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1:50 PM on 08.09.2011

If Music be the Food of Games, Play on.

Music is the flavor of life. It can make a good day great, make your heart race, and completely wreck you when it reminds you of something sad from your past. Everyone at some point or another has imagined their own soundtrack to life, because somehow, music defines us.

This is what makes music so important in a video game. In those worlds there actually IS a soundtrack to life, and it can change absolutely everything about the way you experience it. Most of you can probably name every song from Ocarina of Time upon hearing 5 seconds of it, from "Lost Woods" to "Bolero of Fire" (and of course my personal favorite "Gerudo Valley") and simply hearing them probably cheers you up a little bit, too.

I’ll never forget the song from the battle with Jecht in Final Aeon form from Final Fantasy X. To me then it was so incredibly hardcore and had so much meaning. I put it on my mp3 player in middle school and listened to it every day.

We can all probably agree that WET wasn’t a great game (even though it’s Bethesda produced – mystery) but my god if that game didn’t have an absolutely jammin’ soundtrack. Like when I started youtubing it I discovered songs that I didn’t even know were in the game and I immediately started adding them to my playlist. "Undead West", "Crazy Loco Loquito", "You're Dead" - all of them are great.

And what’s best, all the songs in the game fit the action so well. Rubi leaping from car to car in a red/black fury, blastin’ dudes in the face to songs like "She's Lost Control" was pure badassery. I was tempted to forgive the roughshod story and repetitive, over-the-top action… and 5-hour campaign length -.-

Then there are games like Katamari Damacy with just.. just lifechanging combinations of colors and music and quirk. I used to leave the “sky progress” part of the homeworld up on my TV just to listen to "Katamari Stars", and I still have it set as my ringtone for friends who know and love the game like I do. In total I probably understand about five lyrics from the entirety of that game’s soundtrack, but god damn if every single one of them doesn’t put a smile on my face.

Some games use the haunted warblings of a bygone era to unsettle your bones – like in Bioshock or modern Fallout games. Hearing “How much is that doggy in the- doggy in the- doggy in the window” skipping on an old record player in a torn-up, dark undersea restaurant creeped me right the $#&% out. And yet somehow hearing about “Johnny Guitar” in the ruined wasteland of New Vegas was comforting to me...

Even games that make limited use of music are crucial to the creation of memorable atmosphere. And I’m not just talking games like Dead Space or Condemned. One of the most lauded games of the PS2 era, Shadow of the Colossus hardly had any music at all outside of the hulking boss battles. And lord knows we spent twice as much time wandering BFE with Agro as we did fighting sleepy giants, so the loneliness of a silent, vast world really set in for us.

Borderlands is another game that is minimalist in its use of music. The tunes are rarely overwhelming, ramping up only when a big fight begins, but it’s ever-present and sets a great mood. The guitar-and-spurs style fits the desert scenery fantastically – constantly reminding you that you’re on an adventure to conquer wild territory full of wild men and beasts.

I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that soundtracks don’t seem to receive as much recognition as story and graphics when it comes to the review of a game. It’s sometimes mentioned alongside the sound FX category, but it really is something different entirely.

Maybe not enough games have incredible or apparent enough soundtracks to merit a review category of their own, but oftentimes not noticing them is what makes them so masterful. Games, like movies, are a completely different experience with the sound turned off. Watch The Omen on mute and see if you find it scary at all, then play MGS 4 without any sound and see if it’s NEARLY as touching.

Three games have made me nearly want to cry with their end-credit themes, and that is definitely saying something I think (what with all my manly machismo). "Dead Man's Gun" at the end of Red Dead Redemption, "No Death in Love" at the end of Enslaved, and "Fade Away" at the end of inFamous 2 were all incredibly endearing final melodies to end a game with, and seemed to make everything that much more special; particularly when they are accompanied by a procession of flashbacks like the one featuring Cole's exploits, as if they were a tribute to the monumentality of his life. And it wouldn’t have been the same feeling at all with just a generic rock song outro.

Honorable mention goes to the end credits of Killzone 2 for having a super-rad outro/credit-art combo before the normal text rolled. The point is – music makes the game, more than any of you may believe. It may not be the only thing, but it works behind the scenes to tie every piece of your experience together. Character developments, plot-twists, great victories – all are amplified tenfold by a damned appropriate spot of great music.

I recommend any of you who don’t already, pay closer attention to the music in your favorite games, and in games you play in the future. See how it fits the action; imagine if it wasn’t there - would it change how you feel about what you’re doing? I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t feel half as badass, half as desperate, half as enthralled if it weren’t for the IV adrenaline being fed through your ears as you save your planet, your girlfriend, yourself – or die trying.   read

11:59 AM on 08.04.2011

What the #$%&? Actually GOOD phone games??

A friend and I were sitting around the other night browsing apps in the Android market on our phones when I stumbled upon a free, RPG style game with an “organized party battle system” and a “touching story on an enormous scale”. My first thought – “buuuuulll$#&%” but I downloaded it anyway ‘cause like momma always said, rock it before ya knock it, right?

So after updating all the essentials like my Live Blue Flame wallpaper and Dictionary widget (Jesus Christ I’m cool) I started installing Tales of Inotia 3: Children of Carnia! It fired up and I had to select a class – of which there were about five or six, all standard fare for an RPG. I went with Paladin, just over Rogue and “Shadow Hunter” (Archer) and the story began.

I was in some sort of flashback of a Barbarian whose sister had been captured by dark elves. After a little bit of intro dialogue I started caving some blue elven skulls with my dick-compensator of a giant ass sword and my bevy of special whirlwind moves. The controls were pretty basic but all there – action button, special hotkeys, directional pad.

I caught up with my sister and engaged in some dialogue with her emo-elf captor, who surprised me by mind-controlling her into attacking me! There the flashback ended and something dawned on me.
Holy shit.
Am I… Am I ENJOYING a phone game?

Now I’m sure there are tons of you out there who committed the last 3 years of your life to dominating the ever-loving Christ out of Angry Birds but you have to understand that to me phone games have seemed like a load of crock since that Snake-Eating-Apples, Garden of Eden metaphor excuse for a game that used to be on all our little Nokia phones.

Even when I brought home my very own $200 little black rectangle late last year I spent about fifteen minutes playing a Metroid-meets-Cave-Story rip off before I essentially abandoned that page of my phone altogether. But as with all things technological, I guess they were bound to improve eventually.

So, Inotia. Normally it wouldn’t be considered much of an accolade to be recognized as one's favorite pooping pastime, but I think that changes when you end up pooping LONGER because of it. I probably poop like four more times a day than usual now because I know it provides me with more valuable Inotia time. Hell, I even play when I’m NOT pooping – can you believe?


And then, oh and THEN, I ran an errand with a buddy to a phone store yesterday and while I was deliberating which body part to gnaw off to escape the torment of a 12-person Sprint store line, I stumbled upon a little shooter called N.O.V.A. on an HTC phone in the corner.

N.O.V.A. has got to be one of the most committed HALO rip-offs since that Samsung Epic 4G commercial last year, but in the context of what I’m talking about, that actually might be more of a point of impress than insult. The controls are pretty rough since you can’t aim and shoot at the same time, and though it tries to compensate with some maaajor auto-aim assistance they might’ve been better off just going with a lock-on mechanic.

(Translation – “Touch screen where you see: Weiners”)

ANYWAY. Back to the point – what the $#&@? Suddenly I’m all into cellphone games? What the hell’s happening? I won’t even buy a PSP to carry my favorite eye-straining activity around with me yet here I am gleefully dumping valuable time into sub-par games from unheard of developers on a shoddy interface.

There are only two possible explanations.
1. Excessive strip club attendance has FRIED all rational portions of my brain with glitter-booby overload, OR
2. Phone gaming is finally hitting it’s fuckin’ stride.

And you know what? I’m in. You go phone games. If I can get texting, internet, GPS, and decent little RPGs and shooters for the cost of a family plan and not have to drop $40 every time a new title comes out – I say “hasta la Vita” baby.

P.S. I also just downloaded Zenonia 3 from the market the other night and have been cheating behind Inotia’s back with it after it goes to bed. What can I say, better music, cuter animations, and cooler toys. Who doesn’t crave something a little younger and tighter now and again?

God damn you strip clubs for turning me into a dirty old man 40 years early.

(It’s not okay)   read

6:44 PM on 07.10.2011

I.. I suppose I've put this off long enough

Hey guys, I'm realizing more and more the emphasis placed on proper introductions around here. This is coming a bit late, but I hope you won't pelt me with hot dogs or anything for my ambivalent hesitation.

Hi! My name's Ev, I'm a 22-year old college grad mooching off his parents for the summer! As my sidebar states I'm a big Sony fan and have discovered the beauty of a GameFly account in recent months, so many of my blogs thus far have been inspired by that fact.

I was lured to DTOID by a combination of college buddies and HAWP videos and I've got to say, I've loved every minute I've spent here :] Never before have I encountered such a cohesive group of funny, creative, and most of all communal individuals anywhere else on the web.

You guys have a wonderful little family here and I hope my blogs provide you with the same thought-provoking entertainment I have found in all of yours. This place is the indispensable little people keeping the real video game flame burning, I read the C-blogs before just about anything else game-related and hope they keep up forever ;)

So, there you have it. That Keelut guy is no robot, he's got a heart to love and an ass to kick. Er, uhm. Yeah. Anyway, glad to be aboard :] Look for me in the recaps, probably under FailToid for this one - Late ass newb.

*C*-ya 'round.
Har har.   read

5:36 PM on 07.10.2011

Geriatric Franchise Goes Out with a Whimper (?)

**NOTE: Spoilers present – Yeah, I give it all away baby.**

A friend was telling me recently how he doesn’t understand why so many franchises think they need trilogies. It’s rare that a game will have one sequel and then stop. But every once in a while, a series needs to stop after the sequel.

I’ve just completed Killzone 3, and honestly, I kind of wish they would’ve packed the story into two games. 2 was an exciting and unexpected return to a series that was a fun divergence from standard shooters back on the PS2. Everything was amped up in that sequel, we saw the return of stars from the original, and the climax was a shocker.

But with 3, it sort of feels like Guerrilla had already pulled out all the big guns. They tried to stretch what should have been the conclusion of the second game into a whole other installment, and the thinness of it all was tangible. I couldn’t help but feel that the action and writing was as feeble and tired as the Helghast councilmen at the center of the game’s “political intrigue”.

(Which came off like a bunch 10-year old boys playing war anyway)

I didn’t find any of the cast likeable, which is not a surprise in Rico’s case after he beat a soldier to death for “insubordination” in the last game, but I actually felt for Sev at the end of that one after his hothead partner fucked up their entire mission. They killed off Garza, and Natko was nowhere to be seen (except in the co-op campaign, and even then he doesn’t speak at all).

Narville was a giant pansy, no matter how hard I tried to imagine he was just playing the good mentor. In fact, the entire ISA army in the third game was made up of pansies. Every soldier whose face you could see (besides the ONE random girl) was an overweight bald guy. And they got dropped like mosquitos. I don’t know whether to blame their own incompetence or their commanders’ complete lack of leadership or concern for them.

(I’ll stick with Captain Templar, thanks)

Even the gameplay was a little contrived at times. This is a problem that has plagued the series since the beginning I think. Many a time I found myself starting a section with some random weapon shoved into my hands, only to discover it was essentially useless. It was as if they were just trying to show it off, but I never asked for it! Where did my exploding-bolt gun go??

At one point after a cutscene, I randomly started in a vehicle called an “Icesaw” which at no point was introduced and was only even shown at the end of the run when we bailed out of it (and why I had to steer AND shoot while Rico was driving is beyond me). The tank and mech sections were pretty fun, if a little bit frustrating, but the final fight in space was just a shitshoot.

All of this is compounded by the fact that Guerrilla still doesn’t seem to have fixed their checkpoint system. You fight your way through 65 Helghast assholes across a whole platform – with the only gun they drop ammo for – to get dropped by some surprise motherfucker and have to do it all over again.

Your buddies can revive you, but for some unknown reason they’ll only deign to do it like twice before they let you go and you respawn at the last terrible checkpoint. And half the time while they’re shouting “You think I’d let you die?” they’re sitting behind cover 50 yards away and you bleed out watching the nearest Helghast trooper give you the finger.

(Fuck you, buddy)

Glossing over the inconsistency of the ATAC fights, the invincibility of the heavy troopers, and the sheer number of bullets it takes to kill ANYTHING with the inaccurate weapons provided – let’s discuss the ending.

A nuke? Where the hell did we get a nuke on our crappy little space attack ship, and why the hell did we not use that IMMEDIATELY? The main bad guy is getting away in his GIANT space cruiser, and we wait until we’ve slowly pestered him to pieces and he’s falling into orbit TO DROP OUR NUKE?

And then – oh and THEN – he fucking LIVES! You’re shitting me right Guerrilla? A fourth installment, after this mess? Please just make it a movie. Don’t make us do this again. Have it turn out that the big surprise at the end of 3 is the intro to a movie tie-in. Or a fucking space-time loop. “We nuked all of Helghan and the pissed survivors are coming to invade Vekta!” – boom, first game plot, more or less.

I loved you Killzone. I invested countless hours in you, had faith you truly were “The Halo Killer” like they said. But you let me down. I’m.. I’m not sure I can go on like this. I think I want to see other games. Maybe you should see other players, too. When 4 comes around, I don’t think I’ll be here. I’ll have packed all my stuff and moved to Battlefield 3’s house.

You can keep the CDs.
Don’t call.   read

3:41 PM on 07.06.2011

FREEDOM: As Developers Never Intended It

As gamers, it is practically written in our genes that we will abuse every freedom provided us by a developer (that is why we make such great open-beta testers, because we will wedge our characters’ faces into the most absurd corners and shoot penis shapes into everything we see until we run out of laughs or ammo). But in this context, unlike most others, abuse of freedoms is a good – nay, a great thing.

(Rock on, Ashley Burch)

Some developers planned for our collective short attention span and incorporated distractions into their games. The minute I discovered Link was free to do other things besides pursuing Ganondorf and the captured princess, I found myself on a mission to angle the fabled 26-pound fish, run down every noisy Cucco, and ignore baddies everywhere in my Hyrule-wide search for gold skulltulas.

I could’ve run down Lost Planet’s timer with the amount of mission-ignoring shenanigans I partook of in GTA III, and my attitude didn’t sober up with the improvements to realism in the fourth numbered entry in the series. Niko Bellic swan dove into as many lakes out of helicopters, assaulted as many old ladies, and ate as much unnecessary pavement as any of his multi-ethnic predecessors.

And the Saints Row series took freedom very seriously (?) with their allowance for bra-wearing, sky-diving, granny-flashing, dildo-beating, turd-spraying, hot-dog-suit-wearing… well, you get the picture - nonsense. But in my opinion, freedom is not so much something granted by the developers as it is something seized by the players.

(Gamers and dick jokes, I swear to God)

Even in titles where the freedom of the above-mentioned games is not programmed in, players find a way to contradict the script in hilarious and defiant ways. I know that I personally spent a good twenty minutes at the beginning of Half Life 2 chucking soda cans at guards’ faces and giddily evading capture. I even managed to wedge the train platform door open with a box and get myself trapped outside of the game’s code. Oops. Haha.

(Gordon Freeman, prankster extraordinaire)

Some games practically BEG to be defied. Whiny, useless escorts screaming “SAVE ME AAHHHH!!” or RPG NPCs welcoming you and your arsenal of laser weapons to their defenseless goldmine of a town. Or pretty much any character that says the word “can’t” to you at any point in your dialogue – basically has set themself up as ground zero of the next explosion-holocaust.

A friend of mine tried his damnedest to murder Cole McGrath’s nagging, ingrate girlfriend in inFamous – prior to Kessler’s big ultimatum. And that same friend found endless mirth in denying me a hand up to ledges in Army of Two (which for those of you who don’t know, somehow causes the denied character to buckle and collapse as if he was utterly stunned by the distress of his betrayal – try it with your friends).

I spent more time in Braid rewinding Tim’s balls onto and off of fiery projectiles and rabid bunnies (the noise was hilarious) than I did solving the actual puzzles. Hell, even Streets of Rage provided some inexplicably hilarious comic relief in the form of partner grapples. Every once in a while I would just skate up behind my buddy and engage in a decidedly homoerotic hug until he punched me in RL or one of the baddies came along and beat us apart with a lead pipe.

(More like Streets of GAY-GE! ...heh)

The point is – games will always provide us with freedoms in a way the real world almost assuredly cannot – at least not without the consequence of being fired or completely abandoned by your friends. In a world where a second chance is just a loading screen away we are free to grind a rail using Tony Hawk’s nose, conquer a city with a purple dildo, and fail to save the planet because we’re too busy griefing our friends.

So here’s to you, video games, for providing us with the freedom to fail, and do so hilariously.
God bless Gamerica.   read

6:47 PM on 07.02.2011

Multiplayer is sexy. (Even if it's a sausage-fest).

Hey all, thought I’d blow off a little steam by being creative instead of my usual smashing up of household items with various pellet guns and fire (just found out I didn’t get a job I was really banking on), so I’d like to discuss some really rad multiplayer trends I’ve noticed cropping up recently.

My first blog on this website was about how disappointed I am with the PS3’s neglect of multiplayer prospects in this generation of games. Few games for the console have any form of multiplayer, and the ones that do usually lack a local option and/or simply aren’t fun. But since writing that, I’ve played a few titles that have actually given me a great deal of hope for where multiplayer aspects are headed in the near future.

For starters –since it is probably on everyone’s minds and consoles at the moment – there is the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta. If you’ve played it, you probably think it’s awesome, if you haven’t you probably need to. And if you’ve played it and don’t think it’s awesome, well, maybe you will after this.

(Customization is the icing on the murder cake)

When talking about the new multiplayer in Uncharted 3 Naughty Dog expressed their hopes that it would set the new standard for multiplayer – that it would take the lead and provide an unsurpassed experience to satisfy all kinds. Hearing this I was a bit skeptical. The multiplayer in 2 was fun, and most other games don’t support the vertical platforming element that this series does so that’s a fun new twist. But certainly I still preferred Bad Company 2 to sate my ass-kicking needs.

But I have got to say, Naughty Dog really delivered on this one. I’m not saying it will definitely be everyone’s future go-to, but it has managed to satisfy a surprising number of demands for an online shooter. It has similar weapon modifications to Battlefield, movement capability and fluidity that surpasses MGO, and perks, kill streaks, and level voting reminiscent of CoD.

Top that off with character customization and I’d say you’ve got a solid sale. Of course this is only a beta and you have the selection of about 3 characters total (none of which are female..?) and only two levels to play through, but even this early selection shows promise. Small changes I’d like to see before the full release are more treasure drops (fewer repeats), better melee detection (no more throwing an elbow after you’ve been killed), and fixing the unfairness of starting on the trucks in the Air Strip level – lord knows the heroes have an advantage defending two doors from a bunch of dudes trying to leap through them from moving vehicles.

(I shouted "bullshit!" so many times I started to forget what it meant)

Not only is the multiplayer fun and varied, but you can play with your friend on the same system. I played with two of my friends in the same house with two of us sharing a screen and we were all able to party up and be on the same team in every game, it was great. The only complaint I have about the split screen is the utilization of about 40% of it to display our player icons, which is entirely unnecessary.

So I will certainly be purchasing Uncharted 3 in November, and can’t wait for the full multiplayer to drop with that Subway deal (keep your eyes peeled people). The other title that re-instilled a little hope in my heart was actually Motorstorm Apocalypse. My friend and I rented it from GameFly because I had fun with the other Motorstorm demos and Apocalypse looked tense and exciting.

(^^When Yachts don't wait for the drawbridge)

After cursing my lips off through the ball-blistering difficulty that often characterized the single-player campaign (which surprisingly had an actual story to accompany it, and a decent one at that) I messed around with the multiplayer for a long while after discovering how fun it was. You get to customize every single vehicle available – and quite thoroughly at that, down to how much weathering your car shows – even moreso after you unlock more of the available parts and designs. This adds a certain pride and distinct flavor to your repertoire of destruction cruising speed-demons – a feature really lacking in many other racers.

Unfortunately you only get to choose from an arbitrary selection of vehicles depending on the level, which doesn’t even seem to hinge on what would be appropriate (i.e. mud vs. concrete) so you may not get to use the Superbike you just customized in several races for no reason at all. But this at least forces players to become versatile in their skills and learn to appreciate every vehicle the developers included, as they all do have a certain usefulness.

On top of that, the game also includes a level voting system like Uncharted and even a “Rival” system in which you select one player to bet that you will finish ahead of, which creates a second level of tension and an opportunity to earn even more experience and accolades. There are even perks that players can select loadouts of to help them gain an extra edge against opponents in their own unique way.

(Level voting is sexy, and so can you)

All of this from a racing game? Surprising I thought. And to top it all off, it also has the local/online multiplayer combination which allows you to play with one friend next to you as you compete with others online. This is a great aspect that has really been missing from games in general, even dropped from games it used to be in like the Burnout series. Thank you Motorstorm for bringing this back.

So there you have it, at least two reasons why a small shred of my faith has been restored in the future of console multiplayer. Not to say I didn’t have fun with Killzone 3 or wasn’t looking forward to Battlefield 3, but those are different, and if we’re being honest – less versatile. I’m just glad that developers are remembering that friends don’t always want to just sit on the couch and watch us have fun with a bunch of strangers. Cheers Naughty Dog, Evolution Studios, may your financial futures be bright.   read

4:27 PM on 06.19.2011

Enslaved: A Thorough and (Slightly) Retro Review

I’m sure many of you glossed over Ninja Theory’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West when it came out last October. I know I passed up its release in order to save some cash, but having finally gone back and played it I’d say it’s a shame that anyone missed it.

As you may know the story is a futuristic take on an ancient Chinese Buddhist text called Journey to the West, which centers on a mischievous monkey god who is forced to accompany a Buddhist monk on a journey to retrieve sacred texts from the dark and dangerous “Western Regions”.

The monkey – known as Sun Wukong – is fitted with a magical headband that shrinks upon the monk’s command, should the rascal get out of line. So in order to be freed from his bondage he must protect the monk on his journey, and return him safely home.

As you can guess from trailers, replacing the monk in this modern version is a young girl named Tripitaka, or “Trip” for short. And our hero “Monkey” is a capable vagrant with enough jaded resentment for the world to keep them both afloat in its murderous fathoms.

After a few harrowing one-offs in a sequence where the pair flees a slave ship and the controls and premise are introduced, Monkey awakens amidst the rubble of a crashed escape pod with an enslaving headband fitted to his skull, and a young girl watching him warily from a safe distance. Here the fun begins.

The first thing that stands out about this game is its characters, and that may seem obvious as they’re the central focus, but surprisingly few games present characters that are both likeable and believable. It’s a right smart thing when the player feels like the character acts exactly as they would in given situations – when their responses are lifelike and sensible.

“Get this thing off, or I’m gonna rip your head off.”

First calm words out of Monkey’s mouth when Trip tells him she enslaved him in his sleep. And the voice acting is phenomenal. Granted, Monkey consistently sounds like a mix between Mel Gibson and Steve Blum, but all of his lines are delivered pitch-perfect in terms of his personality and situational contexts.

Monkey is scarred, burned, ragged, but most of all – built like a freaking Panzer. His character design is a great interpretation of Sun Wukong. Long, gorilla arms, tail-like sash, and even the weird red war-paint the monkey god wore across his eyes. His history is left vague – where he acquired his staff and “cloud” (reference to Wukong’s Nimbus) isn’t delved into. But we know what we need to – he had a rough past growing up in the wilds, and had to fight to survive. That’s what makes him capable.

Trip also has a fantastic design in my opinion. She’s not just another bra-mannequin fresh out of the skank bank. Aside from her girl-next-door green eyes and freckles, she’s got a fitting personality – Tech-wiz from a small village, vulnerable but resourceful, scared, but packing #!@&-loads of ambition. This makes her less escort and more asset, which is a nice break from RE4 and more reminiscent of Knight’s Contract.

Yes, she’s attractive. Yes, that’s brought up. But not focused on. She’s not a sex symbol, she’s a flower in a schoolyard of bullies who hate flowers and like to stomp on them. And you’re the grumpy groundskeeper.

(Kinda puts you in a protectin’ mood, doesn’t it?)

The animation of these loveable survivors is great as well. Monkey reacts to every explosion shielding his eyes and trying to catch his balance, and Trip scrambles to pull herself up the other side of every ravine Monkey tosses her over. Much of the environment is even destructible, coming apart as you attempt to scale or hide behind it while under attack. The graphics aren’t top notch, but the visuals are phenomenal. Despite this being the post-apocalypse there are colors everywhere. “The War” was over 200 years prior and nature has reclaimed much of the urban sprawl, making for a lush vista at every turn.

You’re encouraged to explore this detailed environment by the orbs that can be collected to upgrade Monkey’s abilities. They’re sprinkled all around in every corner, giving you incentive to clamber up every random pipe and scout every dark corner the developers so painstakingly rendered.

Another thing I love about this game that many other games disregard is grounding in reality. This may sound odd to say about a game featuring a monkey-man tearing apart giant mechs with his plasma staff, but I’m speaking here of subtleties.

When Monkey is fitted with the headband he can see his and Trip’s vital signs, as well as the status of his shield, and the number of orbs he has – essentially, his HUD. Trip hacked it to present him with all this information visually, as well as to create an audio uplink between them, explaining why you can hear her far away. It’s a small detail, but I love when games give a reason for the strange things going on, rather than hiding behind suspension of disbelief.

I’d much rather believe that Monkey knows which enemies have vulnerabilities because Trip scanned them and transmitted the info to his headband, than that he has great intuition, or they happen to have glowing orange kidneys he has to punch.

This brings us to the meat and potatoes of the game – combat and platforming. I had heard from some other players that the combat in Enslaved: Mel Gibson Goes to New York was repetitive and the platforming too easy. But while I can see why they might say that, I have to disagree to an extent.

The mechs do regularly present a similar threat, but even fights with them are created as puzzles. There are about five types of mechs with different abilities that are confronted in varying situations. Usually one has a weakness that you can exploit in order to more rapidly defeat them all, rather than slogging through mashing the square button ‘til Monkey’s arms fall off. And oftentimes I was surprised at the difficulty of a seemingly simple encounter because I was overlooking the puzzle elements of the fight and focused on swinging my staff all over their metal faces instead.

The fights also require you to utilize all the varying moves you can learn instead of relegating the upgrade system to useless-fluff status. You will need to block, counter, evade and stun if you hope to survive against clusters or larger mechs with an affinity for pugilism. And it is incredibly satisfying when you context-kill a big demolition mech by literally ripping his arms up through his own shoulders.

And the “ease” of the platforming is excused in my opinion due to the necessity of its being easy. Too often are you required to swing up and across a series of handholds before Trip’s decoy runs out and the machine-gun mechs tear your monkey ass to ribbon. If Monkey had to have the patience of Nathan Drake in his platforming, this would be a very short and very sad game. Instead, rapid swinging was implemented to ramp up the harrow-factor of clambering around as a jungle man dodging plasma bursts in the wilds of Old New York.

There are also lots of good puzzle sections interspersed with the action. Your classic “room full of moveable bridges” and “get the power back on in the right sequence”. None are terribly difficult, but they’re a nice change of pace. This and the game’s humor are a nice reprieve from the normal itinerary of “kill they ass ‘til all they ass dead”.

There’s plenty of humor in the game, often in the form of Monkey playing punching bag and Trip apologizing profusely after the fact. But it’s ramped up later when the third player, Pigsy, is introduced. A reference to another character from Journey, Pigsy is a fat junkyard man with the hots for Trip. There are some great scenes of Pigsy delusionally trying to compete with Monkey for Trip’s attention that doubled my love for the whole cast.

(“Monkey can I ask you a question. You use a lotta hair product?”)

The story’s progression is mostly swift and satisfying, with only a few hiccups that cause it to drag here and there. I found myself not wanting to stop when it was time to go to bed, and was profoundly curious about how it would all wrap up. I won’t spoil it here – it’s too good. Consider this a long-winded foreplay, intended to get you in the mood. Pick it up, try it out – it’ll cost you a few dollars and a few hours and it’s totally worth your time. Then, if you like, come back here and discuss ;)
This game does its predecessor a great modernizing service, and I’m thinking I might go play it again, real-life obligations be damned.

Can't seem to embed the video but check out the trailer here if you're not familiar with it already.   read

11:20 PM on 06.15.2011

Breasts rule everything around me, BREAM.

The “Girls in Games” debate is a tired one, to be sure. In decades past we’ve seen armies of pixelated DD breasts developed, perpetuated, and fought over. Always the argument boils down to progressives calling game females hurtful stereotypes and setters of unrealistic standards, and more traditional gamers asserting that it’s all in good fun.

To be honest, I don’t know where I stand on the debate. The logical rationalist side of me believes that the media we are subjected to does change our opinions and views of the world we live in, and that being regularly bombarded by images of girls with “perfect figures” could have a negative impact on our perception of reality. But then the high-fiving Neanderthal of a 22-year old male gamer side of me – well, he loves boobs.

This is a trend of course that exists not only in the world of games, but in the world of movies, television, magazines, and comics. OH MY GOD does it exist in comics. I grew up reading X-Men and Spiderman and the occasional Punisher but it wasn’t until I was in about high school that I started to really pay attention to the pattern. Girls with pencil-thin waistlines and cantaloupes on top, and guys with cobblestone abs and biceps like Cool J.

(Emma Frost, telepathic prostitute with skin of diamonds and breath of Courvoisier.)

The only person in the entirety of the X-Men universe who isn’t cut like Brad Pitt is Blob, and that’s his fucking superpower. The way Bruce Banner and Peter Parker are drawn they’d be pulling super models in the real world, and they’re supposed to be the dumpy nerds of their respective universes. So there you go guys score one for you too, shed a tear of hurt inadequacy at your objectification.

What I want to know is not whether this is a problem, or whether people are upset about it. I know full well it’s a problem, and you’re fucking right people are upset about it. Girls are starving themselves over toilet bowls to look like Cosmo models and Supergirl for guys who are hiding from them because Chris Redfield and Wolverine called them pussies and stole their lunch money.

What I want to know is – can anything be done about it? Has this train gotten so far from station that everyone’ll jump off if it turns around? Lots of us are crying out for more realism – we want to play people like us so we don’t feel like jerks for not hittin’ up the gym on a Thursday night. We want our boyfriends and girlfriends to stop swooning over people who have the advantage of having been created on CryEngine 3 with sex-hotness in mind.

(Steroids for breakfast, steroids for lunch.)

I admit I applauded (no not actually out loud you jerks) when I read about the Lara Croft reboot – it sounded like a very mature and interesting direction to go with a character who has practically led the booby charge since 19DD. But I was surprised to see some of my fellow progressives go even further with their demands. “She still looks like a super model,” they said, “it’s still incredibly unrealistic.”

Friends, there are SOME pretty girls in the world. And some of them DO actually do things besides rub on Hugh Heffner, that lucky fuck. In fact I know some pretty badass chicks who not only love rock-climbing and shooting guns, but are also extremely hot and love rock-climbing and shooting guns. Am I dating any of them? Nooo, but then I didn’t say the world was perfect now did I?

(Awesome girls being awesome.)

My point is I don’t think we need to go so far as to demand that every character is made to be hideous and inferior to us in order to boost our own egos. I personally think of it as a little incentive. We all have a drive to be like the people we idolize. We try in subtle ways to emulate them, whether it be their attitude, their hair, or their physical fitness. If you hit the gym a couple more times a week so you can try look like Chloe Frazer or Solid Snake (sans the mullet), I honestly don’t see that as a problem. So long as it doesn’t get out of control. There’s nothing healthy about obsession.

(Though I could see how someone could be obsessed by her.)

Suppose we did try to make EVERYTHING more realistic. And all the X-Men had kind of a ponch, and Nathan Drake’s fingers didn’t have the strength of Zeus to keep him glued to all those thin ledges. Suppose we all had to watch Lara Croft’s freshman-fifteen jiggle in her spandex “pants” as she huffed around some island looking for cell phone service.

There is a line for the suspension of disbelief. On one side of it there are women who by all rights should be wearing back braces to support their titanic bust. And on the other side there are couch-potato heroes saving the world by sheer force of happening to be the protagonist. Do you see what I’m saying? There’s always a compromise.

(Dear Christ don't let this happen.)

The gaming and comic industries have been around for a long time, and their content has never exactly been as concerned with realism as it is now in the age of Hi-Def. These days we can even be made to feel guilty in 3D. So the argument that people’s self-esteem may be at stake is justified, as is the argument that we have always liked it this way.

So what do we do? I think developers have been making good strides toward a standard of fairness and sensitivity overall. We’re seeing more Elena Fisher and less Sonya Blade. People Can Fly’s Trischka went through several transformations before Bulletstorm’s release in order to end up with a much more reasonable yet still very attractive final product.

But I’m curious to hear what others think about the direction we’re headed. Is it the right thing to do – cuttin’ in on everyone’s booby-loving fun? Or is it a dose of the future, and is that future a homely one indeed? Supposedly the voice of the people can change things, and Destructoid here has given us the opportunity to do just that, so speak up ;)

But seriously Cosmo, Dove, L’Oreal – quit airbrush and jaw-line editing all your models. You’re cheating. That’s called cheating.
[embed]203865:39457[/embed]   read

2:52 AM on 06.10.2011

It's a pirate's life for... Square Enix?

So a few years back I played Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XII and Level 5’s Rogue Galaxy within a few months of each other, and noted a disturbing number of similarities between the two. Most of my friends hadn’t played Level 5’s game so they couldn’t see what I was talking about, but the coincidences were just eating at me so for the sake of my sanity I compiled a list. Here are some of the more glaring overlaps between the games that have me thinking Square was straight pilfering their little brother’s pocket on this one.

I’ve read before that the two companies have in the past collaborated on titles - which makes sense being that they work in the same genre vein - but I don’t know of any besides Dragon Quest which was really just more of a hand-off. I don’t believe they collaborated on either Rogue Galaxy or FFXII, but they must have been working on them at the same time, because Level 5’s title released in December of 2005 and Square’s dropped a few months later in March of 2006.

At the beginning of both games you are introduced to a young, sprightly protagonist going about his daily chores in a town surrounded by desert. Both are teen boys with spiky blond hair and an affinity for baggy pants and wrist-guards. Also, they are both orphans, and have been left to the care of charitable men in the form of a priest and a shop owner respectively. Meet, Jaster Rogue and Vaan… uhh, the urchin.

(Seriously Square the princess gets to be Ashelia B’Nargin Dalmasca and your protagonist gets just the one syllable?)

So from here the two youths do what youths do best - fuck shit up and get in trouble. Vaan steals something a pirate wants and Jaster pretends to BE something a pirate wants. Either way, pirates. Vaan teams up with the carefree sky-pirate Balthier and his Playboy bunny companion Fran, and Jaster is swept aboard the good ship Dorgenark. Here he meets the carefree space-pirate Zegram, and a jungle lady as similarly tan, sexy, and scantily clad as Final Fantasy’s viera. Mind you, everything that happens here was in Level 5’s game first.

(Bows and boobs. Killer combo, apparently.)

About this time, both of our protagonists meet a young lady who is to be part of their ragtag band of outcasts. Sounds familiar, here comes the love-interest right? Wrong! Totally platonic. And maybe here’s why – they’re both secretly princesses! Shittin’ bricks yet? Try this picture on for size: Meet, Kisala and Ashe.

(Maybe Square figured this was okay because they had the upper-hand graphically.)

Okay, surely that’s it right? Certainly we can’t use the Airship/Battleship travel method as a point of accusation. But how about the villains? Final Fantasy – Evil scientist. Rogue Galaxy – Evil science *corporation*. But don’t worry neither of these was the real threat throughout the whole game. No, both were revealed to be a tool controlled by… an evil monster god? This isn’t new territory for RPGs, or any game really. “Oh no, bad guy wasn’t half as bad as completely un-introduced *badder* guy!”
But here’s the rub, check out Mother, and The Undying.

(Mother and… Son?)

I mean, Square, you’re not even trying at this point. What happened? I looked up to you. Level 5 looked up to you. You’re our big bro! Now Ubisoft’s smokin’ you in the CGI arms race and BioWare and Bethesda are crushing ‘em outta the RPG park where you used to be home-run king!

Even the “innovative” battle system from XII feels ripped off after playing Galaxy. And they had the added coolness of synthesizing your own weapons and being able to actually see them on your characters as they ran around - in alternating costumes I might add!

I saw your name on MindJack and Mario Sports Mix. Where’s the integrity? You’ve gotta pull it together, for the childrens. No more rippin’ off the hard-working folks at Level 5, and no more slappin’ the brand-name on crap games. Give us gamers some credit, we can tell the difference between new and used.

(Changing “Inazuma 11” to “Samurai 11” a new game does not make. Tsk tsk, Mr. Wada.)   read

7:18 PM on 06.08.2011

P2 Press Start: P2? P2!!

Gamers are often associated with the stigma of being pale, anti-social creatures dwelling alone in Mountain Dew lairs on Cheeto-stained furniture. But while we may love ruining our arteries and our sleep schedules, we love it even more with company - and many of us are actually quite tan.

Gaming like most things is only improved when shared in by others. I grew up kicking friends' butts in Burnout and Super Smash Bros., and clearing dungeons with them in Diablo and Champions of Norrath. So in this modern age of gaming I'm left to wonder, where has all the multiplayer gone?

I purchased my shining idol of a Playstation 3 in early 2009 and got down to brass tacks with GTA IV and Burnout Paradise. But while both provided easily accessible and admittedly fun online multiplayer, I couldn't help but miss the in-person gloat factor that makes victory all the sweeter.

Of course, the Playstation library these days isn't quite built for multiplayer - what with titles like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid filling the shelves. But in my opinion there are some gleaming opportunities that have been missed.

On PS2 Free Radical Design brilliantly implemented co-op multiplayer in their TimeSplitters series (particularly Future Perfect). No matter the level a second player could always jump in as someone from the period to assist the protagonist. This option never hurt the experience by being a necessity or an annoyance, and it was well-explained unlike the "Two Chuck Greenes" phenomenon in Dead Rising 2.

Many games will provide a host of main characters but neglect the opportunity to make more than one of them playable. Last year I became a Battlefield: Bad Company 2 addict and had fun dinking around through the campaign when I wasn't smashing through walls online. But the whole experience would've been much more enjoyable with a buddy playing as Sweetwater or Hags.

Sure multiplayer requires more work on the part of the developer, but it's not like it hurts story cohesion at all. Gears of War allows a second player to jump in as Dom, and I had a blast defeating the locust horde with my Xbox friend. Why couldn't my Playstation friend and I take turns leashing the butt-cheeks off mini-bosses in Bulletstorm? Or at least split a screen to play Anarchy online with others.

I've heard before that developers exclude local multiplayer in order to sell more units, or so that players don't have to share a screen (which I promise we haven't minded since Goldeneye 64). But either way I think that's crap. We're already getting stiffed on multiplayer by the likes of EA forcing us to spend extra cash on new copies of games instead of saving a few meager bucks by buying pre-owned.

Gearbox struck gold by making Borderlands multiplayer both locally and online. I've probably invested more hours in that game than any other RPG to date, and although I've beaten every possible aspect of the game released, I would still go out and buy it again if I ever lost my copy. My friends and I spent entire nights sniping and soldiering psychos and Crimson Lance soldiers online and on the same couch, and can't wait for Borderworlds to get an official announcement.

Likewise Saints Row 2 became my new favorite sandbox game, blowing GTA out of the water when I discovered its ridiculous hilarity had story multiplayer instead of just online, and that we could even play as our own characters, not a copy of one protagonist.

I'm not saying that every game needs multiplayer. Infamous probably wouldn't be much fun for the friend that gets stuck pushing Zeke's fat, winded arse around Empire, or drowning themselves as John Marston's horse. But who's to say Uncharted wouldn't be more fun with someone controlling Sully (or Elena or Chloe), or Killzone improved with some playing as Rico or Natko or Narville. Hell, even L.A. Noire might've been improved with the partner on your couch being your partner on the case.

It's hard to think of many games that *wouldn't* be more fun with a friend by your side, so why don't more developers make that a reality? Maybe there aren't enough gamers crying out for it. Or maybe - but hopefully not - developers and their publishers are more concerned with the promised profit of consistency than with the fun and satisfaction of breaking the mold. Time will tell if a change will be made, but until then we're left refreshing the community levels in LBP2.   read

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