Wrapping up my last week of Summer, I thought I'd get one more review down the hatch. What exactly is this title that didn't get much coverage and why should you perhaps for once care about a WiiWare game? Because it's made by RedLynx, the folks that brought us the Trials series; also, it's a lot like Trials. The game's release sort of flew under the radar and being exclusive to the not so glamorous WiiWare service probably didn't help.
If you've played a Trials game before (hopefully you have as I'll be mentioning it way too often in this review), you have an idea of what you're in for. MotoHeroz is a sidescrolling time attack game that heavily revolves around you maneuvering your vehicle through a track to its end point. The tracks usually consist of a lot of platforms and physics based pathways making it feel more like a platformer than something like Excitebike. The structure itself is pretty straightforward with you having to complete a track by its specified time to move on to the next one with them unlocking in a linear fashion.
Unlike Trials, the game takes on a much more approachable presentation, opting for cartoony, exaggerated designs and environments reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country Returns (down to the wooden HUD, similarly enough). While the wide variety of vehicles and characters is well done, the game doesn't give many opportunities for them to be shown off, especially in singleplayer. Very early on, some of the tracks start off with dialogue that prefaces the event, but this concept is abandoned very quickly. You only have access to a single vehicle throughout the entire game (two in reality, but you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference). While the developer's rationale of allowing a single type of car's handling makes sense design wise, a simple cosmetic change to swap between the different vehicles would have still been nice.
Frankly, the WiiWare service hasn't been known for its standout titles. The few worth checking out don't usually get much attention or become irrelevant on WiiWare when they're eventually ported to other platforms. There's also the host of other problems associated with purchasing from WiiWare, although I'll avoid the trollbaitery. It is pretty safe to say though that MotoHeroz is one of those standout titles that's just plain good.
This is definitely RedLynx's most polished and well presented game. It's a small point, but while the menus are animated, they're very responsive and are topped off with glorious ambient playful music. The game runs at 60fps and manages to do so while managing some pretty complex visuals. For those not familiar with how a typical playthrough of a Trials game occurs, you usually succeed in one try or it'll take you many frustrating attempts to get by. The main thing that helps lessen that frustration is being able to quickly restart from the begining which this game fortunately let's you do. The downside is that instead of being bound to a single button as is the norm, you have to pause and select the restart option.
My biggest problem with the game is probably partly my own fault. From the cartoony visuals and Wiiware platform, I was assuming this would be a sort of Trials Light. Trials is up there with Super Meat Boy and VVVVV as one of those masochistic, soul crushing games. So I was caught a bit off guard when a large portion of the tracks I was finishing were starting to become milliseconds within the target finish time. Very commonly I'd do something like mess up on the landing angle of the first or second jump 10 seconds in and immediately restart. I like to think I'm at least average when it comes to these games, but many playthroughs of this had me having to stop altogether because I'd basically just hit an impasse and there's no way to advance until you beat the level you're currently on.
- Something good on WiiWare
- Great design, use of colours
- 4 player split screen
- May be too difficult for younger folks
- Is on WiiWare
- Lack of player customization/variation
The new season premiere of your favorite show is coming up in less than a week and I thought it would be the ideal time to lay down some words on the matter. For anypony not familiar with the series, Friendship is Magic is an animated show that follows Twilight Sparkle & co. as they live out their pony lives in the land of Equestria. Friendship is Magic has a large colt following spanning all ages and is lauded for being a show based on a brand for little girls that old people can watch unironically. But enough horsing around, time to name manes.
Celestia gets a top slot because she is the reason why all is well in the world and why ponies are the ones in control. There are lots of other species in the land such as buffalos, dragons, griffons, etc. but ponies wear the pants. After beating up her sister for her powers, she now controls day and night and that's pretty sexy.
Applejack is the only original pony from the days gone by ponies of Generation 1 meaning as they died off one by one, Applejack lived on. She is the best and only pony of the main ponies that matters. If Friendship is Magic was The Office, Applejack would be Jim, Dwight, and Karen combined. She is an earth pony meaning unlike unicorns and pegasi, she has to get things done with her own four hooves.
Oops, rather late on this one. Had a bit I wanted to elaborate on but between recovering from PAX and all the new releases and other write ups I wanted to do, this fell by the wayside. This focuses on a lot of minutia revolving around the Cblogs section but it's also picture heavy so hopefully I don't lose your beautiful, wandering eyes.
I'm planning on throwing up a contest sometime this weekend. You might have caught my initial post detailing it earlier this week that I took down after deciding to retool it a bit. Prizes abound!
As another random aside, I've finally gotten around to catching the Dtoid live streams and I've clearly been missing out. Loaded up some War Inc. Battlezone after getting ahold of one of the promo codes being given out (god bless you, Pico) and got some matches in. I highly suggest you play it if you're ever in doubt about your skills as a gamer, working people over is a breeze.
The first part I want to address are all the redundancies in links and the worst offender. The four sections circled above all literally lead to the same place and that's just no bueno. Starting from the bottom up
- The "all blogs" link is the one I tend to use since it's so close, but it's not really necessary otherwise as I expand on that later.
- The link in the main menu bar I think makes most sense and is fine where it is.
- The bottom header image under the Dtoid community logo I think should stay the same provided that the top header gets switched to the main logo and links back to the main home page.
My reasoning for replacing the Dtoid community logo and having it lead back to the main site is mostly one of consistency. I threw up some obvious examples for reference, but for the most part, that real estate on a website is usually the part of a site I use whenever I'm on any section of any site and I want to get back to the very main page.
I think then that justifies having the bottom header image link to the Cblogs main page and reduces the redundancy factor. I could be alone in this but I find whenever I want to head back to the homepage while in the Cblogs section, hitting the Home link along the main menu bar feels a bit awkward.
Next up is the menu bar right over the blog posts and why I think it could ultimately be removed. Going in a random order
- The "your blogs" link can be safely removed. I'm pretty sure it's been broken since forever so clearly no one finds a use for it. You can actually tell what the error is and where it's supposed to link if you compare the url it links to with the url of the "edit your blog" link at the very top of your page.
- The "comments" link I think could be reappropriated somewhere in the sidebar.
- The "your blogs" link is redundant given that there would be two more logically placed locations for it above.
- The "your friends" link is redundant with the one on the top right of your page near where your username is. I personally don't use this feature much anyway.
- Thinking about the last one makes me snicker since it took me a while to realize what its point was. Personally, I just click on the user's image blog header to return to their main blog if I'm on one of their specific posts, though I get the importance of a text link if the user doesn't have one. I think this feature could get reappropriated to the side bar as well.
There's a number of very minor graphical bugs in the site layout but the first one throws me off the most since it sticks out farther than it should by a pretty noticeable margin if you're looking straight at it. The green lines are for reference on how the different elements line up. The ad and the community header are the same height so it'd make simple sense for them to be lined up vertically.
Here's my vision of an improved page, click to embiggen! Lots of little graphical fixes and a nice side benefit of removing a lot of the clutter is saving on a good amount of vertical space which leads to less scrolling.
The biggest omission I didn't get to above is straight up removing the links for looking up tagged articles. I think they're perfectly valid on the main site (although I don't use them there either), but I can't imagine many people use them in the Cblogs section. If you're already in the Cblogs section then you're probably specifically concerning yourself with blog related activities and would then rather first return to the main site before looking up any articles.
Here's a side by side comparison, also click to embiggen!
Leading up to its release, I had no clue on what this game had going for it. Hadn't seen any gameplay videos or previews and aside from some banners at PAX and making the front page of Steam, this probably would have gone over my head. Eventually checking out the demo, I was sold after the first 30 minutes.
The long and short of the game is that it's a third person shooter with a bit more of a focus on melee than the norm. The level structures are linear with you normally having to clear out an area before being able to move on. It really doesn't divulge from this formula for most of the game. It's nothing ground breaking in that regard.
Where the game shines is the feeling of the gameplay and how well realized the world is. Everything from shooting any of the weapons to swinging around the chainsaw sword feels very satisfying. Even the tiny nitpicks I have in third person games such as the speed and angle the camera pushes in when you pull up your gun to aim is all handled perfectly.
As far as the particulars of how the game plays, there is no cover system. While it sounds absurd or might even possibly be a sticking point, I personally didn't feel a single point in the game where one would have made playing more enjoyable. Anytime you do have to methodically pick off enemies, positioning yourself behind objects while doing it was no issue.
Space Marine has recharging armor, but the main way to restore health is by executing enemies. This involves either damaging them enough through any means or using your stun attack on them followed by hitting the execute button. This feature also works all well and good. One design choice I am torn about is that when you're pulling off these executions (which can get pretty lengthy), your character is still susceptible to damage (unlike Halo: Reach, for example). I understand why they do it, but I feel like more of a middle ground could be made in giving you just a bit of invulnerability towards the begining of the process.
The melee system itself is pretty straightfoward and nothing that requires a large memorization of buttons. Basically, you have a one, two, or three swing combo with the ability for the first two swings to end with stuns instead. There are a few different melee weapons, but like all the other weapons in the game, one isn't necessarily better than the others in the same class. It's a pretty good feeling to rip through hoards of enemies charging you and while the moves you pull off aren't the most elaborate or technical, it doesn't get old.
The rest of the weapons are all great to use with none of them really feeling like wasted opportunities. You can carry up to four weapons being a pistol, rifle, and two speciality weapons. In a lot of other shooters that have loads of guns, you typically find the few you like and cling on to them. In Space Marine, you'll seldom run into a scenario where a particular loadout you have might make it more difficult than if you went with something else which frees you up to experiment as you wish.
The structure of the levels is pretty standard in terms of third person shooters. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with it, but you are essentially making your way from point A to B occassionally having to interact with objects in the process. One thing about the level designs that did disappoint me is that there is very little in the way of memorable setpieces. Most of the memorable events are front loaded in to the game with most of the second half of the game's environments all sort of running together.
Another issue I had with the game is that the checkpoints can get rather tedius and cruel. It's not so much that there are hard sequences where checkpoints afterwards that aren't there should be, but they're set up in a way that you can spend a large amount of time before hitting the next checkpoint and that sheer amount of time can be a bummer if you die at the last moment. They're also occassionally paced awkwardly and can place you all the way at the start of a level making you run for quite a while before getting back to the action.
One of the biggest draws back when first playing the demo is that the graphics are rather lovely. The way the metal armor and orks render and never have that overly shiny, glossy look to them is very groovy. All the crazy ornate decorations and objects hanging off the space marine armor keeps it very interesting. I'm suprised they pulled the aesthetics of the space marines' huge armor off at all as it always seemed to me to be proportioned that way only to make it easier to recognize on the table top.
The multiplayer is pretty much what you'd expect. There's a team deathmatch and a control point mode along with a hefty number of weapons and armor pieces to unlock. They've also announced a free DLC game mode which'll introduce 3 person co-op hoard mode. The game does the typical loadout system and you can select different ones in between lives. It plays pretty much like Gears of War on steroids given the wider variety of abilities. Given how well Relic's first shooter did, it's a suprise they pulled off such a competant shooter and hopefully this brings the WH40k universe to more people (as it did for me).
- Great PC port
- Good length
- Satisfying combat
- Wonky checkpoints
- Lack of evenly placed set pieces
- No custom control binding
- No push to talk in multiplayer
As I sit here twiddling my thumbs waiting for Space Marine to unlock, I thought I'd squeeze one more PAX post out before shutting the books until next year. Not as attention grabbing as "Top 5", but there's a few cosplayers I couldn't find any photos of on Flickr that weren't all rights reserved so concessions had to be made. Checking out the recent Dragon*Con photos coming out, I'd say the west coast totally trumps in terms of dressing up as fictional characters. Step up your game, Georgia.
Pretty rad Ulala. Nailed the normal outfit aside from the gloves lookin a bit loosey goosey on their fit. Very groovily had an entire alternate outfit as well. Nice to see slightly more obscure characters getting quality outfits.
Loads of Chells this year and an interesting amount of abstract Aperture Science themed outfits. This cosplayer had the best Portal gun from what I saw. I had another Chell in mind to choose before realizing that it was because their jumpsuit consisted of orange tights with an orange shirt wrapped around their waist.
It was a tossup between this MK group and another, all of which were crazy elaborate. I mean, look at those masks. How do you even do that. The other group had a pretty rad fem Scorpion and Sub-Zero which were decked out better than a lot of the official booth models.
Pulled off the fairly complicated outfit of Vanille with all of its little knick knacks. Bonus points for being the only cosplayer I saw do a bunch of the booth photo taking promos in costume. More bonus points for being one of the few cosplayers to actively have an online presence.
Great, believable take on Peach. Wig gets across those hair poofs pretty elegantly. Also avoids the two things that are usually off putting on Peach cosplay in that the colours aren't super saturated and the materials aren't reflecting the sun (shiny fabric usually comes across as cheap, Halloween costume looking to me).
Zeno Clash is a weird game. When people bring up examples of games that do first person melee, the list usually reads as Dark Messiah, the Condemned series, and Zeno Clash. I haven't tried out the Condemned games before, but I assume in terms of just fist on fist action, Zeno Clash goes the most indepth with its systems. I also thought it'd be nice timing to look at this game as well since the developer's other project, Rock of Ages, comes out in a few days.
This will probably be the end of these Source game write ups for a while. If you haven't been following, Source & Sorcery are little looks at third party Source games that usually try to include a focus on their Source engine merits. Garry's Mod is the last Source game I have and the way it automatically installs other Source games you own to fill out its models section is a turn off.
In other news, I've updated the list of PAX galleries from my last post, so if you need photos of a lady dressed up as Peach to make it through those lonely nights, them Flickr links are your oyster. I also just ran through the Space Marine demo and I have clearly been missing out (it's not too shabby).
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Developer: ACE Team
Platforms: PC, XBLA
Steam Store Page
Zeno Clash is a really weird game. Not in terms of gameplay, but the universe it's set in and the aesthetics. It doesn't make any qualms about trying to be grounded in any sort of logic or have some kind of recognizable societal hierarchy. Things and characters appear and behave in certain ways and you just have to accept their oddities.
At its core, the game consists of small arenas that pit you against a small number of opponents you primarily deal with with your fists until you can move onward in a linear fashion. The meat and potatoes comes from how you vary up the combos you have while fighting and positioning yourself around enemies using the lock on system.
This is by far the most visually unique game on Source. Every character you fight against has a unique character model and as far as I can tell a unique species. All the environments, structures, and weapons look very alien to the point where it may be offputting. Technically speaking, this is also one of the most visually impressive Source games.
There's a heavy emphasis on DOF and motion blur and it seems to be more convincing than the cheaper variations you find of it in Source games like GMod. A lot of the creatures you'll run across are huge and nicely idly animated in the background. There's a level where they tie a dynamic light to your view so any place you look, shadows are constantly being cast which is a pretty impressive effect that's usually tied to events and objects in the environments instead.
One area where the game lacks is the voice acting. All the straight voice acting feels like the actors are literally tired or unmotivated. Any of the dramatic voice acting sounds either forced or like they're acting too hard and contrasts oddly with the straight voice actors. The VA audio doesn't mix in well with the rest of the game and has a too close to the mic sound. Another area lacking in the game are all the camera movements during the cutscenes. They try to play around a lot with using dutch angles but panning cameras in Source games never animates smoothly and usually just looks really stilted.
My problem with the combat is that the pacing feels at odds with how deliberate they've designed the moves to be. Every single action you do feels like it takes slightly longer than you'd like. From when you throw a punch and it doesn't connect, to your punch being blocked, to the stun you get when your punch gets interrupted, to when you miss a kick. Even after every "successful" action, you're faced with a delay that breaks up any sort of flow or momentum you build up on top of them already implementing a stamina system to try and further limit you.
Another odd design choice is them only allowing you to look a certain angle downwards. I imagine they did this so it'd be easier to find the correct spot to look at (kicking involves the regular attack button looking downward), but this really breaks your ability to quickly (and normally, in a lot of cases) pick up items and weapons off the ground in a hurry.
I'm not so sure I'd pay $15 for it at a time like this when digitally distributed games are much more abundant than they were in 2009, you could probably do better for your money. It is definitely a game worth checking out though on sale if only to see the ridiculous art and world they've created.