, that I was actually killed over 15 times by a boss, just because the wall was filled with holes that led to square pillars trapping me between some lasers. Just looking at it while the game is in motion, makes my eyes drawn away from the scenery, and therefore the world, destroying any hope of immersion. As for the music, it could work, but it dissolves into soulless electronic garbage that is just noise while you kill enemies. Early on, there was atmosphere, a sense of powerlessness, but it is hard to feel weak with a space rocket launcher!

As a whole, Moon is a mix between the run and gun shooters of old, and the resourceful shooter of yesteryear, but the actual shooting lacks any weight. There is a stupidly jagged difficulty curve, and so much unneeded crap is used to fatten this game up into 8 hours. The game is also pretty ugly and would be better if there was nearly no music, just ambiance noise. It is certainly interesting, but that means crap unless the product is still moderate quality. Moon is certainly worth observing, but I can not say that it is fun. There is a glimmer of some better game between its cracks. There are good ideas, but compensation due to the DSí limitations have resulted in a slightly below average product. It was worth playing, but then it declined far into mediocrity, if not deeper.

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5:15 PM on 09.10.2012

Rayman Origins Review

Oddly enough, I am willing to publish a review I made in June, but not ones published on my other blog, NigmaBox, before August. Funny how that works.

Ubisoft, what the hell were you thinking with this title? It is odd enough that you would decide to release a 2D platformer, a sub-genre that has been reduced to downloadable titles unless it stars an Italian plumber, at retail for $60. But you release it on the busiest day of the busiest month in the industry? On the same day as your own Assassin's Creed Revelations? You developed an engine to make this game, so you were trying to toss it into the lionís den? Well, jokeís on you, this game not only survived the lions, but it crashed into your office looking for more work. This is Rayman Origins, my favorite 2D platformer of this generation, if not all of time!

Rayman Origins Review
Release Date: 15/11/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, Wii, PC, PS Vita, 3DS
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft

The game opens with Rayman, some big blue slap happy frog thing, and some little blue guys known as Teensies, munching on fruit and snoring so loud that it wakes up some old people who are under the Earthís crust, and they end up taking over the world so the noise will stop. It is so stupid that is is great, and the game never goes off in a direction where the plot feels out of place. All you are really doing is saving busty fairies and letting them grant you powers so that you can make your way through the 11 areas in this game.

But kicking the narrative in the head, letís talk about the gameplay. It is a fluent platformer that thankfully has the dash button be a shoulder button, because my least favorite part of 2D Mario games in how Nintendo never realizes that humans might prefer that option. You run, jump, punch, and glide through over 60 stages with secrets and a bunch of little yellow lums to collect so that you get prizes in the form of character skins. I cannot begin to describe how smooth the control is, never feeling slippery or tight, and it only comes close when you are running on ice. And I must applaud the game for having the best underwater controls that I have ever seen in a 2D platformer, mostly due to the fact that you actually swim rather than float around like a ball of fat or move with less gravity.

From the frantic wall running, the careful jumps where you must manage the distance with your ability to glide, and the occasional mosquito 2D shooter section, the game manages to feel fresh for an amazingly long amount of time. This is somewhat surprising, since you really only go through vibrant jungles with the best looking 2D water that I have seen in a game, didgeridoo filled windy deserts, fiery kitchens, giant freezers, a mellow sea, and some steampunk final areas. The themes are simple, but there is always a bit of an angle that makes the areas feel distinct from other games of a similar nature. But now I must talk about this game's amazing visuals.

Iíll admit that I am a sucker for 2D art, since I feel like I can never create it, while 3D art seems easier to make. But this game still looks wonderful, with a very unique and lively style that oozes with personality from every single frame. From the normal goons you fight, to the simple act of running on grass or getting hit. I actually feel bad for not having a massive TV to display this game on. Everything looks like a quick and jagged sketch after a team of artists polished it until it shined. And even though the game uses something similar to flash animation, it still feels far more livelier than a lot of games that use motion capturing for the majority of their animations. Every expression is lively and it feels like care was placed in every cell of every frame of this polished, but not necessarily professional style.

And the music! It is on par with the visuals in creating an atmosphere of pure fun! From the catchy beats and the overall oddness of it all, mixing many styles, from the lovely chime when you get double Lums for a few seconds, to the calming gibberish of the wonderful water levels. The tense sounds of some of the massive bosses, to the mix of westerns and didgeridoos in the desert area, it all sounds amazing. And if anything, it puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it. I actually have trouble finding any complaints with the game, from the creative and expressive enemies, the massive bosses that animate beautifully, so you want to just see what their next animation phase is, even though you died 8 times thus far. And the wonderfully structured treasure chest levels, with everything moving like an amazingly well done Rube Goldberg machine, with collapsing structures that you need to interact with while dashing at insane speeds. One slip up in your quest and bam, back to the beginning!

The only thing that some might dislike it's the difficulty, but this game does something so sadly uncommon that it creates limitless amounts of ecstasy when I see a game where when I die for 3 hours straight, and want to keep playing. I feel like going back on in until I master the well structured challenge before me. I donít consider myself to be notably good at games, so the fact that me and my friend beat it 100%, it feels fantastic. Okay, Iím not counting the trophies and medals, but those I consider to be 101% and 102%, or in other words, pointless semantics. But I still got over 300 Lums in every normal level, found all secret rooms, cleared all the time trials, and it just feels wonderful to see how far I got in this beautifully designed, wonderful looking, and amazingly fun world.

Through a shifting development platform, and a bunch of assets going into a sequel, I am proud to have purchased this title a week after release, and play through it even though it took me about 7 months. many games can get annoying when you die for the twentieth time, but the lack of weight that the designers placed on the death really makes dying a minor hiccup in your journey to the end, and what a journey that is. It is an absolute joy to play a game so beautiful, so fair, and so much fun.

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4:15 PM on 09.09.2012

Darksiders II Review

This is a post I made awhile ago on my other blog, NigmaBox, but since I want my work to be critiqued as much as possible, I'm going to start leaving my older stuff here, since I like to share my thoughts, and I'd love to get them criticized.

This is also a bit of a follow-up to my review of Darksiders, which I do not feel like posting, along with everything else I made before August. But if you want the short version, I did not like it.

Also, from here on out, I will make one to two posts a week, and they will be updated on the same day as my other blog, NigmaBox

Yes, I did not like Darksiders. And yes, I bought Darksiders II on day one. That might seem very stupid, and it pretty much is, but THQ is currently in the gutter for now, and I do not have much against them, since I enjoyed the Saints Row series more than I probably should have. And I could go on about pricing models and how most games that are AA status, since that is what Darksiders is, and probably always will be, should be no more than $50, but you’re here to see if I think the game is better than the predecessor.

Darksiders II Review
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
Release Date: 14/8/2012
Developer: Vigil Games
Publisher: THQ

This sequel takes the less traditional route, by setting us back during the 100 years between the prologue of the first title, and the main game. But the main character from the past game, War, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is technically in the game, but they probably didn’t record any new dialog. Instead, we step into the boots of his mildly cocky brother Death, who is trying to prove that it wasn’t War’s fault that humanity was destroyed, but is really just trying to revive humans in hope of undoing the damage. But there is also a dark past involving Death and his species’ past, which obviously leads to one of the ones he thought to be dead, to come back as a baddie.

Then there is a corruption spreading through the universe, planets entering their autumn phase before they die, these things called Makers, who might be gods with scottish accents, but might just be people who make giant stone creatures. If you couldn’t tell, the plot is sorta all over the place, and could really use a codex. If you go to the trouble to highlight terms in the subtitles, you could give us a proper definition. I do actually find the characters and worlds to be interesting though, but there is a good reason to have the main character either narrate what is going on, or have them be completely new to this world.

Whatever, you are a muscled guy with bluish skin, long static hair, and a skull mask that you take off, but never show your face. You have a horse that you rarely use, but can summon at will. A crow that guides you, but I always forget exists, and dual scythes to mess up some dudes, and make them bleed numbers. After a tutorial at an ice dungeon, you are sent to find the tree of life, and go through many errands, which send you across four realms, well more like two and to half realms.

Now, I think my biggest problem with Darksiders was that you were in no more than 8 connected square miles Earth for 95% of the game. However, it had massive volcanic structures, labyrinth-like temples, suspiciously well constructed nature environments, a desert, and the ruins of... New York? I know what Earth looks like and I can accept it being in ruin, but who the hell bult a volcanic temple? And I get that you are in a city, but there is just too much grey! Here, there is a lot of stones and still a lot of grey, but they feel more like ancient lost cities, not just more modern buildings that were totally devoid of life. And because I am not just turned off by the very illustrated looking characters being in what the intro tries to push as the real Earth, I can appreciate it a lot more. Oh, and when I did go to the grey Earth in this game, the atmosphere was good enough for me to forgive it, and the bean bag gun feels wonderful, but the roaming blue things are way too powerful.

I can complain about the overuse of a certain shade of green that is used for the majority of enemies in the Kingdom of the Dead, and the red goat man who is there with glowing crystals, which gives me the impression that he, a merchant, wants to get robbed. But I think that most of the enemies have a certain charm to them, and the giant scotsmen don’t look nearly as out of place this time around. While War was very over designed, with a lot of random gear all over his body with little reason, Death’s look is customizable, and you can select from a more magical cloth or heavy armor look for him, but he never looks like he has too much going for him. And while the look is not for everyone, I feel that kudos must be given for the very smooth animation in this game, and for at least looking distinct.

Moving to the actual gameplay, I’d say that is is like a far more looser version of the original, but by that I mean that dodging is actually possible. When I play any game, I tend to always prefer a dodge than a counter, because it is harder to mess up a dodge than a counter attack. But Darksiders had you control a character who fought like a brick, but Death feels more like a mix between War and... I guess Bayonetta, minus the sexually intimidating aspects. He dodges throughout the world, landing quick blows that gradually lower the enemy’s health, and absorbing it back to yourself. Yes, the stupid chest of health method is gone with the multiple health bars that do not understand the concept of defense. You just have one, you level up, get new equipment with four armors, two weapons, which no longer have to be used for level ups, and an accessory.

It is pretty standard stuff, but I feel like I am the one in charge of combat, and that I am not begging the game for health, since you are now in charge of bringing your own health. By breaking crates and vases, you can find gold to be used to buy equipment, and maybe some combos, or you can find potions. You can only carry 5 of them, to prevent you from being careless, but you can die with no negative repercussions, unless you chose the permadeath mode, you madman. Well, there is a death counter that shows how many times you fell in combat and fell into a pit, which is not dying, since I fell more often due to the climbing controls being wonky than anything else.

Yes, the controls, the combat, the camera, the level design, are all good and kept fairly simple, but about 1-2% of the time, they go bonkers on me. I accidentally used a potion by pressing the left D-pad button in my attempt to use the inventory, which is the down button, not the up button, a good 10 times. I quickly found another one, but I get peeved when a potion for about 1,000 HP is used to heal 200 that I would have gotten by sending crows to eat some corrupted angels.

Combat is fun for the most part, utilizing three main weapon types, scythes, fat gauntlet-like things, and slow heavy things on sticks. Developing abilities on a skill tree, but I only use about two, the dash and the raven swarm, which are far more useful than the ones in Darksiders and you have no reason not to use them, since you get skill points for them, and nothing else. I adopted the style of dodging, shoot with the same pistol that was useless in the first game, and then using one of my abilities on an enemy, rinse and repeat. Oh, and dodging and using a scythe, that messes everything up. But once I got items that gained health when I got a critical hits, and I had a 21% chance of getting a crit, the combat officially became a walk in the park.

But back to something that I really disliked about Darksiders, the utilization of other people’s ideas. The wall running is still Prince of Persia, but it feels more natural, since Death’s a lot less bulky than his brother. Although, I got caught accidentally going up when I was suppose to go to the side, a bit too often. The clawshot has been replaced with the Deathgrip, a giant hand that brings enemies to you, or vice versa, and can let you swing from purple orbs. I actually loved using this in combat, since it pretty much crippled any smaller foes and made them powerless when I used my gauntlets. The Portal gun returns, and it is just as shameless. It does get a new feature, but it is in the final dungeon. And then you have a weapons that can summon ghosts and have them press pressure plates, but that is replaced by an item that turns Death into a immovable statue, and summons two ghostly versions of him. Yeah, that actually has a few neat puzzles.

And yes, I could complain about Death, the controller of life as we know it, pushing a ball into a socket, but just having combat would be the definition of one note. But the puzzles are still of good quality, and they don’t get super repetitive throughout the 18 or so dungeons. Yeah, there’s about 18 smaller dungeons in this game, as opposed to the 4 massive temples in Darksiders. Oh, and the super move is still pretty pointless, since it only lasts 15 seconds and takes a bit too long to charge up again. I get empowerment, but Death is not recognizable in his super form, so it creates a feeling similar to the super guide.

As a whole, there is a lot to like about Darksiders II. The characters are interesting and wonderfully voiced. The gameplay is frantic and fun, with enough variety in the 40 hours I spent on it. The world is unique and imaginative. The soundtrack had a very nice sense of scope. And the RPG mechanics added only added to the experience. The story can be jumbled, the collectables can be a pain to get, and there are times when I get peeved at the camera, but those are just minor bits that only happen 5% or less during my time with the game, as opposed to the first game, which had them happen about 25% of the time. Darksiders II will not set your world on fire, but it is a well designed and fun game that manages to stay unique despite borrowing from countless other IPs.

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6:14 PM on 09.08.2012

Shadow Complex Review

This is a post I made awhile ago on my other blog, NigmaBox, but since I want my work to be critiqued as much as possible, I'm going to start leaving my older stuff here, since I like to share my thoughts, and I'd love to get them criticized. And just to clarify, this will not be an entire month of Metroidvania, just the six reviews in the header image. It was a months worth of reviews, but these are reposts.

I do not often replay games. I like to experience titles of old so that they reignite fond memories. However, I tend to lack the time to go through a 20+ hour game, since I have a bunch of those on my backlog. But when I own a game that is just 3.5 hours long, expect me to replay it until I memorize the room layouts of the entire game world. If you couldnít tell, Shadow Complex is one of those games. And since it involves a big facility, gaining 100 upgrades, and you backtrack a lot, I might as well use it to end Metroidvania month.

Shadow Complex Review
Platform: XBLA
Release Date: 19/8/2009
Price I Paid: $14.99

Before I get into the actual game, I need to address something that I really, really, really wish I did not need to. The game is actually an interquel or sorts with novels made by Orson Scott Card. Now, I never actually read any of his works, but I can safely say that I do not plan on changing that. You see, Mr. Card is what I call a 21st Century racist, or in normal terms, he hates gay people and uses his fund to prevent them from getting married. Now, if my review interests you in this game, I recommend that you fund a pro-homosexual marriage group to balance it out, which I guess would be less than $5. So if you want to karmically balance it, it will be $20, but is it worth that, letís go on in without paying any mind to the poop in the roast beef. And no, there is not even a mention of homosexuality in this game, and there doesnít need to be.

The plot concerns Cobra Commander in his attempt to plunge the United States into another Civil War. But two twenty-somethings, Nolan North, and a semi-ethnic girl, stumble onto their base located somewhere in the Oregon mountains. But the girl gets kidnapped and the, ďDude, Save Yo Grrl!!Ē plot commences. It is forgettable and I am guessing all the writing and voice work was done in an afternoon, and both of them are above average, but can be completely forgotten, and nothing will really be lost.

I will not bother explaining the Metroidvania set-up, but it is channeling Metroid far more than the Castlevania portion. The gameís main format of combat is a 2D shooter/platformer, where you can shoot in 360 degrees, this allows for more accurate shots and the opportunity for stealth of all things. The ability to crouch through vents and everywhere else, the occasional loose wire, explosive barrels, the inclusion of melee quick-kills, and even headshots all make the game a lot more varied in the combat department, and that is nice to see. Especially when you consider that there are only about 7 variations of a guy with a gun, 3 explosive spider bots that you can kick like footballs, and a few robots that are like smaller and more spider-like Metal Gears that serve as the bosses. But the game does still have enough ideas for the campaign length given.

However, you still do collect a couple of upgrades and secondary weapons. From the simple grenades which are surprisingly useful early on, with their ability to arc and kill normal enemies in one hit. A gun that shoots blue foam and can be used to both immobilize enemies, open passages, and sequence break for some side upgrades by forming a giant phallic looking pillar, the coolest weapon in the game. A Speed Booster, which does not have any Shinesparking, and lets you run on walls and ceilings, but still disintegrates enemies.

Oh, and it also works while in the air, unlike in the Metroid series. A Hookshot item that you only use a few times, but suffers from the fact that you do not know how long it fires, and it sometimes just drops you, which it did, into an instant death trap six feet below, nine blasted times. And a helmet that makes you invincible if you walk slowly or just stand, and a bunch of gun upgrades that fell on deaf ears, because I always restart the game after visiting my armory with the golden long range shotgun of golden statue. Seriously, collect 12 sets of 3 gold bars, and you get a permanent addition of an arsenal with every gun in the game available, but they are golden.

However, the game sadly does not diverge a path similar to that as often as I would like it to. There is a certain absurdity to fighting a giant biped robot, shooting missiles at its back, and standing there, smirky while you are invincible, but the game never really indulges the fact that it rewards you for murdering tons of dudes by the end. Although, there is one ending where Nolan North goes back to his jeep by pressing B in front of it, leave the base with his woman in it, and says, ďEh, plenty of fish in the sea.Ē While wearing the suit of armor that he stole from a terrorist facility.

The core gameplay is a blast, and kept me interested, even after I did 6 100% runs. And while I dislike, meaning that I freaking loathe, when a game says there is nothing in that square, when they have a secret in that save room, but the icon is disrupting it on the map. It says varied enough and the set ups for every room do give the approaches a fresh feeling, despite the fact that I recognize every room layout in the game at this point. Although the aiming towards the background can be pretty damn finicky if you do not aim at just the right spot.

But moving onto the visuals, since the score in this game is purely atmosphere and satisfying swooshes when you get upgrades. The game uses the Unreal engine, and the developers, Chair Entertainment only had 18 months to make this game. So instead of making new shaders with their 12 or so employees, well Epic Games did help them out, so maybe move it up a few, , they uses the presets. Now, I am against the overly brown and industrialized aesthetic that has plagued many games, but Shadow Complex still looks very good to me.

Since this is 2.5D, the environments only need to be designed from one angle, and because of that, they look distinct. Grass is green, water flows, well for the most part, and the outer areas do juxtaposed nicely with the industrial look of the complex of shadowy practices. Although every enemy is just a guy in some sort of suit that is mostly white or black, some are redder, some have blue eye things for their masks, but they are just goons in your way, who you should headshot and make them scream, because thatíll get you achievements.

Now, this is where i need to interject, the Uncharted series is haunted by the several thousands of bad ethnic men that Nathan Drake has killed in his quest for Archaeology, and this game is no different. At one point in the game, Nolan North, or Jason as they call him in this lifetime, says the following line, ďKIllingís getting easier, I donít know whether thatís good or bad. Itís good.Ē I understand that these guys are trying to manipulate the country so that innocent lives dies, but executing them for having extremist ideas does not seem like a heroic trait. The worst thing these guys did was rough-up and drug a girl he met at a bar, so they must be genocided?

But moving to the more technical part with the visuals, the animations often look stiff, since Nolan North jumps 6 feet in the air when you press A. The running animation looks off and forced, and enemies die in overly flamboyant fashion. But toss in the overly precise aiming reticle, and the fact that you fight metal spiders, I am convinced that the developers were not trying to make any statement regarding murder, and just wanted a fun game, but then they tied it in with a book thatís trying to be serious. This is something that I want to ignore, since you kill a thousand men single handedly and get cured of your facial shrapnel by eating first aid kits, but this is bordering on bad tastes. However, it is just bordering and never really does cross the line due to its mechanics, which, while never denied by the narrative, do make it seem all the sillier.

And with that out of the way, I can conclude that Shadow Complex is a very well polished, well-structured, and overall fun title. While I am still bugged by the narrative immersion breaking aspect, the game is still a lot of fun to blast through, to the point where I do not even notice the idea of it getting boring after I play it at least once every year. It is a pleasure, a fairly glitchy, and sometimes generic feeling pleasure, but it is a wonderfully well crafted title regardless of its relatively small team and short development time.

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4:17 PM on 09.07.2012

Catlevania: Symphony of the Night Review

This is a post I made awhile ago on my other blog, NigmaBox, but since I want my work to be critiqued as much as possible, I'm going to start leaving my older stuff here, since I like to share my thoughts, and I'd love to get them criticized. And just to clarify, this will not be an entire month of Metroidvania, just the six reviews in the header image. It was a months worth of reviews, but these are reposts.

Well, Iím nearly done with Metroidvania Month, so letís take a look at the vania part of the title, with the game that pretty much coined the term, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I juggled around the idea of doing a review of a handheld title, but I decided that if I was only going to do one, it should be the first. But can this title live up to the series it is imitating?

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Review
Platforms: XBLA(Reviewed), Playstation, PSN
Release Date: 21/3/2007
Price I Paid: $9.99

For those not in the loop, Castlevaniaís most basic plot centers around Dracula hosting a rad party for all the non copyright ghouls and demons in iconic fiction once every 100 years in his teleporting castle, Castlevania. But the guests need to keep out party poopers, and they have failed every time due to a family of Vampire Hunters, the Belmonts. But this time, Draculaís party came back too early, and there is no working Belmont to stop them, and his son, Alucard, must go in, tell him to stop hosting parties when he only does so to blackmail the Cthulhus, Death, Mermen, flying Medusa Heads and Lion-men to do his bidding when he wants to take over the world. But Death is the Bouncer who will let Alucard in, but only if he throws away his rad gear and storms the castle to grow even greater in strength.

There is more to it, but all I care about is the voice acting, which is horrible, but very enjoyable due to the buckets of ham and cheese the ten minutes of total voice work holds. Besides, this was back in the day where games did not need much of a story. So Alucard needs to go through what is probably the largest map of any of the Metroidvania games Iíve done, mostly due to its warp function being very much needed.

Unlike the other stable of games that went into this theme, there is selectable weapons and armor, a leveling system, and far fewer areas that need an upgrade to enter just for an item expansion, in fact, there are none of those either. But you are still gradually upgrading, visiting colorful locals, and filling out a map, which is thankfully fully brought up by the LT button.

However, you still get unique items known as Relics, which show things like damage dealt and received in the form of numbers, allow you to collect hearts. Which are used for a series of interchangeable secondary weapons, it is a trope of Castlevania that never made any sense, or let Alucard transform. Alucard can become a Wolf, who can run through hazards if you double tap left or right just right, and not really anything else. A Bat who can fly through the skies, shoot fireballs, and use a sonar that is only helpful in one single room. Or a cloud of mist that can avoid damage, go through barriers, and eventually upgrades into a toxic cloud that harms enemies by being near them.

But the main thing you will be doing is slashing your sword against baddies until they fall, or until you are knocked back and just throw an axe at them, since it is the most useful secondary weapon. Or you could shake the controller and accidentally use a spell, or special attack, that I guess is useful, but executing them is a mystery in and of itself. It is nice to jump around enemies or drain their health, but it is always by accident, never by intention. This is actually my only major problem with the game. If you want to get to the second half of the game, the Inverted castle, which is the old map flipped upside down for the most part, you need to search everywhere.

You need to know that there are destructible walls in this game, even though there are not a lot, go through one to a secret area where you fight a boss and get a bit of backstory to get the first item. For the second item, you need to go to the one section with the Bat sonar, use it, get an armor set that destroys spikes by touching them, warp to the other side of the castle, go through a spike filled room and get the second Macguffin. Then you need to read the descriptions of the two items to learn that you need to equip them and go to the clock tower, which is not where you should go, it is really the clock room. In there, you learn that the final boss is not the final boss, equip the third Macguffin, fight the fake final boss, and then you get to explore the castle with a bunch of new enemies in what is pretty much the same map, but flipped 180 degrees.

And while the Inverted castle is where the game does get more rewarding by a difficulty increase, some moments are a bit cheap. Like how a lot of the time, you are fighting floating enemies, and then you fall, climb up, land a hit, then fall, land your final hit, killing them, and then you fall. But that is excusable, since you can float as a bat, or just avoid them as mist. Also, it is not like they even give a bunch of experience, since the leveling system gets a bit wonky, with 45 hit points being given after the second to final boss, which brought my health up to 668. It makes sense since that boss is by far, the hardest in the game, but the entire Inverted castle is like plowing through a bunch of level ups and health increases. It only took me about half as long to go through, but my health near the end of the first castle was about 328, and you start with 70. Although, I do tend to prefer the inverted castle, because they do not give you any direction, and you can go anywhere from the get go. This was done somewhat in the first castle, but it really just was deciding whether to do the Clock Tower, the notorious pain filled center of the series, earlier, or later.

But as much as I enjoy the gameplay, I cannot deny just how wonderful the game looks. Instead of attempting a 2.5D look, the game just settled on making itself look like one of the best sprite based games ever. While there is some 3D with stationary objects, lovely background animations, and the save roomís odd animation, the game focuses on making the most of the PS1 by having fluent animations, a great sense of color, and an insane amount of sprites. From Alucard's cape, shield and sword all having unique sprites based on your equipment, to the staggeringly large roster of wonderfully animated baddies, Alucardís hypnotic stride, and amazingly detailed backgrounds. The game is as much a joy to look at as it is to play.

I also need to give props to the music, I am a sucker for music that would sound good outside of games, but not so much ones that have ambiance to them, but Symphony of the Night does both at once. From beautiful tracks that mimic the scope and feel of an orchestra, to their very memorable melodies, to how they manage to fit in very well, without me noticing how great they are outside of the game unless I am not playing it. The only thing I do not like about it is how it does not play while i am in the menu.

As a whole, Symphony of the Night is still a wonderful game. From the smooth and fluent controls, lavish visuals, bombastic score, and memorable set pieces and locals, I struggle to find a very concrete complaint. While It can get annoying at times, you can just come back to pretty much every difficult area later on. And the combos enemies can get you in just makes me feel like I was not using my arsenal of one time use weapons, back dashing, and transformations. The healing items should not need to be equipped, and sometimes health is hard to find outside of the save room. But it never gets overly frustrating, and instead encourages you to play it safe so that your progress can be maintained. There is a certain elegance and poise to the very design of this titles that I have trouble finding in the great majority of newer games. I would have liked more clear instructions, but once you get past a handful of nits, you are left with an absolutely fantastic title.

No score here, since people didn't like it.
Have a positive or negative response? Please leave one below, it's the only way I'll improve.

Or if you want to see more of my work, I reviewed an anime about time travel, angels, and pedophilia called, Dokuro-Chan   read

4:12 PM on 09.06.2012

Metroid Fusion Review

This is a post I made awhile ago on my other blog, NigmaBox, but since I want my work to be critiqued as much as possible, I'm going to start leaving my older stuff here, since I like to share my thoughts, and I'd love to get them criticized. And just to clarify, this will not be an entire month of Metroidvania, just the six reviews in the header image. It was a months worth of reviews, but these are reposts.

Well, this trip has been an eye opener. It is like eating a bunch of candy you loved as a kid and getting disgusted at how you used to like that poorly made glob of sludge. But every adult can still enjoy the taste of one candy bar of nostalgia that has not been touched by the annals of time, so letís go back to the first Metroid game I played, and oddly the last one canonically, Metroid 4: Fusion.

Metroid Fusion Review
Release Date: 16/12/2011
Platform: 3DS (Reviewed), GBA
Price I Paid: Free, a 3DS Ambassador Game

The game opens with an unskippable, 5 minute long cutscene about how Samus has been infected by a giant X shaped ameba, and needing to have her iconic suit destroyed to make way for a blue one that is regarded with near universal contempt, even though it becomes the fan-favorite purple in due enough time. I understand the backlash over a redesign, but after 8 years without a game, and a solid story explanation, I find it more reasonable to ask why we cannot even have Samus without her stupidly large shoulder pads in a game anymore?

After nearly dying from a parasite, Samus is injected with Metroid DNA to fight it off, and mutates as a result. And since the same parasites are now all over a space station, Samus now needs to clear this station out of genetic mutations, for Science!

And since the parasite can take on the form of anything that it came into contact with, there are multiple Samuses in the space station, all fully upgraded, while you have the most plausible explanation for being stripped down to a blaster and less than 5% of your maximum health in this game. I actually really like the parasite recreations of Samus, or SA-Xes as they are called. Mostly because they can, and will, mess you up early on in the game. So there is a wonderful sense of fear established whenever you see one leap through the air with a Screw Attack, and use an ice beam, which messes you up since you are now part Metroid.

But beyond the main plot, Samus actually talks, mostly in the form of monologues during elevator sequences, but often with a computer that reminds her of a character that reminds me of Metroid: Other M. And while it is nice to see her character develop, the talking scenes take way too long, and the text advances like a slug unless you hold A, release it, press it, release it, and keep the process going. Just plop text onto a screen, and press A to get to the next one.

But Metroid is about gameplay, and little has been altered here. The world is now in a hub world, so traversing it is easier, especially since a lot of exits get destroyed as you go on, since we wouldnít want people to go off exploring. But here is where I realize just how linear Metroid really is. It is little more than a maze with the main path being painted red, and the side paths are all very short, with maybe an upgrade on health, or some explosives. I would actually stretch to say that all you really do in this game, is listen to a computer, go kill a baddie, fight the same miniboss of a circle about 10 times, and then then absorb them into your body, converting their resources into a power up.

Of which, Iíd like to say that they are distributed in an odd order, hell, the Wave beam is your second to last upgrade. But really the only new item is the Ice MIssiles, which can be charged to freeze a room of baddies. It makes more sense than an ice beam, since she is now little more than a bug to the cold, but ice missiles do not really solve that, they just create another issue. But hey, this is Nintendo, a company based on the, ďI donít give a toss, just remake classic franchises so we can steal Generation NESís moneyĒ mentality.

But there is a good amount different about Metroid Fusion. A lot is just upgraded from Super Metroid, but seeing how there was a massive gap between releases, it is understandable to play it safe. Enemy designs are the biggest contributor, but at least they didnít take its grappling beam, or inventory system. Although, the screen is still a bit too tight, especially with bosses who you can only see for a fraction of a second before they jump onto your bum.

And while this can be seen as petty, but the only enemy drops for health are blobs that restore 10 or your health, when you had ones that did half of that, and double that, back in the other titles. It makes it very difficult to get back all your health in the later section of the game, especially since bosses donít fully heal you, which I guess makes sense, but after you beat a boss, you travel back to a combination of a full restoration room, a save station, and a plot progression station. You get the most health you get in this quadrilogy, 2099, and a lot of enemies can deal over 60, which isnít that fully bad, but I like having full health whenever possible.

I do like the idea of having multiple unique sectors to explore, but I donít feel like the world is unreachable for me as of now, I feel like the world is hiding itself until it is ready for me to come on in. And why did you restrict the ability to connect them until after the third to last boss? And when I went to find all the items, I stumbled upon a door that was destroyed, an idea that I loathe, since it is just limiting my options for exploration, and preventing me from getting 100% because I did not go and get the item at the right time. Oh, and I said it before, Shinesparking is just not enjoyable, please stop putting it into your games for more than a few puzzles that are simple, and not tedious.

But moving to the visuals, they probably have the weakest sense of atmosphere out of the whole lot, but they are very vibrant and colorful. SA-Xís sections are a treat, but there are only about 4 of them. And while the animation is the smoothest and of the highest quality, it looks more forced than the other titles. I think this might have been intentional, due to the X-parasite just being every enemy, operating on foreign DNA, but that comes as an afterthought more than anything.

As a whole, the game is very solid, and the gripes are just that, gripes, the game is probably the most action focused of the titles, but a lot of the pacing just feels a bit forces. Since you are told to go somewhere after things went wrong, my grip on events feels fairly loose. I feel like I am the clean-up crew, when I want to feel like I am potentially saving the galaxy from a creature that could control planets in a matter of days. But it is still very competent, and the Metroid flaring is burning brighter than the first two titles. It is a colorful action game that lacks as much exploration, but is undoubtedly Metroid.

Itís held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.

Have a positive or negative response? Please leave one below, it's the only way I'll improve.   read

4:21 PM on 09.05.2012

Super Metroid Review

This is a post I made awhile ago on my other blog, NigmaBox, but since I want my work to be critiqued as much as possible, I'm going to start leaving my older stuff here, since I like to share my thoughts, and I'd love to get them criticized. And just to clarify, this will not be an entire month of Metroidvania, just the six reviews in the header image. It was a months worth of reviews, but these are reposts.

Super Metroid is often considered to be one of the best games on the SNES, and while some might find it wrong of me, someone who did not grow up on the SNES, let alone touch one, I bought it yonks ago, and I finally beat it. So does it hold up as a classic, or has it gone moldy after the more polished GBA successors? Hit the jump and find out!

Metroid 3: Super Metroid Review
Release Date:
Platform Wii(Reviewed), SNES
Price I Paid: $7.99

Picking up about a day after Metroid II, Samus needs to get back the last Metroid, because they decided to not guard a living weapon that drains energy, and is only weak to ice. So she needs to go back to Zebes, the planet from Metroid Zero Mission. After revisiting a small section with some wonderful ambiance given the limitations of the SNES, the hunt to kick the bums of some bosses and get a bunch of upgrades, has begun.

Storywise, it is a blank as ever, although the final battle scene was probably the pinnacle of using gameplay to show the weight of a situation, back in the mid 1990ís. And in terms of everything else, there is not a lot to be said that wonít just make it sound like its predecessors. But I must pay tribute to the fact that this was the original Metroidvania title, and I am surprised how well it does a lot of things. Environments shift very well with one another, but still feel unique, the enemy roster is nice and detailed, and there are only two that I find to be annoying.

Secrets are everywhere, and backtracking is probably the easiest that it has been out of every game in the series. For a quick example, the most I visited an area was 3 times throughout one of the earlier areas, and all but one of those times were when I was technically progressing. Unlike Metroid Zero Mission, which had you backtrack through the entire area when the final boss was tapping his foot and waiting for you.

But moving onto the unique bits, there is a grappling beam, which I loathe because the game, in a very uncommon but large misstep, placed the hardest grappling puzzle in the small nook of the map that the grappling beam was found in, making it my first use of the item. Forgive me for not liking it when a game requires me to shoot moving targets while in midair, especially a 2D one, but no grappling puzzle in the game is as hard as the first one. Every other one has you swinging across a ceiling filled with grappling points, and there are maybe two instances of the flying enemies who you grapple in the entire game.

Shinesparking is thankfully far less used that it is in any other title, and they actually show you how to do it thanks to an Ostrich thing that is pretty easy to find. So if you are planning on getting the few items that need it, youíll probably find the tutorial bird. Oh, and running is now a button, in a very odd move, but they expected speed runners, so I understand its inclusion, since it does make you very, very fast if you feel like using it. They do something similar to the Ostrich with Wall-Jumping, where you jump on a wall, press the opposite direction of the wall, and then press the jump button to leap from a wall, rinse, repeat, and master for the few times you really ever need it, especially with a space jump. But the three blue monkeys who teach it to you, they canít give controls that complex, and you just need to try to imitate them. I understand its use for sequence breaking and whatnot, but if you are making a game to be broken, it is like writing a story with plot holes, it just looks sloppy.

But moving back to happier thoughts, I found the game very easy to follow, worsening the reputation of the previous titles, since there is no direction given to you. No computer telling you where to go like in Metroid Fusion, or Chozo statues like in Metroid Zero Mission, You just scout and figure out where to go as you walk onwards, Just keep going to new or untouched locations, and the path comes right to you.

However, why hold out on the ability to jump while in a morph ball, so that it is my second to last upgrade? I only needed it for about three things. There are multiple nits similar to that one, I was trapped in a flask shaped room where an, as of right then invisible enemy, one of the seven deadly game design sins, was picking at my health, just because I wanted to explore. And while I did not encounter much with this since I had a map, a crappy but functional one, donít put walls that I can only destroy from one end into your game. Seriously, that just makes backtracking a chore, when it should feel like picking up stuff from a mixture of an Indiana Jones set and a candy store. But there is no excuse for having the same icon for picked up items, as you have for untouched items. That, and an area based item obtainment counter would have been nice. I somehow missed 9 missile packs, and have no clue where they were.

I also canít say that I am fond of the controls, I am used to diagonal aiming being used solely by the L button, but having the R button handle upwards aiming , means that all 5 of the alternate first items need to be sorted through via select. There is a button that resets the selection of missiles, grapple beam, and power bombs, but I kept forgetting about it about it, since it does not function as a toggle. And the decision to make the run and fire buttons be B and X, it makes the combination of speed boosting, and shooting, to bit awkward. I grew up on the other method, so I am bias, but I never had a problem with the controls of the GBA titles, so this just feels very clunky to me.

But moving onto the arbitrary visual dispute, I find the game to be quite pretty and the atmosphere to be as thick as 24-bits can allow. The animations of everything just looks off, but in the good way, I was never able to place my finger onto it, but it makes everything feel more alive. And the music is the best in the series, featuring memorable and classic melodies, yet it does what I want nearly every game to do, and mix it with appropriate ambiance. Although, the screen could use a bit of zooming out, since a chunk of the top is already eaten up by the HUD.

As a whole, Super Metroid is pretty great. It goes beyond the given solid gameplay that I expect from the series, and enhanced the atmospheric tone set forth by its predecessor. But with some great atmosphere, wonderful sense of progression with almost no hints, yet it does not feel linear. And a very streamlined world that feels most like a planet out of any in the 2D stable of games. But it is very fragile in its greatness, with the nits growing very visible due to the gameís clear and sharp surface. The screen size, lack of any indicator if you picked up an item, and a scenario that was impossible to beat. They all diminish the shine. It is well worth playing, but the few frustrations are bigger than they should be.

An impressive product, wonít always astound due to a fair number of flaws, but is very enjoyable and worth a purchase.

Have a positive or negative response? Please leave one below, it's the only way I'll improve.   read

4:27 PM on 09.04.2012

Metroid II: Return of Samus Review

This is a post I made awhile ago on my other blog, NigmaBox, but since I want my work to be critiqued as much as possible, I'm going to start leaving my older stuff here, since I like to share my thoughts, and I'd love to get them criticized.

Letís keep this flimsy excuse for a theme rolling with another Metroid title, namely the forgotten one. Yes, out of all the Metroid titles, Metroid II is probably the least remembered, excluding the DS spin-offs, which I never played. But we are keeping in the original Quadrilogy, so letís follow the numbers into the black sheep title of this series. And while this can be argued against being a Metroidvania title, I started this theme because I got this game as a reward for buying Nintendo games.

Metroid II: Return of Samus Review
Release Date: 24/11/2011
Platforms: Gameboy, eShop(Reviewed)
Price I Paid: Free, via Club Nintendo

Before I begin my actual review, I must ask why adding the features of the Super Gameboy is impossible for the 3DS? I know that some people enjoy the grey coloring, same with those idiots who like their Gameboy games to be in letter box, meaning that you need to squint to know what the hell you are doing. If you are willing to incorporate that, surely technology that is as old as me would be easy to add to a modern video game system. Okay, Iím done.

After 5 years in real life, the claustrophobic and maze-like Metroid got a more linear maze-like successor where the focus has shifted from exploration, to sheer extermination. Without a map in tow, and with the amazing ability to crouch, Samus must go to the homeworld of the titular creatures, and commit genocide upon all 39 of them, well, 47 if you want to be technical. Now, I played this title with a map, since navigating in a samey and repetitive area with no map, is a very stupid idea if you ask me. But this game cost, about $50 back then, which inflates to about $80 now, so making your own maps was apparently the way people liked it back then.

But homemade maps would probably just screw you over, since there are multiple occurrences of terrain overlapping itself, meaning that there could be a path going up, to the right, and down, but there could be a path that just goes right, and should have been connected to the other path when it went down. But even so, the maps are the simplest out of any 2D Metroid title, and the least diverse due to the color pallet and memory limitations of the Gameboy. Although, as I stated before, upgrades are not your main goal, you just need to search for Metroids in a given area, kill them, and then go to another area to repeat the process. But the Metroids are not as deadly as they were before. Instead of being a jellyfish that had to be frozen, and then blown up with missiles, they are multiple forms that you just shoot with missiles. This is part of their growth cycle, although it just makes them easier to fight, at least in theory. The Metroids move around at very fast speeds, and not all of their body is a hitbox. And since Smaus can only aim in 90 degree increments, they can very easily get you in a corner and juggle you while you lose half your HP.

I am also not crazy about the designs of the Metroids, theyíre very hard to describe, but why bother growing spikes that shoot electricity, when you just spit at people in the next form in its evolution cycle? Their programming make them feel like they have no desire to live, and will kamikaze themselves to try and bring you down, because you wear orange and yellow. The other designs are not very memorable either, and showcase just how crude the Gameboyís visuals could be at times. I get the frogs and the giant rolling guy, but compared to their Metroid Fusion versions, they look like pixelated messes. I try to keep system limitations in mind, but the game does not look all that appealing, even when compared to other Gameboy games, like Legend of Zelda: Linkís Awakening, and Super Mario Land.
Moving onto the upgrades, there are really only two new ones, the Spider Ball, which lets you climb on ceilings and fall off whenever you misplace a bomb by a bit. And the Space Jump, which feels very stiff when you are jumping, since Samus needs to jump into a ball and be told to press A again to keep on jumping.

However, the game does create a pretty good atmosphere, and I mean by modern conventions. For 1991, this environment mustíve been incredible. The electronic screeches emitted by the Metroids, and the music that plays when you are fighting one, are both wonderful at creating a tense environment, where you often have to fight an actual challenge. While the transformations that you see when you encounter every Metroid is, well, like the transformation they used for Pokemon back in the first generations. It mightíve been impressive back then, but it just look a bit silly in these modern times.

I could also forgive the stark and empty environments for just trying to be tense, but I am pretty sure that was a secondary concern, since they had to make room for the save function. Oh, and the save rooms appear to be scattered randomly, ranging from 1 to 10 minutes to get from one save point to another. I understand having a limited number, and hardware limitations, but I like having save points to have a consistent distance between them. Not that it really matters, since you can use save states, but at least thereís only one, so you do need to be careful with saving, as if thatís a challenge.

As a whole, Metroid II is a pretty solid title, but I am hesitant to call it more than that. The goal of the game is too kill 47 of thing that are only in two or the six forms for over 65% of the encounters, and the controls can feel a little off at times, the jumping feels loose, and aiming is limited to four directions, when you are fighting enemies who like to ram into you. The game does have some nice atmosphere for a gameboy titles, but everywhere looks the same, so unless you use a map, it will become more annoying than anything. But was this worth the $4 that I could have payed for it? I say that it is, and while this might have been great back in the old days, it is only good in these modern times.

Itís held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.   read

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