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8:31 AM on 08.21.2010  

Got a new job

You may have noticed that the review for the Turtle Beach X11 headset has vanished. This is because I have taken a writing position on Planet Xbox 360 and they have decided to use the review on their site. So, as a result, I've taken it down from here and it will go up over there. Now, much like the writing I did at Examiner, I will make sure that I don't just come here and say "Hey, go over here and look at this." I'll make sure there's a blog of some sort and if I have something new at Planet Xbox, I'll provide you with the link and make mention of it, probably at the end of whatever blog I've put together.

I am going to try, notice that I say "try", to do some type of Podcast next Friday. My plan is to take note of some of the top heading news articles during the week and talk about my opinions on them. I don't have an idea on how long the cast will run but my overall goal is to keep it fairly short and sweet. I don't desire to bore any of you.

So, I finished off Bioshock 2. All it did was make me want Bioshock: Infinite to hurry up and hit the shelves. Now I'm messing around with Castle Crashers and Death Spank. The later is Diablo with a weird sense of humor, I like it. Mafia 2 comes out in three days. I'm going to give it a rent from Gamefly, which means I won't see it until the 27th or 28th. I never played the first one, but the demo for 2 was pretty good. Plus, I'm beginning to be a fan of just about anything 2K puts out. How long it'll hold my attention for, I don't know because Other M hits at the end of the month. This holiday season is going to be insane.   read


3:39 PM on 08.16.2010  

Don't Punish Me For Being Easy

As I previously stated, I recently got my hands on Bioshock 2 after not having the chance to delve into it upon its release. Now, I don't play very many FPS titles at all. As a matter of fact, the first Bioshock was the first FPS I had beaten since the first Call of Duty. So, I started up a game on the Normal setting. I expected a challenge and that was fine but after getting my big metal ass handed to me a few times in a row I decided to drop it down to Easy. When I did, I get a warning about how lowering the difficulty would affect Achievements.

Why are developers still doing this at all? I could actually care less about achievements all together and it's my least favorite thing about todays consoles but to punish players for playing on Easy is just wrong. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the Bioshock 2 achievements and discovered that the only one I can't get is the one for beating the game on the highest difficult which I wasn't going to do anyway. That isn't so bad, but I have seen some titles lock out nearly everything just because you lower the difficulty. It's an absurd practice that needs to be put to rest.

Do you know what I discovered though? I enjoy the game far more on the Easy setting. I play games to have fun. Part of that fun in Bioshock 2 is being a Big Daddy and playing the game on the lower difficulty gives me the feeling of being pretty bad ass. Shouldn't playing as a Big Daddy feel like that? I'm sure those of you who have more skill at FPS titles get the same feeling from playing on Normal or higher but for me, I'm quite happy having fun on Easy and I intend to stay that way from now on regardless of the title I'm playing or what it does or doesn't do to earning achievements.

On a side note, screw you Mega Man series. I know there are a great many of you Mega Man fans out there and that's great for you but I learned something yesterday after downloading Mega Man 10 that I have suspected since the first Mega Man. I hate the Mega Man games. Want to know why? Because he's this advanced robot but he can't shoot straight up?! Really? Dr. Light couldn't give him rotating shoulder joints but he can give him a freaking arm cannon and make him able to absorb other robot's abilities? There are many other reasons I dislike the series other than that, of course, like the names of the enemy robots. Sheep Man? Come on! I don't have much experience with the X series, maybe it's much better, but the traditional Mega Man series frustrates the hell out of me. Sorry Mega Man fans, I wish I could share your love for the Blue Bomber, I just can't.   read


9:08 AM on 08.15.2010  

Something strange going on here


I am not the type of gamer that sits on my rump for more than an hour at a time playing a game. I haven't done so since I was but a Wii (did you see what I did there?) little tyke. But last night, I downloaded Kirby's Adventure on the Virtual Console and spent three freaking hours on the couch just playing that game. I've got Bioshock 2 in my 360, I never had the chance to get into it, and I'm playing an 8-bit title from 1993. Not only am I playing it but I'm having a damned ball doing it.

Finally, after I was kicked off the TV by the Mrs., I trotted over to the 360. But instead of booting up Bioshock 2 I load up Castle Crashers, get online, and spend another hour and a half playing that! I would have played until the Wii (I'm like a Britney Spears song, doing it again and all...) hours of the morning but I was thwarted in my efforts by "The Boss".


Come to think of it, I have spent more time playing titles off Live Arcade then I have playing actual retail titles. Given, I have just recently gotten another 360 but I have had access to getting whatever latest and greatest is out there I just haven't wanted to. I had so much fun playing Kirby's Adventure that I'm going to buy more older titles like it. I may even buy titles I've played before considering how many years ago it was, I probably don't remember anything about it.


Does anyone else out there have the same thing going on? Where you'd rather play fun titles from Live Arcade or retro classics instead of the big releases?   read


8:28 AM on 08.13.2010  

Scott Pilgrim & I'm late to the party

Hello everyone. OK, I've basically decided to give podcasting a go but it won't be for awhile yet. First I have to figure out how to get a quiet area in my home to actually record something without the various sounds of life going on around me and being too distracting. I also need time to get familiar with the software.

I am going to see Scott Pilgrim today with the Mrs. We're hitting up the early show to avoid the rush of teens that is sure to flow like water from a freshly liberated beaver damn later today. It looks like a fun time so I'm hoping it won't suck. I'm not getting any popcorn though. No, screw the movie theater, I'm not paying more for a snack then I paid for my freaking ticket!

All right, so I haven't had a 360 in awhile. I've recently purchased a 4GB Slim model and so far, I'm enjoying it. I feel like I missed out though as I'm going back and playing things like Portal: Still Alive and Braid. Both of which are fantastic. I just finished LIMBO although I haven't found all the little hidden bubbles yet. I thought it was brilliant. I have a feeling I'll be working on Braid for quite some time, as some of those puzzles are devious. Feel free to send me a friend invite, if you'd like.

I have a 2TB external hard drive that I'm thinking I may try using as a storage device for the 360. Does anyone know if that will work? Shouldn't it just read it as a USB storage device without trouble? I'm asking because I've got crap on that hard drive and if it won't work then I don't want to format it and lose all my junk for nothing. Anyone?   read


4:42 PM on 08.12.2010  

Blockbuster Renting Games

Alright, so before I start talking about the title topic I wanted to say that I'll no longer be writing for Examiner.com. Why? Several reasons, some of them being that I don't feel it is the sort of outlet for journalism that i want to be associated with. It also doesn't pay enough for the work you have to do, nor will I have time in the near future as I have plans to go back to school. Speaking of which, there are two programs in my area that I'm considering taking and wanted to ask your opinion. One is an Associates in Media Technology and the other is a BS in Communications. Both would help me to pursue my wish to become a legitimately paid games journalist. It's more a matter of money than anything else.

So, Blockbuster has entered the games by mail ring going up against companies like Gamefly. Now, I've been using Gamefly for years and I've never had any trouble with their service. In fact, I've enjoyed it so much that it's a rare occasion that I buy a game. In order to get on my shelf, a game has to offer continually changing gameplay. Games like LittleBigPlanet, for example. I'm also a user of Netflix instead of Blockbuster's rental service. What does that say about me? That I'm the anti-Blockbuster? Probably not. It's an issue of cost vs. product availability. For games, I've never been able to find a new release that I want a Blockbuster nor have I wanted to pay the outrageous fee they ask. Same deal with movies. But now, they're offering movies and games on the same plan for one cost. I've checked it out a few times and the more I look at it, the more I know that they're stretching the service too thin. Movies and games on the same plan will just take up space for one or the other. Maybe I'm wrong and the service will take off. If it does, they're going to have to seriously step up the availability of their new game releases.

I've begun to toy with the idea of making a weekly Podcast. What do you think? Don't know how nice (or horrible) of a broadcasting voice I have so you may not want to hear me.   read


8:59 AM on 11.06.2009  

Borderlands Review


Player(s): 1-4 (online)
Developer(s): Gearbox Software
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3 (reviewed), Windows

Addictive, that's what Borderlands is. It's a first person shooting loot-a-thon with RPG skill trees thrown in for depth. Sure you can play through it alone but you're much better off if you tackle the game with three of your friends. It's the multiplayer component combined with tons of guns that makes this such an addictive game. Welcome to Pandora, Vault hunter, you'll be spending hours here without realizing it.

There are two camps when it comes to cell-shading, those who approve and those who don't. I'm in the former camp as cell-shading doesn't bother me at all. I find that it really helped Borderlands to achieve that Mad Max look, that desolate wasteland full of sand, ruins, and trash. Everything looks like it's been pieced together from various other parts. Town walls look like sheet metal, toilets are left just lying around, and buildings have collapsed. It's a cell-shaded dust ball of a planet and, for the most part, it works. The characters are stylish and full of personality and the visuals really "pop" out well.

Gameplay is pretty simple. You'll pick one of four characters that each represents a different class or, in some cases, more than one class. Each of them, upon reaching level five, has access to a special skill that's set on a timer. Once you liberate the town of Fyrestone, Dr. Zed will begin the main quest line for you to follow. Not long after that the town's Bounty Board will open up, allowing you to complete side quests for additional experience.

Like most RPG titles, gaining enough experience levels you up. From there, you can spend an ability point on one of your character's various skills. These skills are broken down into three different trees and each tree has its own particular focus such as more damage or helping you survive longer. Each one of the four characters feels very unique with their own skills and weaknesses. You'll get enough points during your 50 levels to customize as you see fit by placing priority on whatever focus is more important to you or, if you play with a group of friends on a regular basis, whatever your team needs.

The game stays addictive by throwing tons of loot your way. Enemies drop anything from rare guns to more ammo, chests actually restock themselves after you exit the game, and the game scales the number and level of enemies according to how many people are playing at the same time. Of course, the higher the level of enemy, the better chance you'll have of finding that rare gun, shield, grenade mod, or class mod. Your group will be more than happy to run through an area until every corner is explored for that off chance of finding something really good. Frantic and fast paced gunplay helps out the loot hording as you'll never tire of blowing a psycho midget's head off at point blank range with a shotgun.

I want to get this statement out of the way and make it clear. I had fun with Borderlands. But, it needs to be said that the game is much more fun with more than one player. One of the biggest issues that I had with Borderlands is how repetitive everything is. Even though the visuals "pop" really well, they really begin to grow old quickly as every area looks so close to the last. Enemies are plentiful but there is little difference between them. You'll kill thousands of the same bandits throughout your time on Pandora. Even the music repeats itself as there is almost no variation to speak of in sound effects and music tracks. This repetition makes Borderlands boring very quickly if you're all by yourself.

The other major issue that I had was with the frame rate dropping. I'm not talking about a little dip here and there. I'm talking about a full blown stuttering affair. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it is highly annoying. There is really no excuse for this. It was enough at one point that I thought I was going to have to restart the game but it let it up as I was preparing to do so. Again, there is no reason or excuse for a title to do this anymore on any console.

Unfortunately, there are two more minor issues that need to be brought up. First, the AI is about as intelligent as a box of nails. Enemies don't flush you out of cover, they can't throw a grenade with any sort of accuracy, and sometimes they don't even turn around when you shoot them! You'll also notice that sometimes they'll run at you shooting, but they're doing this weird sideways moonwalk looking thing. Second, there is no sort of storage system other than your upgradeable inventory. In a game with this much loot you're bound to get something you just don't want to sell, but you're basically forced to because there's nowhere to store it!

I don't want you to think that I didn't have a good time with Borderlands because I did, for awhile. At this point, it sits on my desk unfinished. Why? Because I needed a break from how repetitive it became and because I am having issues finding good people to play with. When I do find a great group of people, it's hard to put the game down. With other people, even just one, it becomes a great title. Multiplayer was what Borderlands was designed for, and it shows. There is a great idea here, combining a FPS with a RPG, and with more polish it could've really been something special. Let's hope they improve on this idea should there be a sequel in the works.

What You Should Know:
+ Tons of guns!
+ Multiplayer is fantastic
+ Cell shading works well here, Mad Max would be proud

- It's way too repetitive
- Frame rate issues!
- No storage system
- A rock is more of a threat than the enemies

SCORE: 7.5

Rent or Buy?
If you're going to play Borderlands online, like it's meant to be played, then it's pretty much a must buy. You'll spend way too many hours playing it to justify such a lengthy rental.   read


10:49 AM on 10.30.2009  

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review


Player(s): 1-10 (online)
Developer(s): Naughty Dog
Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform(s): PS3

Nathan Drake is a talented man, a jack of all trades, if you will. He's an expert with firearms, he can solve even the most devious of puzzles, he's got charm that the ladies love, razor wit, and he can navigate through the environment like a freaking spider monkey. He also has the unfortunate talent of getting in way over his head. Uncharted 2 does everything better than the first with better gun-play, stealth elements, platforming segments, and a better story. And, as if the well crafted single player experience wasn't enough, it also throws in some well done and fun multiplayer to keep you coming back for more.

If you're familiar with the first Uncharted then you already have a good idea of what to expect from Uncharted 2. Chapters are normally divided by sections. You'll go through parts of platforming to get from point A to point B and sections of action packed gun fights that will have you ducking for cover. Drake does indeed climb like a monkey as he makes leaping over huge gaps look easy. The platforming parts of Uncharted 2 are almost puzzles in themselves as sometimes the clearest path to your goal isn't always laid out in gold for you. You're forced to stop and take a look around before you jump.

Taking on waves of soldiers is almost always a white knuckle ordeal. Enemies are smarter this time around as they'll move from cover to cover, keeping their heads down. They also don't hesitate to flush you out of cover with a well thrown grenade. You will always be out numbered and out gunned. Naughty Dog didn't wait long in the game to start tossing some very well armed bad guys your way either. You'll find enemy soldiers ranging from the simple to the walking tank. You'll pump round after round into them before they'll even become vulnerable.

Naughty Dog did a fantastic job in combining elements of the game together. Sometimes chapters aren't totally broken up between action and navigation. You'll spend a fair amount of time hanging from ledges, using them for cover, while firing at soldiers above or below you. At one point, you're actually stranded on a street sign while soldiers swarm the area forcing you to jump from one side of the sign to the other for cover while trying to fend them off. Another section, and my personal favorite, has you storming a moving train. You'll fight off a small army and a helicopter all while jumping from car to car, dodging missiles, bullets, and rail road signs. The gameplay is diverse enough to stay interesting throughout the whole experience.

Uncharted 2 is also easily the best looking game on the PS3 at this time. It's not one thing that makes it that way either but rather a combination of many factors. It's the little details like Drake's clothing staying wet for awhile after getting into water, or just the bottom of his pants legs if he walks through a shallow puddle that really adds a lot to the visuals. Tracks made in the snow, wind, waterfalls, every little thing is detailed. At first, you may not pay much attention to it but in between all the frantic adventuring you'll begin to really take notice. It's a gorgeous game that doesn't suffer from any noticeable graphical issues. The cut scenes are just another way to showcase how pretty and well animated everything really is. Characters move so naturally, they really pull you in with their body language.

Backing the breath taking visuals is a sweeping soundtrack that would be right at home in some action adventure movie. Every area has a fitting score that really adds a lot to the feeling. Gun fights are often backed up by a pulse pounding beat, while peaceful waterfalls roar to the sounds of music that would be right at home on a relaxation album. But it isn't the music that steals the show here, it's the voice acting. Every line spoken is delivered with just the right amount of that something special. You can tell the voice actors really got their characters. They put a lot of feeling into every joke, line, and serious moment. Without the quality voice talent, I firmly believe that Uncharted 2 wouldn't be the same great quality title that it is.

Once the story is over and the credits roll you can then go back to whatever chapter you would like in order to find all the hidden treasures and, more importantly, multiplayer is there to keep you busy. Old standards like team deathmatch and capture the flag are there but you'll also have the option to tackle chapters with a friend if you'd like. Other modes have you fighting off wave after wave of increasingly difficult soldiers or reaching a goal unseen by patrolling goons. Doing well gets you more experience and allows you to level up. This gives you access to boosters you can purchase to give your character different abilities like carrying more ammo or being more accurate with your favorite weapon type. Everything is balanced very well and you stand a great chance of taking someone down just as easily with a pistol as you would with another weapon given the right upgrades.

What few problems Uncharted 2 has, they're very minor and you may or may not even think of them as problems at all. Like the first Uncharted, later in the game you'll find enemies that make taking cover almost pointless. Now, you've spent the entire game making use of the fantastic cover system Naughty Dog put in place only to have it rendered almost entirely useless. Unlike the first title, these "zombies" are not easy to kill. As a matter of fact, they're incredibly hard to bring down and they attack in groups. Just two of them are enough to give you some serious problems. They not only charge right at you, but they also carry golden crossbows that do insane amounts of damage. The other issue I had is that jumps between platforms are not always the most clearly laid out affairs. There were many times that I died several times on the same section because I didn't know where I was supposed to jump from and to. I suppose this shows how good the environments are, but it does get a little old having to replay a section more than once just because you leap to your death. Checkpoints are placed almost constantly though so you'll probably be able to try the same jump again almost right away.

Uncharted 2 is the total package. It's got a little bit of everything for everyone. White knuckle action full of breath taking moments, clever puzzles, very talented voice acting, near perfect visuals, and a story that would be right at home in an Indiana Jones movie. Well balanced, addictive, and fun multiplayer adds replay value and will keep you coming back day after day. It comes so close to being perfect that you have to TRY to find flaws with it just to have something bad to say about it. From the opening moments to the last credit, Uncharted 2 is a masterpiece.

What You Should Know:
+ Best looking PS3 title to date
+ The voice actors should get awards
+ Fun and balanced multiplayer
+ Plenty of white knuckle moments

- You'll probably die on the same jump more than once
- Later enemies are incredibly hard to kill and render the cover system pointless

Rent or Buy?
If you don't plan on playing multiplayer very much and are more interested in a great single player experience then you're probably better off giving Uncharted 2 a very lengthy rental unless you want a title in your library that really shows what the PS3 can do.

SCORE: 9.5   read


10:07 AM on 10.23.2009  

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review


Player(s): 1
Developer(s): Rocksteady Studios
Publisher(s): Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, DC Entertainment
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best Batman game ever created. Not only is that statement true but I'll double it up with this; Batman: Arkham Asylum may just be the best super hero game ever created. It screams polish in every dark, creepy, and mysterious corner. The asylum itself is every bit a character and a presence as Batman, The Joker, and the rest his merry gang of psychopaths are. There are very few things to complain about as well, making this a title worth playing even if you're not a big fan of the Bats.

The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the game. You'll see a couple of familiar, but not necessarily friendly, faces as you help to escort The Joker through the halls of Arkham Asylum. Soon Joker's trap is sprung and you'll take control of Batman in what is provided as a "tutorial fight". It's here that one of the best features of Arkham Asylum is first discovered. The combat system is fun! Rocksteady did a brilliant job in making you feel like a total hand to hand combat master. Batman flows from one bad guy to the next, bringing down sweet pummeling justice with him. It's like watching some kind of deadly little ballet, only with a big guy dressed like a bat instead of a tutu. Even when enemies are about to attack, with one touch of a button you counter and keep your combat flow going.

This flowing combat does have a purpose. It builds up a combo multiplier which gives various effects ranging from more experience points given after battle to how much health is restored to you. Those experience points allow you to gain levels and each level you can pick one upgrade for yourself or one of your many gadgets. Those upgrades can even open up more combat options which allow instant take downs or even throwing three Batarangs at one time. My personal favorite is the Inverted Take Down, it allows Bats to grab a thug when then walk underneath him while perched on a ledge. And you'll have plenty of chances to make use of it as there are times when pure force will kill you quickly.

Sprinkled generously about Arkham are sections where Joker's goons got their little hands on some serious firepower. Running out in the open and trying to fight these guys is never the way to go. This is where the other brilliant section of gameplay comes in. Tapping a button sends you into "Detective Mode". Basically, you can see things the naked eye can't. Including skeleton frames of bad guys, even through walls! Armed thugs are highlighted in red, so you can't miss them. Detective Mode also allows you to see ledges that you can grapple onto, getting out of sight and to higher ground for a better look. From here it's a simple matter of waiting for someone to stray too far from his buddies. At that point, you have several options for taking him out. Grapple away from the body, rinse and repeat. Detective Mode even allows you to see the heartbeat of whatever enemy you're focused on and tells you what they're feeling. Normally scared batty! (You had to see that one coming didn't you?)

Batman and company have never looked so good outside of the comics. Every detail is clearly visible, even the seam work on the Batsuit can be made out. As you progress through the game, Batman's suit takes on more and more damage. Rips in his armor and cape can be seen. By the end, Batman looks like he's had a very bad night. Enemies have various expressions, and Batman's fist making contact with their face does look truly painful. The animation is fantastic as The Dark Knight's cape flows and "feels" thick. Enemies swing ball bats like they're going for a home run on your head and the more crazy inmates that call the asylum home run right at you looking totally insane. The asylum and the areas you explore are the true stars here. The place is creepy, every part of it. They did a great job of placing different environments within one island. From normal looking prison sections to lush, almost jungle like, gardens. Arkham Asylum is a beautiful but dark place. Batman couldn't ask for a more fitting battle ground.

If the visuals are the fish, then the sound work would be the chips. Rocksteady should be given a big cookie for bringing in some serious voice talent. If you ever watched the Batman animated series then you'll likely recognize most of the voices you're hearing. This makes the voice talent almost perfect. Mark Hamill's Joker IS The Joker, being just the right cross between hilarious and completely off his rocker and Arleen Sorkin brings Harley Quinn to life like no one else can. More than just the vocal talent, the whole soundtrack is just right. It's very fitting to the setting, being dark and moody at just the right moments while picking up the pace during the action.

There is very little I can find wrong with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Its biggest flaw would have to be that it is repetitive by nature. The whole game follows the same formula from the outset. Use Detective Mode to track whomever you need to find, fight some henchmen in one section and use stealth in another. Repeat this process and throw in the occasional trip into Bruce Wayne's worst fears, thanks to the help from Scarecrow, or boss fight and you've got the game in a nutshell. The whole island may look open for exploration at first but you can only get so far before something blocks your path, like an electronic gate, a wall, or some other form of obstruction that can't be cleared until a later time when you have the means to do so. This ends up tunneling you along to your next objective.

Multiplayer is also lacking, instead you have Challenge Mode. This allows you to replay some of the key sections of Arkham Asylum with different, increasingly difficult, objectives. It can be as simple as fighting a set number of enemies to as complicated as taking out all the bad guys at the same time without being seen. The PS3 version adds a little more to the variety by letting you play as The Joker who has his own set of challenges and plays completely different from Batman. Outside of Joker's challenges, Challenge Mode is still adding more repetition on top of things. The goals get more difficult but the area that the challenge takes place in doesn't change.

I was not the biggest fan of Batman before playing Arkham Asylum. Aside from the movies and cartoon series, I was not as familiar with Bats as I am with other super heroes. But, after spending some time with Bats and the gang, I have the urge to dive deeper into the series. Finding hidden items throughout the game, like taped interviews with the inmates, made me very curious about the history of the Batman series as a whole. I think that's one of the best things about the game. You don't have to be the biggest Batman fan to really enjoy it but you may just become one after playing it. Batman: Arkham Asylum manages to supply just the right amount of gameplay, visuals, voice work, and atmosphere to make it a must play title. Let's hope for some Robin co-op action in the very strongly hinted at follow up sometime in the future.

What You Should Know:
• Very impressive visuals and vocal talent
• Fantastic free flowing combat system
• Great look into the lore of the Batman series
• One of, if not the, best super hero game ever created so far

• It's repetitive
• No multiplayer

SCORE: 8.5   read


9:22 AM on 10.18.2009  

Too many games, too little time

Hello dear reader. You've probably noticed, being observant as you are, that there was no new blog for you this Friday. This is because I am on vacation. Don't worry, vacation is over tomorrow and it's back to work. Now that the explanation is out of the way, I can update you on what I've been up to. Buried in games! I rushed out to my nearest Toys R' Us on the 17th to make use of their buy two get one free deal and picked up Uncharted 2, Brutal Legend, and Batman: Arkham Asylum. I had already been working on Batman via a rental from GameFly but decided to pick it up as my freebie. You see, I'm the type that likes to play one game until I get through it before moving on to the next one. You'd think being on vacation would allow ample time to do just that given that I was already 20% complete when I bought it. But, sadly, no. You can't beat a game when you're out of town. I might be a bit behind but don't be surprised if you find a review of Batman up here on Friday.   read


4:37 PM on 10.08.2009  

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - Review


Player(s): 1
Developer(s): Rocket
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Platform(s): Wii

I try my best to never start out a review on the negative points of a game, but in the case of Gold's Gym Cardio Workout I feel that it's a necessity. The first thing you do when you load up the game is create a profile. This includes entering your height and weight in order to get your BMI number. Now, here is the biggest problem that I have with GGCW. A person's BMI can not be found solely on height and weight alone. Just entering your weight does not take your body composition into account. For example; a 6 foot, 200 pound body builder will have a totally different body composition than that of someone who is the same height and weight but never gets off their rump to do a single exercise. In other words, take the BMI that you get from GGCW with a grain of salt. If you really want to know your BMI then you need to go out a buy yourself a manual or electronic body fat caliper.

I have an advantage in reviewing Gold's Gym Cardio Workout in that I do not own or have ever played any other fitness title. This allows me to review the game just in the terms of how good or bad a workout it provides. It should also be noted that I exercise on a daily basis and have been doing so for years now, quite intensively so your mileage may vary depending on what kind of shape you're already in. That being said, I'm quite pleased in the quality of the workout you can get. Every time you start GGCW you're greeted by the trainer of your choosing. Then, you're offered the choice of doing a prepared workout or doing your own thing by going a'la carte.

The game's menu offers you the choice of three different workout options. Shape Boxing offers up a choice of three difficulty levels initially, with the final one opened up after you clear all of the workouts in the Advanced level. Routines here can last anywhere from six minutes to 20 depending on if you've chosen a warm-up, a full routine, and what difficulty level. Boxing Examination serves as a test on all the punches and moves you've learned while playing. Each of six exams open one at a time after clearing the previous one. Finally, Exercise offers a selection of mini-games that you can participate in should like to do so for fun and to burn a few extra calories. You can use the Wii Balance Board here, which opens up additional mini-games designed to make use of it.

You're given a choice of control types when you first make your profile. You may use the Wiimote and Nun chuck or two Wiimotes. If you've got two Wiimotes, I highly recommend you use that option as it provides a great increase in punch registry and your arms won't be tethered together. I am very impressed with how well GGCW receives punch and movement information. The game plays like a rhythm game. Think Guitar Hero with punches and dodging. A bar scrolls up the screen and you move according to your trainer's cues. Doing so with proper timing nets you a higher score and the better your results at the end of your workout, the higher your reward of Gold will be which is used to buy items like new clothes from the in game store. Timing plays a major role here and for the most part the two Wiimotes work very well. Timing on weaving can be tricky and will require some practice on your part.

The simply done characters and workout areas get the job done. It's very easy to see what your trainer is doing and mirror him or her if you wish. The backgrounds are simple and non-distracting, which is a design choice I'm sure. There isn't much character customization to be found and the characters do look rather blocky. But, you're "playing" for a workout, not to ogle over the visuals. The soundtrack does have well known tracks like Eye of the Tiger. But, you're going to be disappointed because they're all nothing more than midi. Not licensed songs. They work, but licensed tracks would have been great.

I found myself going straight to the Advanced level on the second day of working out with GGCW. I worked up a great sweat and I found that the routines are pretty fun. It's very easy to forget that you're working out and you'll feel like time has flown by on the longer workouts. This is a good thing as you may find yourself wanting to do more than one routine a day. Often, I would pick the one warm up that offered the highest calorie burn and two main routines. For someone in fairly good condition, you'll probably not find yourself out of breathe. For everyone else, you may want to progress slowly through the levels and work your way up so you don't feel overwhelmed. Overall, you get out what you put in. Throw your punches like you mean it and you'll find yourself a bit sore in the shoulders the next day. Sling your arms around lazily and you're just wasting your time. Is it a complete workout solution? No, you'll not find enough strength training here for that but it does provide most people with a fun option for their cardio.

What You Should Know:
• Fun & effective cardio workout
• Accuracy of motion control is impressive
• Nearly endless replay value

• False BMI calculation
• Midi music
• Very little character customization

SCORE: 8   read


1:35 PM on 10.01.2009  

Muramasa: The Demon Blade - Player Review


Player(s): 1
Developer(s): Vanillaware Ltd.
Publisher(s): Ignition Entertainment
Platform(s): Wii

It's rare, in these great times of ours, to find a game that's a throw back to the days of 2-D side scrolling beat-em-ups. Luckily, that's exactly what Muramasa: The Demon Blade is and with a little RPG thrown in for good measure. I wish I could say that it's all unicorns and gum drops and I wish I could say that Muramasa is perfect, but I can't because it's not. While it does have a few pot holes along its gorgeous roads, you'll still want to stop along and smell the roses.

I could probably write this entire review on just the visuals alone as they are easily the most noticeable aspect of Muramasa. You can see the love and care put into every detail. The characters, backgrounds, and details are so well done that it's almost as if you're playing a game set inside some traditional Japanese painting. You will find yourself going back and forth across the playfield just so you can drool over how pretty everything is. With settings that range from atop beautiful misty mountains into the fiery depths of Hell, it's all stunning and a joy to look at.

Battles are fast and fun. One button attacks and one button will activate your equipped sword's special attack. Items can be hot keyed and used quickly depending on what control scheme you're using as you can either use the standard Wii controller with chuck attached or the classic controller for a little added precession. Jumping is handled by pressing up on either set up. It is very easy to rack up a huge combo on enemies thanks to how fast you're able to attack. Combos are handled pretty much automatically, allowing you to pound the attack button and pull off some brilliant moves.

Exploring the world of Muramasa is done via a Metroid type map. You're able to move from area to area as you see fit providing you can get past various colored barriers, which you are able to "open" upon defeating bosses and acquiring deferent blades. Boss battles are often huge and impressive, with each boss having its own distinct look and attacks. It's worth noting that the two main characters of the game, Momohime and Kisuke, do not share bosses. They each have their own story and trials to pass.

It is worth noting that the music is almost as great as the visuals. Each area you explore has its own music and all the tracks sound quite good. Some are peaceful, and some are more upbeat but they all fit just right. The Japanese voice acting is spot on, and I'm thrilled they decided to go with it and sub-titles. I think it adds to the experience. If they had gone with translating to English, well, we've all heard what sort of results that may have gotten.

As is the case with many games of this type, the simplicity of Muramasa is also one of its few faults. Those brilliant combos I spoke of are repeated throughout the entire game, they really don't change no matter what weapon you have equipped. The types of enemies don't change much either, there's about three different types of ninja for example. They each look different and do slightly different things but they're still the same thing, they just swapped the color they wear and gave them a different weapon.

The other issue I had with the game is backtracking. You'll spend a lot of time backtracking through areas you've already been through and add to that the amount of emptiness you'll encounter while doing so because you may not see a single enemy for several areas. If they're going to make you backtrack half a dozen times, at least make it interesting. They did implement a crafting and cooking system to try and add some depth, and for the most part it does just that. But, you'll spend most of your time using whatever sword offers the highest attack regardless of any other benefit. Cooking, on the other hand, was a great idea as it's much cheaper to cook your health restoring items than it is to rely on buying them. And they're often better as well.

The last problem that I found may not bother everyone but I was troubled with it. Initially there are two difficulty settings. Muso is pretty much a cake walk through the whole game, so long as you swap out your blade before it breaks to one of your other two on backup you'll get through many battles without so much as a scratch on you because blocking is handled automatically. I even beat a couple of the bosses without taking a hit. Shura, the other difficulty level, is much more challenging. You don't auto block enemies so you'll need to be much more selective about when to block, deflect attacks, and launch your own assaults. There's no happy medium.

If you've been put off by the last three paragraphs, don't be. For these really are minor complaints about an otherwise fun title. Vanillaware did a great job trying to add some depth to keep you busy with the crafting, cooking, multiple character stories, and multiple endings. And the battles are still very fun even if they do get a bit repetitive by the end of the game. Will I say that Muramasa is a must own title for the Wii? No, probably not for most people, but I will say that it is a must play title. A little less repetitiveness and a little more depth would have made it a must own, so here's hoping these issues will be addressed should we be fortunate enough to get a sequel.

What You Should Know:

* Fast & Fun Beat-em-Up
* Gorgeous Visuals
* Great Soundtrack
* Multiple Endings

* Gameplay may get repetitive
* Backtracking through empty areas wears thin
* Unbalanced choices in difficulty settings

SCORE: 8   read


11:35 AM on 02.18.2009  

Flower Review


Player(s) - 1
Developer(s) - ThatGameCompany
Publisher(s) - Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform(s) - PlayStation 3

It's an interactive poem. That was my first thought the moment I started playing Flower. And I don't mean some crap written by a fourteen year old kid filled with angst, no my friends, we're talking about master work here. Flower is a relaxing and moving experience. If you've been avoiding it for some reason, stop. You deserve to play Flower, and be thankful that PSN has been blessed with such a title.



The game is simple really. You control the wind carrying a single flower petal and as you pass by other flowers they bloom and you pick up another petal. Pretty soon, you'll have a huge trail of flower petals behind you of various colors. Each of the levels found in Flower offer up different challenges, none of which are stress inducing or very challenging. The core goal in each level is to "awaken" the area. Basically, you're restoring the color and beauty to the world. There's no hurry though, you can float around on the breeze as much as you want before moving on. Using the motion controls to handle the direction of the wind works very well and is something you pick up on within less than five minutes of gameplay.



Flower has a wonderful soundtrack, one that was obviously designed to aid in your relaxation. You'll find no hard thumping rhythms here. Just peaceful pieces music that fit the gameplay nearly perfectly. There is some interactivity to be found even here as when you pass by a flower you'll get a musical note that fits the soundtrack of the level. It doesn't matter how fast or slow you progress, the notes you're creating never seem out of place. Even the effects are relaxing. From the sound of the wind cutting through the tall grass to rain gently falling, if you close your eyes you might as well be listening to one of those relaxation CDs.



The wonderful and relaxing music would all be for nothing if the visuals looked like mud on the side of a wall. It's a good thing that they've been given just as much care and attention as the finely crafted audio. Heaps of attention has been given to the grass in Flower. So much so that it's one of the more impressive aspects as it moves with the direction of the wind and parts like the red sea when you sore past close to the ground. The flowers themselves are brightly colored and incredibly vibrant which makes them stand out all the more against the drained back drops that you haven’t restored yet.



I can find little wrong with Flower, and what little there is I feel are more personal gripes than actual faults. For starters, it's a short title. Six levels to be exact. I suppose this should be expected for a ten dollar PSN game but it's enjoyable enough that it will leave you wanting more. Also, you're locked within a section of each level until you meet the requirements to progress onward. While these requirements could hardly be called challenging, I feel like Flower would have better been served if each level was fully open from the start. And, aside from finding each secret flower in every level or just wanting to show the game off, you really don't have much reason to replay Flower once you're finished. As you can see my list of complaints don't amount to much. Flower is every bit a title worth your purchase and very much a title worth being praised.

SCORE: 8.25 / 10   read







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