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Review Drama

Fragile gamer says she just can't handle Destructoid reviews anymore (Fauxclusive)

She can't even
Nov 10
// CJ Andriessen
Wiping a stream of tears from her cheek, New Jersey gamer Claudia Bennet confirmed today she can no longer deal with reviews from "I just don't understand," Bennet cried while clutching her copy of Fallout 4....

The wackiest Destructoid reviews of 2011

Dec 27 // Jim Sterling
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PlayStation 3)Score: 7.5 The rage started early this year with a 7.5 for this PS3 exclusive and a hefty dose of resulting rage. For those not in the know, a PS3 exclusive is never allowed to score lower than a nine, otherwise 13-year-olds around the world collectively shit themselves, smell the shit, and type literal equivalents of what they smell as comments on blog posts. The game did get a good score and a recommendation that fans buy it, but that didn't stop people telling me on Twitter that I "won't stop the game selling," as if my goal was to bankrupt Media Molecule. Anger around the Web was worse than on Destructoid itself, but this article thread still contains some idiotic gems. Star Comment: "Alright, who fucked up and gave this fat ass an A grade release to review? Go back to your fritos and Sonic manga you fucking joke and let the real writers review these games." Hyperdimension Neptunia (PlayStation 3)Score: 3.0 It's hilarious that so much anger blew up around this review because, seriously, who the Hell is playing Hyperdimension Neptunia now? I am fairly certain most of you didn't even remember it existed before now, if you even knew it existed in the first place. In any case, I can attest that the game is just as bad as Matthew Razak said it was. In fact, I practically begged him (or anyone else) to review this because I found it too painful to play, despite having looked forward to the game so much. Still, at the time, fans were sneeringly accusing Matthew of not understanding the game, while playing one of their most popular cards -- claiming the reviewer was playing "out of his genre." This is a very common method by which reviews are invalidated, stating (without evidence) that the reviewer has never liked a game in a particular genre, so his opinion can be discounted. I guess that's easier than defending your shitty game. In any case, people got mad over Hyperdimension Neptunia, and now nobody remembers it. What was the point? Star Comment: "Pfft, whatever. I was just in it for the lolis anyways." Ys I & II Chronicles (PSP)Score: 3.0 If there's one thing this year taught me, it's that people do NOT fuck about when it comes to weird little JRPGs. We had Darren Nakamura review this PSP title and people got pissed. While it only received 78 comments -- low by shitstorm standards -- there was a lot of rage to go around. Darren was accused many times of being "wrong" with the review or of writing a half-assed article, but nobody seemed to be able to point out what was so wrong with it. Yet again, he was accused of not liking the genre, even though he does, and writing an unfair review. Despite not blowing up to the degree that other reviews on this list did, it contains pretty much every example of how not to deal with a review that you disagree with. Worthy reading for research purposes. Star Comment: "Darren Nakamura once again proves that he's a fucking idiot. News at 11." The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC)Score: 6.0 This review became such a shitstorm that, even six months on, people still reply to a 6.5 review score with "At least it's better than Witcher 2." In truth, this highly regarded RPG had a lot going for it -- it was grown-up, looked gorgeous, and stood out as a seriously solid PC exclusive. However, due to a range of problems that conflicted with its ability to be fun, the game was merely decent at best. It was an okay game, but Witcher 2 wasn't spectacular. Believe some commenters, however, and you'd think I hated the game beyond all reasonable contempt. The review peaked at 622 comments, with very few of them actually defending the game or arguing the review's points, instead focusing on my marvelous breasts or lack of talent. One particular comment declared that The Witcher 2 was "for the master race, not you damn console derps," and that we should "leave [his] games alone and enjoy [our] own boring filth." A lot of PC elitists crawled out of the woodwork to cry foul and crow about their superiority, because PC gamers are fun like that.  Star Comment: "My God this guy is a joke! A 6?? What a dumb azz like somebody else said if it was Mario or pokemon he would have gotten an erection! If you are a fan of rpgs you will love it don't listen to this jack-azz!!!!" Duke Nukem Forever (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Score: 2.0 Whatever score it was getting, Duke Nukem Forever was going to be a wild review. It was one of the most famous cases of videogame vaporware in history, finally resurrected and released, with hype going through the roof. Unfortunately, the actual game was an offensive, insulting exercise in horrible gaming. Levels felt literally patched together from bits of random code, the combat was mediocre and repetitive, and the overall game resembled some troubled, canceled, sloppy title from over a decade ago -- which is what it was. People got mad, but it was Jim Redner, head of the Redner Group, who got the maddest. He was the PR rep for DNF, and he complained about "venomous" reviews (particularly a certain 2/10 one) and threatened to blacklist a number of publications. He later apologized for this threat, but his behavior is still remembered and is solidified as part of Duke Nukem Forever's fucked-up legacy. Star Comment: "I think I hate you. Never before have I read such a harsh review for a good game. You are worse than all of IGN put together." Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS)Score: 4.0 This may be my favorite review of the year. I haven't gotten around to playing my copy of Solatorobo yet, but whether I like it or not, I respect Allistair Pinsoff's willingness to damn the trolls and say what he thinks. This is a guy that truly gets what Destructoid reviews are about, which is why I am proud to have us feature his writing. In any case, he didn't like this game at all and gave it a 4/10. The fallout that followed, for an obscure DS RPG, was intense. This little review garnered a staggering 579 comments, although part of the blame must go to the evil tag team of Jonathan Holmes and Tony Ponce who were stoking the fires of fanboy rage in a deliberate effort to break the 500-comment barrier. Destructoid's resident village idiot Stealth also contributed hugely, rushing to post "bullshit review" and then spending the entire thread going apeshit. On the first page of comment alone, Stealth had racked up 12. The whole thread is worth reading to watch a random kid having a nervous breakdown over a random review on the Internet. Star Comment: "For the record personal opinion should never be in reviews ever. If that was the case for different people every game of a particular genre would get a 1. Just based on there personal opinion."A review is a critical examination of a game and only that game. Not based on something else." Batman: Arkham City (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Score: 8.5 One of the most ridiculous controversies of the year, I actually got hate mail from a reader furious about this low score. He called Destructoid gay and asked why we gave Arkham City "such a sting" with the review score. I mean, really, 8.5 is a "sting" now. This review really typified the "hate out of ten" phenomenon that's swept gamers (and at least one developer) this generation, where great review scores are despised for not being great enough. It's a really sad direction to head in. Naturally, some accused the review of looking at Metacritic and deliberately scoring lower, even though the review went up at the same time as everybody else's, so that would've been impossible. For many, it didn't matter how good the score was -- it was the lowest score on Metacritic at the time, and that meant the review was horrible. It's quite frightening how some gamers want all reviewers to have exactly the same opinions. When it gets to that point, we might as all just publish the game press release and call it a review. Seriously, this growing desire for the game community to enter an Orwellian dystopia is fucking alarming. Star Comment: "Good to see Jim is at his main game as always: ATTENTION SEEKING. If this game was an 8 Jim would give it a 5, just so people would see the metacritic and say WTF and come here and see why. That's OK Jim, we know that anything Kirby is a 10/10 game. Keep it up Jim! Busy now. Will come back and chat later. This review gets its own score: 3/10!" Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Score: 9.5 Every year, gamers react to one particular review in a way that shocks me completely. This year, Modern Warfare 3 took the prize with a reaction I have never before seen and may never see again. The sheer anger, hatred, and outright spite this review got was utterly astounding, and I still haven't quite worked out what went wrong. I am aware that it's become cool to hate Call of Duty now, but I didn't realize people hated it so much that they attacked anybody who liked it. This may be the first positive review I've seen that caused such levels of anguish and fury. Usually, a positive review makes fans happy while non-fans simply ignore it. That did not happen this time around, and you can almost feel literal heat when you open the review up and look at the comments. It seems some people were bitterly disappointed that I did not attack the game for them, seeming to believe that reviewers are now hired hitmen who carry out drive-by criticisms of games on command. Sadly, we're not. I still like Call of Duty and I loved Modern Warfare 3. People will need to deal with it. Holy shit though, this one had me in shock for a few days. I still can't get over just how mad people got at somebody enjoying a videogame! Star Comment: "9.5 for a cut n paste of MW2, 5hr campaign & same again MP. Wonder how much Jim Sterling got paid by EA ? Hes just a wannabe kneejerking to make MW3 seem cool & get his SE/LE copies."

Destructoid reviews can get something of a ... spirited ... reaction from readers. Our scores don't always line up with the majority of other publications, and some gamers can't stand that. However, as we learned this year, e...


Presenting the new-look Destructoid reviews format

Dec 06
// Jim Sterling
We at Destructoid are always looking to improve our reviews. They're a huge part of our site and one of the most controversial aspects of any videogame community, so ensuring that reviews are clear, concise and fair should be...
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The Official Destructoid Review Guide

Average starts at five, not seven
Jun 16
// Chris Carter
It's been quite a while since we've updated our reviews guide from 2011, and now is as good a time as ever to set the record straight once again, and keep our readers informed of the review process. Please read this (or at least skim it over) before you send us hate mail over a high or low review. To facilitate that process, I'll keep things brief and focus mainly on the major points.

Destructoid review: Mahjongg Artifacts 2 (PSP minis)

Nov 05 // Dale North
Mahjong Artifacts 2 (PSP minis)Developed by Shape GamesPublished by Shape GamesReleased on October 22, 2009 (PlayStation Network) It goes down as always: Tiles with different pictures are spread out on a board. You pick the ones that match and remove them from the board, with the goal of removing them all eventually. The rule, as always, is that you can only remove tiles that are not covered, and are open on their sides. If you're rusty or new to mahjongg, the title comes with a solid tutorial to play through. Pairing tiles is much more fun that it sounds, and the spins that Mahjong Artifacts 2 puts on the classic game keeps things interesting. Random tiles have an embedded pearl in them, and a successful match with these tiles frees the pearl for your collection. These pearls can be used for special moves to help you along. These moves range from rewinding your last move to shuffling the entire board to help you out in a pinch. On top of that, special game tiles do similar things, like freeing up stuck tiles. Both of these twists add a bit of new strategy to the old game. I found myself hoarding pearls to make sure that I was able to dig myself out of bad plays. The game boards represent different locations across the world, and the tiles' art changes accordingly. This is all to draw the player into a story that is told before game boards are laid out. These stories are presented in comic book style. Unfortunately, the story makes little to no sense to me, and the art for these comics ranges from bad to just plain sad. I suppose that if I had played the first game, the story elements would be a tad bit more interesting, but from what I saw, it didn't seem like it was going anywhere. The art is pretty bad. Fortunately, the mahjongg action is good. Game boards start out simple, but become insanely complex (in a good way) as the game progresses. In these later stages, I found myself wishing that the d-pad-controlled tile selection was a bit more intuitive. It works, but sometimes it's hard to determine which tile you'll be selecting with directional presses. A free-moving camera, controlled by the analog stick and L and R buttons, makes navigating these large game boards a bit easier. On top of this, hitting the select button toggles a highlight function that shows only playable titles. It's kind of a cheat, but it makes the d-pad problems a bit more tolerable. Look, it's mahjong. This isn't the next big thing. It's a fun, casual game that will fill in the gaps between your action games and hardcore role-playing games in your PSP library. It's a great road trip game, with its 100 game boards and various game modes. I can wholeheartedly say that it's worth the $3.99 asking price...if you like mahjong. Score: 6.5 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)

It's mahjongg. I'm not going to tell you that this is some groundbreaking videogame. But I will say that I played the hell out of this title. It seemed to fill some gap in my PSPgo library that I didn't know needed filling. S...

Destructoid review: Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble

Oct 28 // Dale North
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (PSP)Developer: SpikePublisher: AtlusReleased: November 10, 2009In Kenka Bancho, you play as this badass, a delinquent that the Japanese call a bancho. As soon as your bus arrives in beautiful Kyoto, you can start causing trouble, just like any good bancho. In fact, you're encouraged to cause trouble, as that's they only way you'll earn the respect of all the other schools' bancho out in Japan's most popular field trip spot. You're free to bash in the face of any bystander or citizen of Kyoto in this sandbox-ish game, though you'll get farther by taking on punks from other schools. By doing this, you'll not only increase your fighting power, but you'll come across clues that lead you to where your fellow bancho will be during this week-long field trip. Armed with other schools' itineraries, you can be at the right place at the right time to take down each bancho, one by one, until you've dominated Japan, all from the lovely scenery of Kyoto.The game plays out in the seven days of this field trip, giving you a limited time to become the head bancho. You'll have to check your watch often, as you don't want to miss key battle opportunities, and you don't want to get in trouble for missing curfew. Sure, you could wander around town to check out the sites, but you'll end up going home the same way you came, missing the opportunity to be the bancho. Hurry up and die -- I have a text message! Kenka Bancho is an action brawler, a beat-em-up, meaning that your rise to the top will involve plenty of kicks and punches. Two face buttons do most of the action, but there are also throwing and blocking moves. As you defeat other thugs and level up, you'll be able to customize your fighting movesets by adding new moves. Everything from slaps to wrestling moves can be earned, and they help mix up the fight.Movement is controlled by the PSP's analog nub. You're free to move in 3D space, which is mostly fine for non-battle navigation, but becomes a bit troublesome in a fight. It sometimes becomes difficult to pinpoint the direction you need to face to correctly land a punch or kick with the analog nub. The camera, which is manually controlled with the d-pad, makes things even a bit more hairy. Luckily, most encounters involve only a few opponents, and the game is pretty fair about not dog-piling you while you're trying to figure out the controls. Setting up movesets. Initiating a fight is as simple as punching someone upside the head, but there's a more stylish way to propose a squab. A stare-down with your "menchi beam" sends bolts of murderous intent from your eyes. You can guide this beam into anyone else's eyes. Some may run off in fear, but those prepared to take on your challenge will confront you. Trash talk happens after this, and you'll work to throw out some of your own in a timed button pressing minigame. Do it right and you'll throw out harsh words, giving you the fight advantage. Do it wrong and you'll look like an idiot. Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble won't win any awards for presentation, though it is not that bad for a PSP title. The 3D models of the characters are pretty basic, and there's really not much going on to differentiate them from each other, as everyone is in school uniforms. The story elements are a tad bit more visually interesting, though facial close-ups and rough eye and mouth animations look like what you might expect from an early PS2 title. There is a nice visual style overall, though, and the backgrounds and settings keep things interesting. The musical score ranges from saxophone-laden elevator music to energetic guitar rock. Unfortunately, you'll hear these same songs over and over, and you'll likely grow sick of them before the game is over.This game is bananas. As you'd expect from a game that revolves only around kicking and punching, things can get a bit repetitive. It's not a deal breaker, though. Thankfully, the fighting manages to stay fun, and there is enough story elements and and interesting setting changes to keep you going. Again, props to the localization crew at Atlus, as the game's story and dialogue are quite funny. In all, there's enough here to keep you playing. There's plenty of enjoyment to be found in Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble. I found that the game was best appreciated in small doses, though. It makes for a solid portable game, as you can switch your PSP on, beat some ass, and then shut it back off. If you're looking for innovation or depth, you'll have to look elsewhere. This is a game that does not take itself seriously. Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble is all about mindless fun, and we think that's pretty badass.Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

You know how it goes. There's always that one badass at school that no one messes with. Everyone around knows that this particular badass has dignified himself by pulling enough sucker punches and breaking enough noses over t...

Destructoid review: Forza Motorsport 3

Oct 13 // Dale North
Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360)Developer: Turn 10 StudiosPublisher: MicrosoftReleased: October 27, 2009MSRP: $59.99, $79.99 for Collector's Edition You know how this works by now. You start out by hopping into a starter car, usually some low end hatchback car, you enter a race, win, collect your winnings, and then use it to buy a bigger and better car. Repeat and repeat again until you're the best racer that ever lived with every car ever created.  Conceptually, that's about all you'll get out of a racing title. At its roots, this is how Forza Motorsport 3 works. But that's not what makes it great. Let me tell you what makes it great. Even the "crap car" looks nice! This is the most beautifully conceived racing simulation I've ever played, and it all has to do with the control. Simply put, you feel like you're really racing. Through technology, physics, modeling, previous game experience and many other things I can't even begin to pretend to understand, Forza Motorsport 3 manages to blur that line between game and reality. I often found myself "in the zone," fully connected and focused only on the gas and brake pedals, feeling how the weight of my car shifts when I brake, looking into the horizon to where I expected to be in seconds. The illusion is so great that I've often found myself shifting my real-world weight into turns, griping my controller as tightly as I'd grip a steering wheel if I were moving at 90 miles per hour. The realism continues in-race, as the artificial intelligence used here is second to none. Simply put, your opponents are road-hogging assholes that know how to race.  I could spew a bunch of technical terms that I don't fully understand, but I'll say this instead: For reasons I'll never fully be able to explain or quantify, Forza 3 is the most realistic racing experience I've ever had, and this alone makes it the best racing game I've ever played. But there's more. There's a huge game under the hood. Turn 10 calls it an automotive playground, and I'd say that's a pretty accurate assessment. For starters, there's over 400 cars and 100 tracks to tackle. That might sound daunting, but Turn 10 managed to tweak the single-player experience to where you don't feel like you're aimlessly racing. In Season Play, you start out with your low-end car and low-end racing event, marked on a personalized calendar. Upon completion, three more race options are presented, this time with slightly higher-classed cars and race stakes. Pick what you like, and the next race dates will be marked on the calendar. You just show up, win, and collect your prize money. You'll move from event to event like this, with championship races interspersed. There are over 200 events, and you'll have to play the game more than once to experience them all. The beauty of this is that you're never racing in events that you don't care for -- you can play the career mode as you'd like. As races are completed, players will receive both credits and experience points. Credits let you purchase more cars from the 50-something manufacturers in the game and upgrade them to your heart's content. You'll always get credits for finishing a race, but you'll earn more for driving better, or for shutting off any of the game's many assists. Damage your car by running into others, and your credits will be docked. Experience points go into both your individual cars and yourself, as a driver. Cars get better with age in this game through EXP, and the experience points the player receives goes toward gift cars that are unlocked as they progress.  Lovely winding roads. Getting that credit and experience is easy at first, but as the game progresses, and the speed of cars and difficulty of courses progresses, you'll have to be a much better racer to win. Thankfully there's a rewind feature. I've never been totally keen on do-overs in a racing game, but somehow the white knuckle races in Forza 3 make me glad that you're able to hit the Back button and retry that last bad turn. And as damaging your car negatively affects both its performance and the amount of credits you'll receive, rewinding a big crash or crunch is a pretty good idea. To me, damage modeling in races sets Forza apart. When collision and its effects on the vehicle are not accounted for, a very real and large aspect of racing is being left out. Thankfully, Forza 3 manages to keep it fun. A terrible driver will pay the consequences, but as long as you're not constantly plowing into cars, you'll do fine.  Before you smash your cars up, they look beautiful. Forza 3 goes out of its way to appeal to the car lover in you, with showroom floor-style presentations so shiny that you want to reach out and touch them. Thankfully, cars look just as amazing on the tracks and in motion, as Forza 3 has to be one of the smoothest looking racing titles ever. Cars look strikingly realistic taking corners, as you can see how their weight shifts as they brake. The in-car driver reacts accordingly. Sun glistens off the side panels. This is all set on mostly beautiful and equally realistic backdrops. Some of the real-world courses are less photogenic, but that's not Turn 10's fault. You'll be looking at the cars, though, and they all look amazing in movement. The whole setting is so pretty that you find yourself working to not crash to keep it that way. You could spend forever in the sandbox-y car world that Forza 3 provides, but there are more options outside of normal single player mode that may interest you. Of course, there's a robust online multiplayer mode, leaderboards, and Forza's deep car customization features to keep you busy. Even online play earns you experience points, and your custom creations can be uploaded and shared. I'd rather race the cars than paint and decal them, but if that's your thing, the options are limitless here. Creative types will also enjoy the movie and photography modes. Snap shots and record replay clips, and then upload them to be shared with the rest of the world to see on  I just uploaded a high-definition clip some tight but fast cornering I was able to pull of in a Maserati. I'm not bragging, but you should check it out. This is as close as I'll get for now... It seems like accessibility was a major focus in Forza 3. Turn 10 knows that the difficulty of sim-style racers can scare people off, so they've implemented various assists that can be switched on or off as needed. There's training wheels for everything from braking to cornering. Set the game on "easy" and all of the assists are turned on. I'm sure a 10-year-old could finish a race on easy. If you're a pro, shut them all off and then watch yourself spin out and crash, you cocky bastard. Mine is set somewhere in the middle. The "normal" setting was still to easy for me. I shut off the racing lines, braking assists, auto tuning and more. This made for a better challenge and a much more enjoyable game. I'd say that if you're winning and not having fun, then you need to shut some of the assists off. That said, it's great that these assists exist for the casual player. Someone with all the assists on can race against someone with all of them off, too. While we have no major complaints on Forza 3, there are a few items of note. The load times before matches is a tad bit long, almost long enough to break your determination to get back in and win a race you just lost. The loading delay between matches was long enough for me to be able to stop and take notes for this review, if that tells you anything. There's a second content disc that will need to be installed on your Xbox 360 hard drive to enable all the game's content. You'll need about 2GB of free space. I'd actually budget for a bit more space than that to rip some of your favorite music CDs, as Forza 3's musical score is mostly bland and stereotypical, though it sometimes moves to the annoying side of things. Finally, while the AI is mostly great, I found that races can become almost unfairly challenging later in the game. Did someone think it was a good idea to have 7 opponents that never make mistakes? Also, the "love taps" you'll receive from cars that you've hit are only cute for so long. These are only minor nitpicks, none of them deal breakers. Forza Motorsport 3 is the new king of racers. I can safely say that I've never played a better racing game. Scalable difficulty lets anyone play, making sure that everyone from novices to pros have a good time. Drop-dead gorgeous graphics will satisfy anyone's car lust. But it's that lovingly crafted and exceptionally realistic control that wins me over. Forza 2 was already great. They've just polished it to perfection to make 3.  If Polyphony Digital really does have a better game coming with Gran Turismo 5, then I'm excited, as Forza 3 is the best racing game I've ever played. 10 -- Flawless Victory (10s are as close to perfect as you will get in a genre or on a platform. Pure, untarnished videogame ecstasy.)

Racing games are not for everybody. Well, the old ones were, but time went by, we slowly got away from the simplicity of just getting over the finish line first. Now we're at a point where we're controlling high-end simulatio...

Destructoid review: Bookworm Adventures 2

Aug 05 // Colette Bennett
Bookworn Adventures: Volume 2 (PC)Developer: PopCap GamesPublisher: PopCap GamesReleased: July 30th, 2009MSRP: $19.99As a newbie to the Bookworm Adventures franchise, the first thing that jumped out at me about Volume 2 is that the formula reminded me a bit of Puzzle Quest. Anyone who knows how addicted I was to that game will interpret this as a good thing. In the game you take on the role of Lex the bookworm, who will battle his way through multiple fantasy worlds in the game's Adventure Mode by spelling strategically to beat enemies.The game consists of three separate worlds boasting ten levels each: Fractured Fairytales, The Monkey King and Astounding Planet. As you may recall, each of these chapters will be available later down the line as separately downloadable content. Pricing has not been announced just yet, but the amount of content you get with the complete game is tremendous as usual. If you don't have a lot of spare time, you could save your cash for when the individual chapters are released, but as a single package the full PC download really does offer a bang for your buck. As you can see from the screenshot above, the adventure mixes the questlike feel of Lex facing off against enemy battles with a word scramble. The longer the words you spell, the greater damage will be dealt to your opponent. You also acquire friends throughout the game, such as Mother Goose and the Cheshire Cat (six in all), who will have handy skills to lend like amping your potion inventory and purifying Lex's status ailments.You'll also have items to manage, but PopCap keeps it fairly simple and fun. The red potion heals you, while the green powers you up and the white clears the board of cursed blocks and cleans up status afflictions. As you progress, you'll earn other types of special items that you can choose before starting a level to carry with you. Two of my favorites were the Just Right Porridge, which helps Lex to resist stun attacks, and the Eat Me Drink Me, which amps up potion drops. While you can blast through the game itself without paying too much attention to the details, as usual PopCap really shines in the humor of the text. For instance, each opponent has a little blurb below them that often gave me a chuckle, and the loading screen even crams wit in for the few seconds you have to stare at it. Things aren't too difficult through the first level, but by the time you get to Fractured Fairytales, you'll find yourself needing to take more time to look at the board and challenging yourself to find the longest words you can. It's at this point that you'll need to use the Rainbow Tiles on the board to your advantage. These appear randomly (although more often if you spell longer words). They have handy little effects like healing a few of your hearts and increasing your damage, and if you use them with a longer word you can really pack a punch against your enemy. In addition, if you finish an enemy off with a nice long word, you have the opportunity to "whomp" them, which is satisfying in much the same way that it is in Peggle when you finish the level and all that ridiculous singing begins.There's a little special area that also pops up around the middle of the first level. Within it are four spelling minigames (and you'll get more unlocked later) that allow you to earn extra items for use in the main levels. If you die in a level, you'll be allowed to go to this special area to try your hand at getting some goodies before you try again, and then the area vanishes again until the next time you die a horrible death.  After completing Fractured Fairytales, you'll also unlock the Tome of Knowledge, better known as the bestiary. You can there to read all the details on each villain, as well as what level they appeared in and what classic story their appearance was inspired by. Hang in there and clear Adventure Mode entirely, and you can either replay it to earn more badges, head over the the Arena to fight the game's bosses with the added pressure of needing to spell faster than they do, or play all the Minigames to your heart's content.While Bookworm Adventures 2 doesn't appear to offer anything startlingly new or different, it does stick by the formula that PopCap seems to have down to a science. The game is high quality and a lot of fun to play, and the only negative thing I can really say about it is that if you don't care for word games, it probably won't appeal to you, but if you do, there's many hours of gaming bliss waiting for you in Lex's studyScore: 9.0 - Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)

Before I begin my review of Bookworm Adventures Volume 2, I have a dirty confession to make. As a games blogger, I know I really should have played every game ever made, but you know, I haven't. Therefore, I must make the gui...

Destructoid Review: Pangya: Fantasy Golf

Jul 13 // Dale North
Pangya: Fantasy Golf (PSP)Developer: NTREEV SoftPublisher: TomyReleased: June 26, 2009MSRP: $34.99 In this alternate world in another dimension, the game you play with a ball and club and holes in the ground isn't golf. They call it Pangya, not golf, and the whole process pays homage to a hero in their past that sealed up evil by hitting balls into holes. Right. Golf balls? No, they're called Aztecs here. And you can hit these Aztecs with clubs, but some use baseball bats and spiked clubs and even swords. While you'll start out on something resembling a typical golf course, you'll eventually find yourself hitting balls in strange locales where a sword or club almost makes sense. Almost.As far as gameplay is concerned, though, you're still swinging a club-like object to hit a ball, with the goal of having that ball go into a hole with the least number of swings possible. There's still 18-hole courses and tournaments and tours. And much like Hot Shots Golf series games, you'll use a three button press swing mechanic: one press starts swing, the next sets strength, and the last sets accuracy. And like better golf games, you'll also have ability to use trick shots. The L and R triggers let you change clubs, and the directional pad lets you aim your shot. Essentially, anyone who has played another golf game will be able to pick this up and play right away. Built-in lolicon support.It's easy appreciate how fine-tuned and elegantly simple the control and aiming is. Pangya doesn't break any new ground for golf, and most courses aren't particularly challenging (save for some of the last ones), but it doesn't seem like that was the goal anyway. This is approachable, arcade-style golf, with a focus on fun, and not challenge. That's not to say that there aren't holes that you'll get stuck on, but they leave the simulation golfing to the other titles. What makes Pangya: Fantasy Golf so great is what it stacks onto that tried-and-true game play. For one, a slowly evolving story has you cycling through and playing as each of one of the craziest casts of a videogame ever. In between these best-of matches, if successful, you'll gradually see story elements develop that have no place in golf, like love triangles and interplanetary travel. The story, while entertaining, fails to make a lot of sense in the beginning. Give it time, though. If nothing else, it's good for quite a few laughs. Story sequences are strange enough that if another were to look over your shoulder while playing, they might not understand how Pangya is a golf game. You'll earn Pangya's currency, pang, while playing and winning. With this, you can purchase clothing and equipment to deck out your characters.  While redressing your pirate girl in a frilly dress might not sound that appealing in the beginning, for me, clothing and equipment collection became absolutely addicting in a short time. The costumes are so over-the-top that you'll want to buy them all. Aside from changing the look of your characters, these purchases can also change your character's abilities, giving them an advantage during play. Also, a music and artwork gallery is gradually unlocked as you play, and there's actually a wealth of content to uncover.A polar bear and a flying paper sack. Great. Aside from this story mode is both tournament and multiplayer modes. Tournament mode has you unlocking licenses for full tournaments with specific golfing challenges. You'll compete to, say, see who can hit the ball closest to the hole in one swing. Success nets you points to eventually enter a tourney, as well as more pang to spend on customization. Multiplayer is an ad-hoc affair only. That's kind of a shame, but the focus here is on portable golfing anyway. This is, after all, a spin-off of their golfing MMO.   The style and presentation are what make Pangya: Fantasy Golf a standout over your typical golf game. It begins with an over-the-top anime-styled opening movie, complete with a bubbly pop song where girls dance in formation and chests bounce. Story sequences are presented with slick character art, and the game play graphics themselves are crazy and colorful. Each of the golfers have hilarious winning and losing animations, as well as pre and post-match rituals. They've left the walking-to-the-next-hole and fist pump animations to those more serious golf games.Pangya: Fantasy Golf takes approachable, easy-to-play golf action and stacks on a ton of game play and even more unlockable content. If you're looking for a golf sim, there are better choices for you out there. This one's all about fun, and there's plenty to be had here. Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Imagine a golf game like, say, Hot Shots Golf, but with an over-the-top presentation and an RPG-ish layout and story. Oh, and have it starring a cast containing scantily clad girl pirates, huge-breasted military commanders, a...

Destructoid Review: Devil Survivor

Jun 23 // Dale North
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (Nintendo DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: AtlusReleased: June 23, 2009MSRP:  $34.99Atlus makes its demon summoning debut on the Nintendo DS with Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, a clever blend of standard and strategy role-playing games. While it was technically titled Megami Ibrunroku: Devil Survivor when originally released in Japan, this is a Megami Tensei game, and all the familiar features and settings that fans have come to love are in this game as well. This means that Devil Survivor also has a modern day setting where demons become allies. And yes, even Jack Frost is here. Hee-Ho.At first glance, Devil Survivor looks like a strategy role-playing game, but there's so much more going on here under the hood. Just like SRPGs, you'll use tactics to decide where your characters are placed on a grid in relation to enemies, being mindful of their individual abilities and weaknesses. But when battle actually does take place, you're transported into something that looks more like a standard turn-based role-playing game. Each character (a total of four are available) represent a sort of mini-party, where they and two summoned demons go up against an enemy mini-party. It's here that you'll jump back into the Megami Tensei's familiar world of exploiting character's elemental weaknesses. Just like in turn-based games, you'll select a command and watch it execute. Should you take advantage of the enemies' elemental weaknesses, you'll be granted a extra turn, giving you the advantage. Another ability, called Skill Crack, lets you take some of a defeated enemies' power for yourself. With this blend of game play styles, the strategy becomes much more involved than in your standard tactical role-playing title. Your handheld device, your COMP, is more than just a demon summoning tool. It also serves as a communications device, GPS, contacts list, and much more. Even navigation of the game's world takes place on your COMP. All of Tokyo is mapped out; all you need to do is select the location to travel there. You'll set up your teams and plan your pre-battle strategies in your COMP, too. Aside from summoning demons, you'll also be able to fuse them to create new ones, just like in other Megami Tensei games. This time around, you'll actually be able to pick skills to be fused to your new demon, letting you make your own custom creation. Finally, demons can also be acquired through a demon auction. You'll actually put up what you think the demon on the block is worth, going up against two other opponents. If done right, you'll save a bit of money. If you don't pay attention, you might end up buying a dud demon. Left: stuck in Yamanote circle. Right: successful demon auction. Like many of Atlus' other related games, time is a key aspect of Devil Survivor. First off, through some strange future-predicting emails, you find out that the world will probably end in about 7 days, so there's that. These same emails, coming daily from an unknown source, also tell you about deaths that are scheduled to happen. You'll have to watch the clock to make sure you are in the right place at the right time. If that wasn't enough, through the power of your COMP device, you'll actually see a number floating over citizens' heads, indicating how many days left they have to live. You are given control of Devil Survivor's story with the choices you make. Most of these choices are dialogue-based. In the beginning, it won't seem like you're changing much, but as the game progresses, you can take totally different paths depending on your preference (or bravery). With only so much time in the day, you might talk to one character, but miss the chance at talking to another. Between these choices and the nightly email sessions you partake in before bedtime, you'll have some control over what you do and where you go. Ultimately, you'll be still be working to save the world. The game play in Devil Survivor is more about combat and less about character building or relations.  If you consider that the world is close to coming to an end, it makes sense that the cast has no time for small talk. This makes for a leaner, more focused experience than you might expect. There's still plenty of story elements that slowly unfold, but you'll spend most of your time in battle or planning out an upcoming battle. What kind of name is YEYEAH? The battles in Devil Survivor ramp up from entry level to seriously challenging. It's the good kind of challenging, mind you. You'll start out fighting low level demons, but end up taking on mini-gods that will challenge your strategies and in some cases, try your patience. There were a few end-of-the-day main battles that took me 8 or more attempts to beat. While the game does provide some opportunities for griding, in the form of Free Battles, true success will only come in devising the proper strategies, with a focus on exploiting enemy weaknesses. You'll have to prepare and pair up with the proper demons, as Devil Survivor has no items or weapons as variables. It's just you and your demons up against other stronger demons. This is a game that requires your thinking cap. While some of the key battles are fairly high in difficulty, devising the right strategy and finally winning is incredibly rewarding.  For their first outing on the DS, Devil Survivor is a great-looking game. You won't get the lush, animated cutscenes and the full-on voice work of console titles, but you'll still get a sharp, stylistic experience, as you'd expect from Atlus. The art and character designs are hip, and the backdrops of a crumbling Tokyo are spot on. You won't have a lot of time to appreciate these works as you'll be in battle most of the time. The battle presentation is still nice, but it lacks motion to the point that an onlooker would wonder if you were even playing. The music was a nice surprise. It's 100 percent guitar based, and the pre-battle guitar wails and boss battle power shredding helped to step up the tension. All of the musical selections are top-notch, save for the slightly annoying exploratory music, the one you'll hear the most of. But good outweighs the bad here.If you've got the strategy chops and don't mind a bit of a challenge, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is a fantastic role-playing experience on the DS. Its time-based, branching story and clever blend of both strategy and turn-based game play styles make for a highly original title.  Score: 9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)

So there you are with your friends, hanging out in Shibuya, Tokyo, minding your own business. Your chesty friend Yuzu (nicknamed Yoohoo) was busy being...well, chesty, while your nerdy friend Atsuro was rambling on about comp...

Destructoid review: Clover

Jun 19 // Colette Bennett
Clover (XBox 360 Community Games )Developed by Binary TweedReleased on May 8th, 2009MSRP: 400 Microsoft points When Clover begins, you'll find yourself inside a house with someone rapping at the door yelling at you to come outside. After a brief conversation, you'll start to get a sense of the current situation. You're Sam, an orphan who relies on a government-provided allowance to get by. There's just been a pirate attack on the kingdom, and it's clear that the political climate is ... tense at the moment, to say the least. Try chatting with some of the villagers, and you'll get a better look into what's really going on (keep your eye out for the nod to a beloved retro console as you explore!). The controls for Clover are extremely simple -- you move using the left analog stick and you simply press a button to talk to someone or pick up an item. Your inventory holds three slots, which are visible on screen sbove your head. The heart of the game centers on using items to solve puzzles, but you'll need to be carrying the right items at the right times to do so. There's also no way to die -- the worst thing that can happen to you is that you do something to provoke suspicion (such as "pollute" the town water supply by jumping in it), and even if you get caught and thrown in jail, you can merely walk right out and get back to what you're doing. At other times, you may hear what sounds like a heatbeat and notice the controller thrumming in your hands a bit, which means you're doing something you shouldn't be. Too much of this and the guards will take you back to jail as well, but since you don't have to stay there, it's a minor inconvenience at best. Creator Deejay has said several times that Clover was inspired by the old Codemasters Dizzy games, and while I haven't played them personally, my impression was more than I was reminded of games like Maniac Mansion and other point and click adventures where you solve puzzles to further a story. One of the only faults I can cite about the game is thatusing the right items can require some trial and error and since your inventory is limite, that may mean some walking back and forth across the map to get something you left somewhere. You can run, but I found myself wishing I had a bigger back so I could save myself the backtracking.I personally liked the watercolor art style of Clover, but my one complaint with it was the character design. I felt the oversized eyes made the characters too cartoonlike and somehow out of tune with the thoughtful tone of the game. I've heard a few Southpark comparisons, which I can't disagree with. However, the lovely soundtrack does a hell of a job compensating, and after listening to the piano tracks for several hours I found I still wasn't remotely tired of them. You can also unlock game art by completing the puzzles, which is cool to check out after you complete the story (I did it in a few hours).As a whole Clover was a relaxing gaming experience for me, and I enjoyed playing something as unique as it is. If you're interested in exploring more of what Community Games have to offer, this is one of the best titles out there so far. If you want to see for yourself, you can download the free trial here. Enjoy!Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.) 

Clover is one of those games that would immediately catch the eye of a certain type of gamer -- that is, the gamer always on the lookout for something slightly different than the rest of what's out there. Described as a "...

Destructoid Review: Galaga Remix (iPhone)

Jun 18 // Dale North
Galaga Remix (iPhone)Seller: Namco BandaiReleased: March 31, 2009MSRP: $5.99 We've all played Galaga, the 1980s arcade classic that has you pew pew pew-ing waves of aliens in space from your ship that can strangely only fly from left to right. Galaga Remix has that very game included in the package, alongside an updated landscape-mode update to the classic. As for the original, you'll play it with your iPhone or iPod Touch held upright, in a game that looks to be spot-on copy of the original. In the best control scheme, you'll use your left thumb to rock back and forth on a couple of virtual buttons that move your ship from left to right, while your right thumb hits the fire button. I'm pleased to say that this game controls perfectly in this mode. Whether you're lifting your thumb to hit these left and right virtual buttons, or just sliding your thumb back and forth, you have tight, accurate control over your ship. For as many games as I've reviewed and played on the device, this is one of the first where I was taken back at how well the game controlled. Other than this, it's Galaga, just like you've always known it: simple and addicting.First boss: the big fly...thing. There's also a landscape-held Remix mode, which adds fancy new graphics for enemies and backgrounds, as well as fully orchestrated music and some huge bosses to take down every few levels. The spacey backgrounds and the bosses look great in this new version. As for the rest, well, there's not much you can do with the Galaga forumla. It's a good-looking iPhone game, that's for sure.The control in the Remix mode is almost as good. The firing works just as you'd expect, but the left-to-right control isn't as tight, and it seems like more thumb/finger travel is required, making it a slight bit less responsive than in the original mode. Mind you, this isn't a deal-breaker, and still controls much better than the majority of the virtual button titles I've played.Woo! Double fire. There are two other control schemes available in both modes, but neither of them seem to work as well as the virtual button one does. The tilt-to-move mode is trash. It's not near as responsive as it needs to be and only seems to complicate matters. There's also a touchscreen slider mode, which has you pulling a slider back and forth. Your ship moves one-to-one with the slider's position. It's not as intuitive as the buttons, though in some boss battles it does seem to help you in dodging incoming enemies and projectiles with it's quicker reaction time.In all, I'm happy to recommend Galaga Remix for the iPhone. It's a satisfying retro-dose of pick-up-and-go action, and one of the few games where the virtual button controls (at least in one mode) don't hinder the fun at all.  Score:  8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

What is this? An iPhone game that controls perfectly fine, with no complaints connected to the lack of a d-pad or buttons? I know! I almost couldn't believe it myself. And a port of a classic game that, again, has no issues o...

Destructoid review: Class of Heroes

Jun 10 // Colette Bennett
Class of Heroes (PSP)Developer: ZerodivPublisher: Atlus USAReleased: June 9th, 2009MSRP: $39.99Long before Class of Heroes had any hope of a US release, it was called Ken to Mahou to Gakuen Mono, which roughly translates to "Those of Swords, Magic and Academies". Atlus was clever in that they figured that name wouldn't go over so well, so they decided to go with Class of Heroes, which they felt clearly expressed the RPG/academic elements of the title. By the way, a sequel is already in the works for Japan, so if you love this game and want the sequel, let Atlus and Zerodiv know! Speaking of academic elements, it's likely the first impression you will get when you start playing Class of Heroes is that it's like a cross between Etrian Odyssey and the Harry Potter universe. It'll likely ring some Mana Khemia bells too, if you are familiar with that series. The game opens in a world where mysterious labyrinths populated by wild beasts have popped up across the land. Naturally, adventurers have explored them and come back with tales and treasure, and like everyone else, you want your chance too.To get that chance, though, you'll need to train for the task. This is where Particus Academy comes into the picture. When you first arrive, you'll have some time to explore the campus and get to know some of the faculty and staff, which is just a really fancy way of saying you're going to be amazed by the sheer number of menus you are about to encounter. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you -- the hint of obsessive complusive disorder in my blood can't get enough of that stuff. To start off, after a general orientation you'll need to craft some characters to accompany you on your adventures. You'll have a handful of premade ones to choose from if you want to get started quickly, or you can choose the "Enroll" feature in the library to create your own from scratch (note: the premade characters start off at level two, which can be a huge help -- I advise you use them). If you've ever played a dungeon crawler before, you'll already be familiar with some of these options: choosing race, alignment, and what they call a "major" here, which is basically your job class. These can be changed later in the game too, which makes for some cool depth as far as how you choose to play.It is worth noting that some races do not get along well with other races, so affinities must be considered. For instance, the Drake, while strong, is the snobby type and may piss off your other party members, and Diablons have demonic origins, so most other races tend to avoid them in general. Unless you read the manual, you aren't going to be aware of this from the get-go.  After you get your team together, you'll get a school tour that ought to help you get your bearings. Meeting the staff is where you get to see that spark of personality that seems to dominate the majority of the games Atlus make, publish or both: there's a tweaked out lab teacher, a drunken Holy Arts instructor that greets you with bottle in hand pretty much all the time, and a girl running the shop who is ready to chew you a new orifice within moments of meeting. It's going to be a fun ride, folks.The success of your first trip into the training dungeon, and all trips thereafter for that matter, will depend on careful planning. If you just grab the premade team and march into the training dungeon without carefully arranging their formation, you're likely to get your ass handed to you. It works like this: your party has a front row and a back row, as do the monster groups you will fight. Obviously, you'll need heavy hitters in your front row and spellcasters/ranged weapon users in your back row. You can skip the initial lessons offered at Particus if you want to get straight into the dungeons, but you're a lot better off taking the time to learn how to properly play first (quick hint, though: elemental weaknesses are your friends). No matter what you do, it's gong to be tough at first though. The dungeons are played in first person perspective, and much like the ones in The Dark Spire, they are laden with traps. The first couple of floors of each dungeon you go into are randomized, but as you progress further you'll find the heart of the dungeon is always the same. You'll need a map, but you aren't going to find one in the dungeons themselves. They can either be given to you or purchased at the school shops. Don't go in without one of these unless you've been hand-drawing your own maps with meticulous care for years (and if you are doing that, god bless you, you're ten times the gamer I will ever be!). Most of the quests you get are fairly straightforward, such as finding an item or rescuing someone that's gotten lost. As you progress further into the story, the dungeons' special floors will become accessible, which are called labyrinths. You'll find bosses lying in wait down here, as well as a use for those magic keys you've been finding on the earlier floors. Combat itself is turn-based, but the key to success is in the details. For instance, the tension system allows you to charge up special skills that utilize the strength of the whole party. As you complete quests and battles, it will fill up, and eventually you can unleash massive attacks on the foes you face. Also, the game is not focused on how much gold you will collect (because trust me, it won't be much at first) but alchemy instead -- you'll need put the items you find to clever use.Speaking of alchemy, if you a fan of crafting in your games, you are going to be in heaven. If you have the right items, you can create items and equipment to your heart's content for very little cost, break your stuff down to the raw materials and sell it or use it to make something else, or even add elemental powers and make your sword or bow ferociously effective against your foes. If alchemy isn't your thing, I have bad news for you though -- you really need it use it to its fullest advantage to make it through this game. if I hadn't started crafting early on, I would have gotten frustrated enough to hurl my PSP out the window.As a whole, the music is fairly pleasant, although the Particus academy music does this weird skippy thing where it sounds like it stutters and then starts again. Dungeons are limited to the sounds of the denizens living within and your footsteps, but it never comes off sounding cheap or empty. All your characters have their own personal sounds as well, which you'll hear plenty of in the heat of battle. There's so much depth to be found in Class of Heroes for fans of the dungeon crawling genre, it's almost overwhelming how much time you can spend playing with the details. On the other hand, the learning curve is much steeper than other games of its kind, and it may turn off gamers who pick it up due to the cute anime look and have no idea what they are getting themselves into. Then again, if you're going for anything with the word Atlus on the cover thinking you're going to get off easy, well, you'll learn fast.Score: 8.0

If you're reading a review of an Atlus game because you're a fan of any of their other titles, you may have some idea what to expect: beautifully drawn characters, old school fundmentals and often brutal difficulty. While thi...

Destructoid Review: Knights in the Nightmare

Jun 08 // Dale North
Knights in the Nightmare (DS)Developer: StingPublisher: AtlusReleased: June 2, 2009MSRP: $34.99I have no problem saying that I'm extremely excited about Knights in the Nightmare. I've found myself talking about it often, to many people. But it's such a deep and complex game that I feel like I'm not doing the game justice, and perhaps I'm confusing everyone I try to explain it to. Even when trying demonstrate how the battle system works to my co-workers, I feel like I've let the game down somehow, and it seems that all I've done is give them pause on what is a fantastically original title. For this review, I'll do my best to explain how the battle system works, but it has to be said that only by trying it for yourself will you fully understand how deep and involving this title can get.  In Knights in the Nightmare you control a wisp, a stylus-controlled floating orb that happens to be the soul of a former king. This wisp can fly freely about an isometric grid SRPG-style play field where you'll see the outlines (ghosts) of warriors of the past, as well as roaming enemies. You'll fly your wisp into these warriors to possess them, controlling them to attack and eventually defeat enemies on this play field.  Instead of the standard hit points formula, battles in KitN have you racing against the clock. You start out with 60 seconds to battle, but every time your wisp is hit by an enemy's attack, which comes in the form of shmup-style bullets, time is deducted from your total 60 seconds. You'll swipe your stylus to move the wisp around the play fied, trying your best to avoid these bullets while controlling your allies in battle. You'll also fly your wisp around to pick up items, find hidden treasure, and even equip your allies by handing them their weapons.Each enemy on the playfield is assigned a slot on a tic tac toe-ish Kill board, displayed at the bottom of the screen. Your overall goal is to kill the proper enemies to fill in the board with solid kills, across or vertically. If this doesn't make complete sense, take comfort in knowing that the game provides an in-depth tutorial and a full help system to guide you. Going through all of it will take about an hour, but again, this game is worth the effort. Knights in the Nightmare's story slowly unfolds. You begin as this wisp, void of all memories or direction. Eventually you'll meet up with a mysterious woman named Maria, who helps give you direction and some aid in battle. With her help, eventually you'll uncover more about your former self as well as what's happened to your kingdom since you died. Between battles you'll get just enough story detail to lead you into the next battle. You'll also get a touch of the setting and a flashback from the past, but it will be a long while before you can put them all together in your head. The story turns out to be good, but it just takes a long time to ramp up. Luckily, there's plenty to keep you busy between story sessions.Knights in the Nightmare is heavy on customization and strategy options, though you don't really have to use them to their fullest. Strategy freaks will enjoy picking through hundreds of weapon options to equip, as well as screens where you can enlist and later level up personal troops. You can pay attention to power, attack levels, elemental affinities and more if you wish, tweaking everything to your heart's delight. Or you can just play with what the game gives you. It's up to you, but it's nice to know that KitN was developed to be open. If there's one drawback to Knights in the Nightmare, it's how much there is going on in the screens, menus, and battles. It's kind of overwhelming. There's hundreds of weapons, hundreds of playable characters, countless options, numerous option screens, and almost endless customization. The small print and even smaller icons make things worse. This controlled chaos continues into the battles themselves, where there's simply too much going on on-screen sometimes. While part of the chaos is intentional, especially when referring to the bullets to be dodged, things like equipping weapons and even sometimes seeing your own troops on screen becomes difficult because there's too much going on. It feels like even 10 percent more screen real estate could have benefited the game as far as this sometimes cluttered feeling goes. Even though I reviewed the title on the DS Lite, I did have a chance to try it on the DSi, and the larger screen seems to help a little bit. Pretty.Aside from the cramped feeling in the menu and sometimes battles, there's plenty to appreciate about Knights in the Nightmare's appearance. First off, the character design is beautiful, as are the story sequences. Though dark, lush colors and soft lighting complement hand-drawn characters and backgrounds. It's also easy on the ears, with one of the best DS soundtracks I've heard, especially again in the story seqeunces. Sometimes the voiced battle cries can become annoying, but there's so much going on that you won't have time to think about them much.In the end, no other DS title plays like Knights in the Nightmare. It's one of those games that gives you as much as you put into it. If you invest the time to learn the game play, you'll be greatly rewarded with a fresh, addictive battle system. This is gamer's game that begs to be explored more. Knights in the Nightmare may not be a good fit for the casual or impatient gamer, but if you're one that's tired of the same old DS strategy role-playing titles, you likely be thrilled by this unique game.Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

You've never played anything like Knights in the Nightmare. How can I be so sure? Well, every time I try to explain the game play, I find that I have to explain it twice, even to seasoned gamers. But that's not a bad thing, m...

Destructoid review: Trixel

May 14 // Colette Bennett
Trixel (iPhone) Developer: Adept GamesPublisher: Adept GamesReleased: April 27, 2009MSRP:$2.99Due to the glut of puzzle games available on iTunes, it might be easy to glance at Trixel and assume that you are about to play another mindless title with bright colors. While the game has a nice tidy look, nothing about its style is going to have you doing a double take. It's the gameplay that makes Trixel really work though, and I'll take over a startlingly different look any day.Trixel's gameplay presents you with the task of flipping tiles to create a specific pattern of color (your goal will be shown in the top left of the screen). The touch controls are easy and intuitive, and there's no peering over your finger to try to make sure you're doing it right. In its main mode, Puzzles, you will have to complete each puzzle in a certain number of moves. If you do it perfectly, you'll earn a gold trophy, while one less move will earn you a silver. You can also win a bronze below that, but if you take too many moves the game will say you've failed and simply restart the level.It all begins very simply, but it won't be long before you'll need to spend a few minutes looking at each puzzle to figure out the solution. The challenge is intensified with the introduction of a variety of obstacles every 8 levels such as bombs or teleport tiles (when the latter comes in, if you've been coasting on luck up to now, you're screwed). By the time you progress halfway through the game's 100 levels, you will definitely see how much thoughtful gameplay it has to offer.Easy level is open when you begin the game, but in order to unlock medium and hard, you'll need to complete easy. Easy is no joyride despite the name, but you'll have a few things at your disposal to help out along the way. Powerups such as Undo, which allows you to back up a step, and Warp, which allows you to skip levels, can come in very handy, especially in the later levels. If you tire of Puzzle mode, there's also Race The Clock mode, which presents you with twelve maps and four different levels of difficulty (relaxed, fast, frantic and furious). This is a great mode, but I have to say I don't think I was cut out for it -- or I need some serious practice. The moment you finish one puzzle, another one comes at you. This is great for expert puzzlers, and even better if you find you're getting incredibly fast at the game and want to see just how quickly you can pull it off.Overall what I took away from Trixel was that it was a solid title, but may not appeal to the average casual gamer who is looking for something with a slight challenge, but not something too hard. Trixel can get fairly challenging, and that's excellent news for a gamer looking for something less mindless. With that in mind, I'd say grab it if you like to use your brain, but pass if you Bejeweled is your favorite game of all time. Score: 7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)    

I've come to really love my iPhone for the bouts of quick and easy gaming it can provide, which comes in especially handy for impatient moments such as waiting in line at the bank. I have a modest handful of favorites for tha...

Destructoid review: Resistance: Retribution

May 12 // Jim Sterling
Resistance: Retribution (PSP)Developed by: Sony BendPublished by: SonyMSRP: $39.99Retribution leaves behind Nathan Hale from the first two console games to focus on a brand new hero, James Grayson. A hardened soldier, Grayson turns his back on the army after being forced to kill his own brother, who had been taken by the villainous Chimera and "converted" to serve their purposes. Since that traumatic moment, Grayson went AWOL and started bombing Chimeran conversion centers, before being arrested and sentenced to death. However, a European resistance group known as The Marquis intervenes, sparing Grayson's life for a typically daring and dangerous mission. The story is decent enough, but it's impossible to take seriously thanks to the rather bad dialog and some of the most ridiculous voice acting I've heard in a while. Grayson attempts to sound like a grizzled war veteran, but his gruff English accent is ludicrous and the script is clearly written by people who don't know how real British people sound. It doesn't help that Grayson is xenophobic and misogynistic, as well as arrogant and stupid, which makes him very hard to get behind as a main character.  In significant departure from previous Resistance titles, Retribution takes the form of a third-person over-the-shoulder shooting game, eschewing the traditional FPS perspective in favor of something that fans of the PSP SOCOM games will easily recognize. As with Sony Bend's other handheld outings, Grayson is moved with the analog nub while he aims with the face buttons. It's a concession to make up for the lack of twin sticks, but it's a concession handled well, and the game controls quite fluidly, helped along with an incredibly forgiving auto-aim. Unfortunately, while the basics are excellently implemented, the gameplay itself is a bit of a let down. For a start, the action is cover-based, but it seems that the developers realized the game would be too easy if Grayson just hid behind cover and auto-aimed for the whole game, so Retribution consistently breaks its own rules in a rather sorry attempt to appear challenging. The Chimera frequently break from cover and charge Grayson's position, either to surround him or beat on him with melee attacks, and Grayson is woefully unequipped to deal with anything outside of long-distance firefights. There's nothing more annoying than a cover-based shooter tossing out enemies that break the rules for a cheap win, and Retribution does it constantly.  As well as regular Chimera that charge you whenever they feel like it, there are enemies known as Boilers, which require you to awkwardly switch to manual aim and shoot their heads before they explode, giant enemies with area-of-effect weapons that can shoot behind your position to kill you with splash damage, and drones that will shoot from overhead and blow up in your face should you damage them enough. Retribution perfects the art of the cheap death.It's a shame that Sony Bend felt the need to do this, because the actual cover-based fighting is well crafted. Grayson will automatically aim at anything that appears within a centered on-screen box, and the combat, when it plays properly, is all about timing when you pop out from cover and fire at the Chimera. This system works quite well, although the auto-aim does have a tendency to get incredibly confused when dealing with multiple enemies, and naturally likes to target the least threatening enemy first, ignoring those that are a foot away from you and shooting your face off. If this was the only problem with the game, that wouldn't be so bad, but it sadly helps to impact the game's other flaws. When Retribution is actually playing fair and the targeting decides to work, there lies hidden a fairly decent shooter that can provide some solid portable action. It's just sad that these satisfying moments are few and far between. The game can also be credited for a number of sections that stray from the cover-based staple, such as a pretty cool mech level and several empowering turret sequences. Getting behind a shielded railgun and raining down justice on the Chimera is satisfying, although the sudden switch to analog control for aiming is jarring and catches one off guard. Players with Resistance 2 will be able to use their PS3s to "infect" Retribution, which will add a magnum and regenerating health, as well as change a few cutscenes along the way. Be warned that the game will not remember the infection, and you'll need to reconnect the PSP to the PS3 if you ever power down. However, it's a neat extra feature that fans of the console games should dig.  On the subject of extra features, Retribution provides a fully functional online multiplayer mode, complete with everything you'd expect on a console. Lobbies and voicechat are all present and correct, truly providing the feel of a miniaturized console multiplayer game on the PSP. The gameplay itself is rather clunky, especially with the auto-aim turning each gunfight into a button masher where luck decides the battle over skill, but the game is still being actively played with over 300 players online when I checked it out. That counts for something, and hints that online multiplayer might be a more worthy venture on the PSP than it's given credit for.  If this game does one thing consistently right, it's provide some high production values. I can't take anything away from the rather pleasant graphics and the very excellent soundtrack, which has an almost BioShock quality to it, and remains a sinister presence throughout. A lot of effort has clearly been put into making this game look and sound as much like a home console game as possible, and the effort shows.  Taken as a whole, Resistance: Retribution is a game with incredibly high ambitions, let down by a number of poor decisions. The game succeeds in bewitching players with its aesthetic quality and impressive volume of content, but the flaws are constantly remind you of their existence and sadly drag the whole production down. The potential was fantastic, but it's potential not used, and while fans of the series will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of the game, Resistance: Retribution is not a title that will rope in newcomers. Score: 6.5 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)

Resistance: Retribution has been getting a lot of love for taking all the features of a console game and transporting it to the handheld realm of the PSP. The fellows at Sony Bend have done a great job indeed of cramming a hu...

Destructoid review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

May 08 // Jim Sterling
[embed]130891:19194[/embed]X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PS3, Wii, PC, DS, PSP)Developer: Raven SoftwarePublisher: ActivisionReleased: April 28, 2009MSRP: $49.99 X-Men Origins: Wolverine does what any superhero videogame should do -- it makes you feel like a badass. Just like the Spiderman games scored points with a great web-slinging mechanic, Wolverine brings its own unique super power to the table -- the lunge. Taking the iconic image of Wolverine pouncing on his opponents as seen in many a Marvel comic, Raven Software has created an action game that truly harnesses the feeling of being one of the world's most recognizable comic book characters. It's true that for the vast majority of the game, all you need to really do to take out huge swathes of enemies is just leap from foe to foe, cutting them to shreds with very little resistance. However, this isn't a bad thing -- it's exactly what it should be. Most of the opponents in Wolverine remain little more than claw-fodder, being churned out and fed to our adamantium-enhanced hero. The game sets out to empower the player and make them feel incredibly cool. It succeeds.  Wolverine's story is, naturally, based on the film and constantly flits between Logan's time in Africa and his post-Weapon X adventures. Perhaps the movie is more coherent, but I had a hard time following exactly what was supposed to be going on half the time. I don't know why Logan was cutting up African people, and we're never even told why certain former members of Team X are trying to kill him. It's not explaind why Nord and Dukes are so hostile toward Logan, and the relationship between Logan and Stryker is rather sloppily defined. Characters are introduced and then removed with little to no fanfare. That said, the story is not important, because this is all about the blood. Yes, blood. Unlike the movie, this videogame is brutal, and Raven makes no apologies for that. Logan is finally as savage and ruthless as he's always claimed, putting those adamantium claws to good use and carving up enemies in a variety of inventive and hilarious ways. Most finishing moves involve a lost limb, or being stabbed in the testicles, or just picked up and driven headfirst into the ground so hard that the skull explodes. There are also environmental kills, with players able to lure enemies near spikes, electrical outlets and cement mixers for some vicious justice.  Combat is very simple, and nothing that God of War fans won't have already encountered. Light and strong attacks can be combined with a variety of simple simple button presses, and by holding a shoulder button along with one of the face buttons, Logan can access some powerful "Rage" attacks that drain a special power meter. Simple, derivative stuff, but if it works, it works. Lunging is very simple, requiring you to hold the Left button to target and the Right button to jump. Pressing the Y button at the moment Logan hits an enemy will also allow players to smoothly transition from a lunge to a devastating claw attack. The combat is helped along by a number of highly memorable setpieces, such a Spillway chase in which Logan has to lunge from the back of moving trucks, or a scene in which he leaps onto a helicopter, smashes the window open, yanks out the pilot and holds his head up to the chopper's rotor blades. These scenes are gratuitous and serve no purpose other than to be cool for cool's own sake, and that's what I like about them.  Unfortunately, Origins is held back by a few key problems that stop it from being truly great. The game's second half fails to live up to the first, and awkwardly tries to cram in plot details and boss fights with no sense of transition. The repetitive combat also starts to wear thin at some points, and there are a number of inane puzzle sequences that range from boring to infuriating. The game's boss fights are also quite disappointing, especially the constant Wendigo battles that involve you dodging attacks, lunging onto their backs and hammering the attack button. The first fight against these enemies was fun enough. By the fifth I was getting really sick and tired of doing the same old thing. Even the battle against the Sentinel, which should have been epic and thrilling, was quite dull and very irritating, especially during the skydiving section where one has to avoid a load of metal crap being thrown at Logan without any sort of warning or time to react.  Despite these sluggish moments, Wolverine still manages to remain enjoyable just by continuing to do what it does best and making Wolverine the toughest videogame character he can be. The lunging never gets old, and when there are enemies who prove to be more lunge resistant, it can be fun trying to work out the best way of killing them. Discovering that you can grab one particular enemy's shotgun, force it under his own chin and then pull the trigger is one of many delights players can sample. As one may expect, there is a light leveling system in the game, with Wolverine gaining experience from each kill and from the numerous collectible dog tags scattered throughout the stages. Each level awards the player two new skill points, which can be invested in attack power, health, Rage and Logan's various special attacks. Taking a page out of BioShock, a number of Mutagens are to be found throughout the game which can be equipped to Mutagen slots and, very much like Plasmids, confer extra unique abilities. Graphically, the game looks the part, with some terrific animation, especially when it comes to rendering Hugh Jackman. The various environments get recycled all too often, but are detailed and full of extra hidden easter eggs that should provide a few laughs here and there. The production values are high, and the game is surprisingly tight all over. At times I witnessed a few elements of slowdown and dodgy cutscene animation, but the overall aesthetic is generally consistent in its quality. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a good game. A damn good game. For many it'll be a rent, but for fans of the character I would say there's enough incentive for a purchase, especially since there are some neat extras such as the ability to unlock classic comic book costumes for Wolverine to wear. It feels so good getting Hugh Jackman into some yellow spandex. If you're cynical when it comes to movie licenses, do check Origins out. Just like me, you may be very pleasantly surprised.  Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

We all know the story when it comes to videogames based on movies. Rushed out of the gate to coincide with the theatrical release, lazily put together to cash in and make a quick buck off the back of some Hollywood travesty. ...

Destructoid review: Plants vs. Zombies

May 05 // Colette Bennett
Plants vs. Zombies (PC, Mac)Developer: PopCap GamesPublisher: PopCap GamesReleased: May 5, 2009MSRP: $19.99 For those of you who have somehow missed the stream of funny viral videos coming from PopCap for promotion of this game (and shame on you), I'll revisit the basics. Plants vs. Zombies is basically a tower defense game with a generous injection of humor. Zombies have decided to stake a claim on your front lawn, and you have to prevent them from doing so by using a wide variety of plants to block the way. The game's main mode is Adventure, which teaches you the basics of play and guides you through the clever story. It's definitely not deep, but anyone with even a remote sense of humor will be laughing aloud at all the funny bits that PopCap threw into this game. In your first level, you'll start out with only a few plants and a few really basic zombies. Your lawn is a nine-square-by-five-square grid, which you can set up in any way you want to defend against the oncoming horde. In the daylight levels, you'll use sunflowers to help generate sunlight, which is basically the building block of your arsenal. As you earn sunlight, you can use it to build plants to help you defend yourself. Peashooter is your first offensive plant, a little green guy who shoots a single pellet forward, and Wall-Nut your first defensive plant. You'll notice all the plants have a bit of personality. For instance, the Sunflower kind of dances, while the Wall-Nut has a vacant stare and a tiny smile (mind you, this expression changes once he starts to get munched on). You can expect to see this level of humor and detail in all 48 of the plants you can eventually get in the game. I don't want to leave out the zombies here, because every ounce of care and time that obviously went into creating this game shows with them as well. By the end of the game, you'll have met 26 different types of zombies. As you progress, all the zombies you've met and plants you've gained will be recorded in an almanac, which you can access at any time via the selection screen before a level starts, or from the main game screen. In most games, these bestiaries are nothing more than an excuse for a bunch of copy no one really cares about, but in Plants vs. Zombies, you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to go read the entire thing. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll leave it as this: it's hilarious. Have I mentioned you eventually fight Michael Jackson AND his dancers? As you progress through Adventure mode, you'll eventually meet Crazy Dave, a guy who wears a pot on his head and will gladly sell you stuff out of the trunk of his car. You earn money as you kill zombies, so by the time you meet Dave, you most likely will have a bit of green saved up. Read carefully when you make it to the shop, because some of the plants and accessories Dave sells are pretty invaluable in the later levels. I am all about those cattails! The difficulty does ramp up as you progress through the game's Adventure mode, but as a whole I found it fairly easy to navigate my way through, so if you need hardcore difficulty to find satisfaction in a game, you won't find it in this mode. However, the game does offer three more modes: Mini-Games, Puzzle and Survival. By delving into those three, you'll find that a much steeper challenge awaits. A few levels are open in each of these modes when you first poke your head in, but you'll have to finish the open ones to unlock new ones. Mini-Games like "It's Raining Seeds" and "Beghouled" really make you kind of envy the developers -- you can only imagine how much fun it must have been to make a title like this. You also have replay value on your side if you complete Adventure mode, as you can go back and do it again, but Crazy Dave will pick three plants for you every level that you must play with no matter what. I'll let Brad tell you more about this option, but basically, it gives you a great excuse to do it all over again if you find you've developed a severe case of Plants vs. Zombies addiction! In addition to all this stuff, there is also another area of the game called the Zen Garden, which you can access through the title screen. When you first go to the garden, you will only have a few plants. You can water and buy seeds to feed to your specimens to make them grow. As these plants grow, they will yield more money for you. As you find more plants, you may have to expand out into different types of gardens to care for them, such as night and underwater gardens. You can also purchase access to the Tree of Wisdom, which will give you hints and codes to input for hilarious results (one code, for instance, allows you to add Geraldo-like mustaches to all your zombies). If you think this sounds like a lot of content for the price, you'd be right: the sheer amount of things to do in Plants vs. Zombies will keep you busy for hours, and even once you finish the game's Adventure mode, there's still tons left to do. I honestly think the game is worth more than you pay for it, which should make it a must-buy for you right there, but beyond that, the most outstanding feature of this incredibly fun title is its personality. Every inch of Plants vs. Zombies is jam-packed with humor and attention to detail, and I never once stopped enjoying its clever take on the genre even after I had exhausted everything it had to offer. Do not miss this game -- titles this good don't come around often. Score: 10 -- Flawless Victory (10s are as close to perfect as you will get in a genre or on a platform. Pure, untarnished videogame ecstasy.) Brad Nicholson Silly me; I thought it wasn’t possible to revitalize the tower defense genre. Colette has beautifully summed the game and its parts, so I’ll lightly stray from that and discuss three prominent characteristics of Plants vs. Zombies: depth, character, and addictiveness.Perhaps I’m jaded, but the one thing that has always bugged me about traditional tower defense games is the lack of offensive options. Plants vs. Zombies gives you host of viable offensive options that you can change on a whim or tweak from level to level. I’m a defensive player by nature, so I tend to suck sun and utilize the bigger guns. But if I wanted to change it up -- as I tend to do from time to time -- I could pick from an assortment of smaller pea shooters, catapults, and other delectable chaos causers. When you beat Adventure Mode -- which unlocks a good bit of extra content -- you can immediately re-enter the mode and essentially experience a new game. Your crazy neighbor picks the first three weapons or items that you’ll go into battle with, forcing you to reconsider your strategies that may have carried you through Adventure the first time around. In the beginning of the new experience, it isn’t a big deal. But by the second stage, it becomes obvious that you need to change as a player to deal with the undead onslaught. The items that he chooses are often of the off-the-wall variety, forcing you to reconsider your habits and re-evaluate approaches. It’s a breath of fresh air -- something that I really enjoyed after my countless hours of initial play in Adventure Mode.As locations change, so do your needs. The roof levels in particular require intimate knowledge of the game and its mechanics. You’ll need to be careful when building flowers, because one false planting could spell a delayed disaster as the horde begins to make lumber of the roof’s tiles. The roof levels are the perfect example of weighing immediacy vs. future needs. Should you go for the cabbage catapult or the flower? It all depends on what type of undead you’re facing and what you want to do as the commander of a pea plant army.My perception of the game’s depth isn’t merely derived from the game’s plethora of offensive weapons and items. It also stems from the large amount of sidebar stuff in the game. After beating Adventure Mode, I found myself entirely too engrossed with the Zen Garden -- an environment that allows you to grow plants at your leisure in order to earn money needed to invest in new equipment, upgrades and items. The rewards -- money -- received from successfully making your plants happy are small at first, but eventually become mammoth. As you make more and more cash, you’ll find yourself buying new Gardens and playing Adventure Mode for new and exotic types of plants. I also think there’s something to be said about the Zen Garden in terms of atmosphere. The entire PvZ experience is cracking zombie skulls. The Garden is chilled -- there are no enemies or rush to build the next weapon. It’s just you, plants, and the hope to make enough money to buy more. Even when you think you’re done with the game, you’re not. I’ve been going to bed much later than when I expected, thanks to the extraneous Mini Games and Puzzles offered in the game. Games don’t often successfully feed off themselves like Plants vs. Zombies does. PvZ is delightfully quirky from the art on down. The premise of the game is laughable, and apparently this hasn’t escaped the art design of the game. Each of the zombies you’ll meet -- and hopefully smash -- have a delightfully tacky and goofy appeal. This even extends to sound. You won’t catch the Fever, but you may catch yourself humming along with the main title music or laughing at the sound of your brain being munched. Awesome stuff. There’s a ton of things that will keep you coming back for more in PvZ. The Zen Garden was the biggest hit for me, but the large amount of mini-games, puzzles and unique spin on the second journey into Adventure Mode will keep you clacking on that mouse for many, many more hours to come. PvZ is a new drug, capable of sucking your productivity and shedding many hours of your day.Throughout my play, I discovered nearly nothing wrong. If I wanted to quibble, I would point out that occasionally the bowling levels are a little too hard, the rooftop levels are a bit out of character with the rest of the game thanks to the introduction of the catapult, and the initial play-through of Adventure Mode is pretty easy. But those are just quibbles. Do yourself a favor and buy Plants vs. Zombies if you’re even considering it. Score: 9.5 Overall Score: 10

There's one surefire way to amp up the cool factor of pretty much any game on the market, and that's to add zombies. With PopCap's newest offering, Plants vs. Zombies, this winning recipe also adds in green leafy characters f...

Destructoid review: The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai

Apr 22 // Conrad Zimmerman
The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai (XBLA)Developer: Ska StudiosPublisher: Ska StudiosReleased: April 1, 2009MSRP: 800 MS Points Conrad ZimmermanThe Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a fast-paced, frenetic brawler the likes of which we rarely see in 2D. The titular character's story revolves around... actually, I have absolutely no idea what the story really is. The Dishwasher was an actual dishwasher in a restaurant but he was also a samurai and was killed by the robotic underlings of the controlling global power. Mysteriously resurrected, he has sworn vengeance against his killers and seeks to topple the evil world overlords. At least, I think that's how it goes. It could be the most brilliant tale of revenge ever written and I'm just not seeing it, but the occasional comic strips that break up the action are vague and kinda pointless. The writing is overwrought and needlessly dramatic but I will give credit to the art style used throughout these panels and the game as a whole. It is dark, striking and more effectively conveys the smoldering rage of The Dishwasher than the laughable text which accompanies it.It doesn't really matter anyway, outside of having something to skip before you go and kill more robots, because the combat is quite clearly where a lot of James Silva's energies went in developing the game. Starting only with a purloined set of cleavers from his former place of employment, The Dishwasher slices, dices and makes Julienne fries out of everything which comes into his path. New weapons arrive early and often with four additional implements of destruction becoming unlocked during the story mode's fourteen levels, including a katana, a chainsaw and guns.Also unlocked early in the story mode is the ability for a second player to drop in locally for some co-op action. The second player doesn't have to deal with the same sort of pressure as the first player, as their death only takes them out of the action for a brief period of time before they can hop back in (albeit with less than full health). It's great for when you have a friend show up unexpectedly or if you need a little help getting through a section and, like all unlocks in The Dishwasher, it carries over into any new game you start after gaining the capability. The Dishwasher also has some potent magical attacks at his disposal. Earning four "Dish Magic" spells through the course of gameplay with varying effects, these generally boil down to being smart bomb attacks which deal a significant amount of damage to enemies in their wide area of effect. Sure, one spell might explode outward in multiple directions while another only fires forward along the ground, but it's difficult to tell the difference between one spell and another as they all seem to do much the same job. As you progress, you'll collect spirals from enemies. Achieving certain challenges, such as defeating a group of baddies within a time limit or completing a rhythm-matching minigame. These can be spent at one of the game's many computer terminals for a boost in your maximum health or Dish Magic meters. They can also be traded in for upgrades to your weapons which unlock new combos and increase damage.The Guitar Hero-like minigame is a nice little diversion that breaks up the action and gives a little breathing room. As has been reported previously, you can even use a guitar controller to play these sequences, which seems like a nice touch but winds up being a bit impractical and most players won't even bother with it. Of course, if a guitar controller is connected to the Xbox when you start one of these, it defaults to the mode which uses it, which might annoy unaware folks (like this reviewer) who tend to just leave their peripherals plugged in all the time. In addition to the story, there's a considerable amount of content to play. The arcade mode, which can be played alone or in multiplayer (online or local), has fifty scenarios available. And, for the really hardcore, a survival mode with leaderboards is available. The combo system for attacks is deep and satisfying. Each of the five weapons available to you have around a dozen combo moves you can achieve with them and moves can be chained to other moves or even other weapons with a quick press of a button. Interestingly, the game encourages you to stay your hand a bit when pummeling foes. Once an enemy has been weakened near the point of death, a prompt appears giving the player an opportunity to perform a killing blow. Using the correct attack is important, as properly killed baddies drop much-needed health. The system places an emphasis on skillfully dispatching enemies instead of merely laying waste to them and it works great. You have to train yourself to stop at the right time or you'll kill the vast majority of enemies without gaining the benefits of doing so.With six difficulty levels for the story, the scenarios and survival modes, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a game you could be playing for a very long time indeed. It's a good thing that it's so much fun. Killing robots is consistently entertaining with the game's tight controls and higher difficulty levels are quite hard indeed. If you're in the mood for a little wholesale slaughter, you could certainly do much worse than this one.Score: 8.0 Jordan DevoreThe Dishwasher: Dead Samurai has been a relatively strange experience for me. Initially, when a slice of the game was released as a playable demo for the XNA initiative around a year ago, I was ecstatic to take it for a spin. Flash forward to a few weeks ago when the title finally debuted on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, where I was anxious to spend my 800 Microsoft Points, but came out somewhat dissatisfied at my first hour or so of play time.I had opted to go with normal difficulty my first time through, which was apparently a horrible move; once The Dishwasher’s gas mask-wearing, grenade-throwing enemies came out to play, they whooped my ass, in a big way. I like to think of them as the equivalent of Castlevania’s flying medusa heads -- they aren’t particularly hard to kill alone, but when a few come at you at once, there’s going to be trouble. Anyway, because I had refused to use the game’s rolling mechanic (this move varies from weapon to weapon) to dodge the aforementioned grenades, and had instead decided that spamming the same three moves repeatedly was nothing short of brilliant, I died. A lot. To the point where I was completely turned off from playing until later on that same evening. No, I’m not just telling you about my misfortune because I enjoy making a fool out of myself -- rather, this is a good example of why senseless button mashing does not work very well.Once the game brings out some of its stranger and more deadly monstrosities, like the undead kamikaze cyborgs, for instance, you have no choice but to A) dodge or teleport to avoid fire, since there technically is no ducking and B) pay attention to visual cues, especially when it comes to pulling off stylized finishing attacks and not getting your ass handed to you by the many bosses that infest The Dishwasher’s twisted world. Speaking of bosses, I must give props to James Silva for bringing such a variety in character design to the table. Figuring out the best way to take these bad boys down was easily my favorite part of the game, simply because it brought me back to the days when I actively played games like Kirby Super Star, Donkey Kong Country 2, Mega Man X, and Yoshi’s Island. Evoking such a wonderful feeling is not easy for a developer to accomplish, and it’s sadly a rarity these days as most companies have strayed away from making bosses challenging enough for the more skilled gamers out there.It’s also worth mention that The Dishwasher presents some of the most satisfying moments in recent memory.  Because of the way in which enemies are presented -- wave after wave of baddies to the point where you will constantly be eyeing your health bar in absolute fear -- the feeling you get upon clearing out almost any given room is absurdly refreshing. Besides that, there are a few parts where your friend the insane Chef makes a quick appearance (yep, the story makes no sense, but it doesn’t have to), and he quite literally obliterates foes alongside the Dishwasher as you try to figure out what’s transpiring on your television set; if these sequences weren’t as badass as they really are, I wouldn’t even be mentioning them right now. Trust me, when you see it for yourself, you will gush joy too.While progressing through the main story mode is enjoyable -- minus attempting to make sense of the game’s vague story -- the arcade mode is definitely where most of your time will be spent.  Being able to quickly load up a level where all you need to do is “kill X amount of enemies” and get the highest score possible is pure, over-the-top gore-filled bliss. The replayability of this game is much greater than the average XBLA release, and for that I am greatly thankful.While I have been quick to point out all of the positive aspects to The Dishwasher, of which there are many, I feel obligated to reiterate that the game’s learning curve will be borderline maddening for some of you, and for whatever reason, there’s screen tearing in a few of the later levels. It’s not a constant issue or anything, but it is worth bringing up. Lastly, while I agree with Conrad on the guitar minigame being good for a break, it gets extremely old, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m a whore for points, I would have flat out skipped the damn things. But now I’m beginning to nitpick, so I’ll shut up already and allow you to resume doing whatever it was you were doing prior to reading this review.For $10, the amount of content easily justifies the purchase for anyone who wants a solid 2D action game with a gritty yet strangely charming look to it. I would recommend downloading the trial for those who fear The Dishwasher may be too difficult to handle, but please remember that the game shines the brightest when you have all of the weapons unlocked and are tasked with fighting more than two or three starter enemy types -- don’t let the demo’s simplistic nature fool you. Score: 8.0Overall Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)  

It has been over a year since gamers were given the opportunity to check out the XNA Community Games demo and I think it's safe to say that one game clearly outshined all of the competition. The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was f...

Destructoid review: Burn Zombie Burn

Apr 22 // Conrad Zimmerman
Burn Zombie Burn (PSN)Developer: Doublesix GamesPublisher: Doublesix GamesReleased: March 26, 2009MSRP: $9.99 There's a fatal flaw in many games which are centered around zombies: Victory. As much as I would like to believe that I have the chops and planning necessary to survive a zombie outbreak, I know in my heart that this is an impossibility. The dead will walk the Earth and, eventually, I will walk with them. It's always refreshing to play a game which really espouses that fundamental truth and Burn Zombie Burn is like a cool drink of water sipped atop a pile of fetid corpses in that respect. The object of Burn Zombie Burn is to kill zombies. That's it. There's no plot, just straight-up arcade action. Controlling the rockabilly Bruce (who, with his square jaw and dialogue, is likely an homage to B-movie legend Bruce Campbell), players attempt to survive as long as possible while being constantly assaulted by the undead. While it's easy to kill a standard zombie, there are a lot of specialized monsters in this game with different traits that must be handled in different ways. Zombies with dynamite strapped to their chests explode either when getting close to you or when hit with fire or another explosion, while armored zombies require you to get up close and personal with a melee weapon. Poisonous zombies slowly drain health if you stand too close while ballet dancing zombies and football player zombies charge headlong at you at great speeds. There are ten types in all and the variety is great, as you never really know what's going to come next and in what numbers. Each level drops groups of zombies as numbered waves. Don't let the "wave" terminology throw you off, though. The flood of re-animated bodies does not stop to allow you to clear them all away, with waves dropping after a certain (brief) amount of time has passed regardless of how many remain shambling. The way this manages to keep the pressure on is great with each wave being progressively more difficult both in their composition of zombie types and sheer numbers. Getting a high score in this game requires you to carefully balance a number of factors. All zombies score you points but the manner of their disposal is what determines how many points are earned. Killing a zombie with a gun, for example, scores less points than using a cricket bat. If you want to earn a serious amount of points, you'll need to take advantage of score multipliers and this mechanic is where the cleverness of the designers really shines through. Bruce's secondary weapon is a torch which he may hold out and set zombies ablaze. These flames will spread to other zombies and objects in the environment and your score multiplier is equal to the number of zombies lit up by Bruce. Since burning undead move more quickly, deal more damage and are no longer afraid of fire, they become much more dangerous as a result. Points are not the only reason to set zombies on fire. Enemies will occasionally drop power-ups as you kill them and the items dropped are different depending on their state of inflammation at time of death. Normal undead will leave behind food, ammo and explosives while the firery sort will give you a boost to your speed, increase the range of explosions and upgrade your dynamite to proximity mines or remote-detonated bombs. Keeping alive means controlling the population of burning zombies to get the things you need. The game's six levels run the full gamut of zombie movie cliches. There's a cabin in the woods, an army base and the drive-in theatre. Every level can be played in three different modes: At the most basic level is Free Play, where the only thing the player has to worry about is keeping themselves alive. In this mode, every level has a special "event" button on the map which activates as you chain together kills with a singular weapon type. Hitting the button has a different effect on every level, some of which are extremely helpful for clearing out enemies while others can be deadly traps for you. In the Timed mode, you are given a time limit in which to score as many points as possible in addition to the number of lives awarded. It's a good mode for people who have gotten the hang of Free Play and want a little more challenge, as putting more time on the clock means killing burning zombies and hoping they drop alarm clock power-ups to get an additional 20-30 seconds. Last is "Defend Daisy", in which Bruce's girlfriend sits helplessly in a pink convertible while the horde of zombies tries to kill her. Burning zombies will drop health restoration items for her, which is a damn good thing as the surface area of her car allows for huge swarms of undead to completely surround her and can quickly take the damsel out. While it's great that all three modes can be played on every level, the manner in which they are unlocked is a bit on the tedious side. Unlocking a level through Free Play only unlocks Free Play in the new level. Every mode must be unlocked independently on every level and it really drags things out unnecessarily, especially for a game which is centered entirely around quick, arcade-style play. There are a few other minor gameplay annoyances, such as an empty weapon needing to be fired one last time before it can be dropped or replaced by another one and that only zombies which Bruce is directly responsible for burning providing a bonus. These problems aren't anything serious but they can be frustrating during particularly heated games.  More irritations come from the game's multiplayer modes, which are entirely local with no online play available. Every single level of the game can be played in co-op and versus modes, but only if you've unlocked them in single-player first. Achieving success in a co-op game also does not translate to the single-player modes, so you can't count on a friend to help you open up the whole game. Then there's the issue of split-screen, which is managed fairly poorly. While other games of its type might dynamically zoom out to keep both players in the same screen, Burn Zombie Burn uses a vertical split-screen that doesn't allow you to see much of the playfield at all. There's no method for keeping track of where the other player is, let alone the zombies, and it makes the game feel cramped. Mediocre multiplayer aside, Burn Zombie Burn is still a very fun to play and has an impressive amount of complexity for what it is. The zombies are charming, funny charicatures with outlandish behavior which are sure to bring a smile. Fans of dual-stick, arcade shooters should have a good time playing, while those less interested in score-based games may be unimpressed. Score: 7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

Zombies are great, aren't they? Damn right they are. As enemies of humanity they are persistent, deadly and singularly driven to accomplish their goals. As mirrors into the soul of mankind, they are unmatched in the history ...

Destructoid review: Zeno Clash

Apr 21 // Aerox
Zeno Clash (PC) Developed by ACE Team Published by Valve Released on April 21st, 2009 Zeno Clash is the first full game released by ACE Team, a group of former mod-makers from Chile. Having cut their teeth on Doom 2 and Quake 3 mods, they’ve been around since 1999 and recently decided to form an independent game studio. Zeno Clash is a great first game, and while it has some flaws, overall the experience is worth your time and money. ACE Team has asked that we not give away key story points, so I will try to summarize the story in the most non-spoilery way possible. You play as Ghat who, after an event in the beginning of the game, is on the run from his family. He is joined by a female around his age named Daedra, and the two escape away from the city that they once called home. After running a significant distance, you learn some interesting information and return to the city to settle an old score. I know that’s vague, but it’s really all you need to know to get started. If that’s too vague for you, don’t worry. You’ll find out all the story elements pretty quickly -- the game is relatively short. The single player mode can easily be completed in around 5-7 hours (possibly less if you play on normal difficulty). There are 18 different levels, each with one or two major fights. Once you complete the game, you unlock Challenge Mode. Challenge Mode is a tower – 5 levels of a tower, with each level having 5 floors. The higher up you go in the tower, the harder the challenge. Completing a full “level” (5 floors of a tower) makes you eligible for the leaderboards for that particular level. Be warned – challenge mode is DIFFICULT. I moved through the single player game on ‘Hard’ difficulty with relative ease, but I can’t even beat the first tower level. Most of the game’s levels play out fairly similarly. There’s some exposition and plot revelations, and then you fight. Sometimes you fight before you get to the plot point, but that’s typically how it goes. Nothing is ever quite EXACTLY the same, but you’re not going to be surprised by any sudden crazy new gameplay introductions. What DOES change from level to level are the environments and (usually) the characters you interact with. Let me say now, the art direction and character designs are by far my favorite part of Zeno Clash. The world is richly detailed, with each level/location really having a distinct and unique feel. With a couple exceptions when you return to previously visited levels, the backgrounds vary wildly: a bustling city, a barren desert, a forest filled with insane people. A lot of attention and detail went into each of the levels, and it certainly shows. Similarly, the character design is just as unique and fantastic. While a couple of the characters (including the main one) look like regular humans, most of the people you’ll encounter in the game have character designs you likely haven’t seen anywhere else. Short fat elephant men, female weasels with four breasts, a giant bird-man with a human face, a giant nose, and huge talons – in almost every single level you’ll run into a new character you haven’t seen before, and I can’t think of a single character design that was disappointing in the slightest. The character voices, however, are a bit less exciting. The voice acting isn't awful, but it's not great, and it really sounds like each line was recorded independently of the rest. I like a lot of the various character accents and speech mannerisms, but at times, the speech just doesn't seem to The graphics in general are also impressive, and with relatively low system requirements Zeno Clash should be accessible to a wide swath of PC owners. I was able to run the game with most of the settings maxed, and it looked pretty freaking fantastic. It’s not Crysis, but it pushes the limits of the Source engine and overall looks better than most other Source games currently available. I did run into a couple of graphical hiccups, particularly on levels where the ground was uneven, as I found myself kind of ‘stuttering’ and bouncing around as (I presume) the game attempted to figure out exactly where I was standing. This occurred pretty rarely though, and didn’t really detract from the game. I do recommend changing all the graphics settings BEFORE you load up a saved game, as I found more often than not fiddling with the settings while I was paused would cause a crash. ACE Team says they’re aware of crashes if you change the shadow settings in the middle of a game and that it should be fixed by release, but I also had crashes changing the resolution, the anti-aliasing, and vertical sync. This may be fixed by the time the game is formally released, but it’s something you may want to be aware of. So, the game looks great, but how does it play? I found the overall experience to be quite enjoyable, but Zeno Clash isn’t without its flaws. Originally, the game was billed as a ‘melee combat’ game with a bit of shooting thrown in. When you enter combat, you of course can use your fists, but there are also usually guns scattered around each of the levels. These range from dual pistols shaped like fishheads, to rifles, to regular crossbows, to crossbows that shoot exploding darts. Usually you start with the pistols or the rifle, and can pick up the stronger weapons somewhere in the level. I found that combat tends to lean more towards ranged shooting than actual melee fighting. In terms of hand to hand combat, the one on one battles are fantastic. Fighting a single opponent in hand to hand is all about timing, precision, and reading your opponent to anticipate what they’re going to do, and these one on one fights were where I had the most fun. When you fight multiple opponents however, which is fairly often, it’s generally much easier to grab a gun and hide behind a piece of scenery while sniping away at your opponents. The guns don’t do a great deal of damage, but they all have a knockdown effect, and if you hide in the right spot usually only one or two opponents will charge at you at a time, making them easy targets to take out. If you do decide to take on the groups in hand to hand combat, be prepared for a difficult time. It’s certainly not impossible, and I may have just been bad at the melee combat, but I found myself having some difficulty with the targeting system. Assuming all the computer opponents can see you, they’ll all come after you at once, making them extremely hard to deal with. Locking on to an opponent helps you direct your attacks, but allow restricts your vision so that you can’t see anything coming at you from the side or behind. More often than not, I would just start punching an enemy when I would be interrupted by someone I didn’t see who had entered combat behind me. I usually ended up just grabbing whatever gun was on the floor, run as far away as I could, and just slowly pick my opponents off one by one. Considering that the enemies will also pick up any weapons laying around and immediately start shooting you, more often than not you'll find yourself in the middle of a gunfight. Even the final boss, who is supposed to be defeated using a combination of hand to hand combat and the pistols, I found to be easier to beat just by keeping distance and slowly plinking away at him with bullets.The story of the game was quite interesting, but I wish it had been fleshed out just a little bit more. The events that transpire over the course of the game are fairly well explained, but it's a shame that more background wasn't given on the characters and the reasons underlying their actions in the game. Even on completion, I still wasn’t entirely sure who Daedra was, how Ghat knew her, and why she was helping him escape in the first place. Additionally, the last couple scenes of the game were a giant WTF moment for me. I don’t know if it’s leading into a sequel (I hope it is), but the final scene was somewhat of a letdown, just because it was so random and unexplained. The core story itself is engaging and entertaining, but I feel there is so much more they could have done to make it more cohesive. On a more positive note, one thing I thought the game did particularly well was the progression of difficulty throughout the single player levels. Except for a couple of story-centric levels, most of the fights you get into are just slightly harder than the previous ones, and introduce one or two new concepts that you have to deal with. It’s nothing overwhelming, but the learning curve is such that you may have to restart one or two times when you run into a new situation. Even if you’re an expert at harassing your enemies from long range, eventually that tactic won’t work anymore and you’ll have to adapt in order to stay alive. As I played through the game, I found myself just barely surviving many of the fights, which brought a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I feel is sometimes lacking in modern games. Knowing I just made it through by the skin of my teeth, and that one more hit would have killed me and sent me back to the beginning, made my victories that much sweeter. Another thing I really enjoyed about the game was the Challenge Mode, even though I wasn’t very good at it. While it’s likely that you’ll finish the single player game relatively quickly, the Challenge Mode should extend the game for a number of extra hours, especially as you strive to beat your friends’ high scores on the leaderboard. You may think you’ve got the game down pretty well, but be prepared to be tested. The challenges throw together a whole bunch of individual scenarios from the main game that you wouldn’t expect to be paired together, and expect you to deal with them with little more than a single gun and a couple of bombs (if you’re lucky). Overall Zeno Clash is a solid, enjoyable game that has a few noticeable flaws that don’t significantly detract from the overall experience. While I would have liked to see a bit more emphasis on the melee combat and less on shooting, I think you’ll still find that most battles give you a bit of a rush and are enjoyable to play, particularly the unique boss battles. I predict that anyone who preordered this game will be happy with their purchase, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, I would strongly consider it. It may not be the best game that you end up playing in 2009, but it’s certainly worth checking out. I know I had a lot of fun playing it, and I’m looking forward to what ACE Team releases next. Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

The wait is finally over! Zeno Clash is out today, and if what I’ve heard in IRC and the forums is any indication, this game is hotly anticipated. It first entered the world as an obscure and bizarre trailer that confus...

Destructoid Review: Valkyria Chronicles DLC

Apr 21 // Anthony Burch
Since each of these three DLC packs can be purchased independent of one another, I'm actually going to write three mini-reviews rather than one all-encompassing overview.Enter the Edy DetachmentThis single mission details the exploits of the Edy Detachment, made up of a bunch of characters who don't matter, and Jann.Yes.Jann, the offensively effeminate Lancer expertly voiced by John DiMaggio, was responsible for most of my enjoyment with this mission pack.Not to say that "Enter the Edy Detachment" is outright awful, but it's also nothing to write home about. Edy (the egotistical would-be pop star), Marina (the silent, superhot sniper), Homer (the masochistic engineer), Susie (a pacifist who will literally refuse to shoot at soldiers half the time you tell her to), and a boring Darcsen Shocktrooper named Lynn are tasked with defending a civilian village from attack for three full rounds, at which point Edy must make her way to the south end of the map to save a stranded soldier's life. While it's kind of interesting to see all these secondary characters in the spotlight -- Jann especially -- they don't really have anything of consequence to say, and their minimalist characterization in the main campaign was so efficient that their few scripted lines throughout the mission didn't add any player empathy that wasn't there already. I adored Marina and Jann even when they only said one or two lines per mission (especially since one of those lines would invariably be, "OOOH! I could get lost in the musclllllllllllles!"). I didn't adore them any more or less when they started spouting hamhanded "let's stand up for what's right" rhetoric. It also doesn't help that the actual mission isn't all that well-designed. While the constant barrage of mortar attacks forces you to keep your characters moving, and while the team's crappy position between two functioning tanks results in some initially nail-biting defense gameplay, the mission simply falls apart once the player is asked to move Edy from the northmost point of the map to the southmost. My first time through the mission, I didn't realize that this new objective didn't override the old one because the character dialogue seemed to imply that the nearby villagers had all evacuated. I moved all my soldiers away from the capture point they'd spent the last three turns defending, and was a little surprised when a lone scout ran up, took down my flag, and ended my mission. This irritation was exacerbated by the fact that the enemy Scout spawned out of seemingly nowhere. Where typical Valkyria missions demarcate very specific, very visible spawn points for enemies that can be overtaken or at least navigated around, the enemies in "Edy Detachment" spawn in seemingly random numbers in seemingly random areas of the map, which forced me to leave about half my team behind at the capture point just in case some jackass enemy managed to spawn a few inches away without warning. This was tactically successful, but also incredibly boring. I never lost because I made legitimate tactical mistakes; I lost because of awkward mission design.  The single mission only ended up taking me about an hour and a half, even with two or three complete mission restarts. You can evidently get a "better" ending cut scene by getting an A-rank, but considering the cut scene probably just involves Edy being even more of an egotistical bitch than usual, I didn't feel any real desire to go back and play it again. Five bucks isn't that much to spend on an hour and a half of entertainment (an averare Blockbuster rental costs $4.31, for Chrissakes), but "Enter the Edy Detachment" is probably the weakest of the three DLC packs. Score: 3.0  Behind Her Blue FlameFirst things first --  the "Behind Her Blue Flame" pack includes four missions, but it doesn't seem in any real hurry to inform the player that this is the case. A single playthrough of the pack results in two different levels. The first level is the same no matter what; the second level changes depending on whether or not the player destroys a particular enemy in the first level. The first level, plus the two alternate second levels, adds up to three stages. Once you get an A-ranking on all three of these stages, a fourth bonus mission is unlocked. I played through the "Blue Flame" pack once without knowing any of this since the game never makes it explicit, and it took a quick trip to the GameFAQs forums to convince me that, yes, there are actually four missions in the DLC pack.  Even if there weren't four, however -- even if it there were only the two missions I fought through on my first round of play -- "Behind Her Blue Flame" would still be a more substantial and mechanically interesting DLC pack than "Enter the Edy Detachment." "Blue Flame" is interesting not only in that it puts you in the shoes of the bad guys during some point in the middle of the campaign timeline, but because it requires totally new strategies of the player thanks to its two main protagonists.  Every Blue Flame mission puts Johann, an engineer, and Selvaria, the well-endowed Valkyria villainess, in the player's control and essentially forces them to work together. Selvaria, having the speed of a Scout while wielding a nearly godlike machine gun known as the Rhum, is basically a walking death machine. However, she does not carry around any grenades or Ragnaid, which forces her to rely on Johann the engineer for healing her and clearing roadblocks. Johann and Selvaria become a brutally efficient odd couple; both protect one another and fill in the other's battlefield deficiencies. Making these two characters simultaneously protect one another, typically while also being forced to defend your home base with a small scattering of Shocktroopers and Lancers, results in some really interesting, if really difficult combat. Playing through "Blue Flame," I'd simply never before had to worry about so many different, interlocking aspects of my military force at the same time. I was no longer simply worrying about whether or not I'd chosen the right soldiers for the job; I was having to deal with finding a way to flank enemy encampments using only two soldiers, one of whom couldn't destroy roadblocks and the other who dies after exposure to five seconds of sustained gunfire. I was forced to decide how many action points I could afford to use setting up my home base defense, when my two mission-critical fighters were deep in enemy territory and tantalizingly close to their final objective. The missions are often designed in such a way that Johann and Selvaria are usually in the most danger and thus, unfortunately, more likely to force the player to restart the entire mission upon one of their deaths. This can be frustrating, but, unlike those failures I experienced in the "Edy Detachment" DLC, I was entirely to blame for every game over. Still, it would have been nice if there were some method of resuscitating either protagonist, just to prevent the missions from being so unforgiving and restart-heavy. I ended up spending about two hours on just those first two levels alone, but they were definitely more strategically demanding and well-designed than the "Edy's Detachment" map pack. On an unrelated note, there's also a sort of quiet sadness in triumphing the successes of a group of sympathetic characters whom you know are not only "bad guys," but who will eventually be mercilessly slaughtered by the "good guys" in Valkyria Chronicles' regular campaign mode. Of all the DLC packs, "Behind Her Blue Flame" is probably my favorite.Score: 8.0 Hard EX Mode Why is it, exactly, that Super Duper Ball Busting Hard Mode DLC only tends to get made for games that don't require it? The absolute last thing Mega Man 9 needed was an arbitrary difficulty boost, and Valkyria Chronicles is as well-balanced a strategy game I've yet played. I did not expect to find Sega offering an Expert mode which takes away Welkin's tank, improves enemy AI and firepower, and adds a few new weapons.After playing a few skirmish missions on Expert mode (which is accessible only if you've already beaten the main campaign once), I can safely say that I am in no reasonable position to adequately judge the quality of this new difficulty mode. It certainly seems rather nice -- the enemy positions and map objectives for each skirmish have been changed to the point that you might as well be playing different levels entirely -- but it's so goddamned punishing that I have not yet been able to complete a single mission despite at least a dozen  attempts over the last few days. In many ways, I think your mileage with Expert mode depends on what kind of a Valkyria Chronicles player you were doing the main game. If you tended to use only a few units at a time and generally didn't mess around with Welkin's tank too much, then Expert probably won't force you to adopt any new strategies outside of being way, way more careful than you're used to being. If you were the opposite sort of player, then these new Expert skirmishes will probably feel like a totally new, remarkably punishing campaign mode. Perhaps too punishing, given how pleasantly difficult the game was in the first place. If you don't mind dying over and over and over again and would consider new enemy placement and unit restrictions a sufficient change of pace rather than arbitrary increase in difficulty, Hard EX mode may be worth the five bucks. If you were pretty happy with Valkyria Chronicles' difficulty level to begin with, however, you might find a purchase of Hard EX mode not entirely unlike paying a stranger five dollars to repeatedly bludgeon you in the kneecaps with a ball peen hammer. With that in mind, it'd be futile for me to attempt to place a numerical score on a DLC pack that I couldn't even complete all the way to the end. There's a lot of content there and it's really hard to get to, but it's totally up to you if Hard EX mode is worth the five bucks and potential frustration. Score: ?.?

There are two kinds of PS3 owners in the world: those who have bought Valkyria Chronicles, and the ignorant majority who know not of the remarkably action/strategy/RPG combo we here at Destructoid think quite fondly of. If yo...

Destructoid review: Demigod

Apr 20 // Aerox
Demigod (PC)Developed by Gas Powered Games Published by Stardock Released ('officially') on April 14th, 2009 If you read the preview I did for Demigod, you can probably skip this part. For those of you who don't know what the game is about, let me go ahead and explain. Demigod is a fairly similar game to the old Warcraft 3 mod Defense of the Ancients. As a genre, the best way to probably describe the game would be 'action RTS'. You control one of eight demigods, each with their own unique abilities and playstyles. The eight demigods are split into two groups of four each. The Assassins are direct damage dealers and are the more 'action' part of 'action-RTS'. Assassins have no minions to worry about or units to command, they pretty much solely focus on dealing out as much damage as possible to the opposing side. The Generals encompass more of the 'RTS' focus of the game, as each General can summon a number of minions to aid them in combat. While just as powerful as the Assassins, the Generals rely less on brute force and more on careful tactics and minion management to crush their enemies. Single player has two modes – skirmish and tournament. Skirmish is just a regular, one time battle against CPU units, similar to most other RTS games. Tournament is fairly similar, except you select one specific demigod over a series of battles. All eight demigods are represented (the others are CPU controlled), and you fight a bunch of 4 v. 4 battles – how well you do gives you a certain number of points, and at the end of the tournament the demigod with the most points wins. Multiplayer also has two modes, one similar to the single player skirmish, and also the Pantheon. Pantheon is interesting – when you register your account, you have to choose either the light or dark side, and this can’t be changed until the tournament cycle ends. Each side has access to only four of the demigods. When you play on Pantheon, you’re teamed up with other people on your chosen side, and you play against the opposing side. Win records and points are calculated across all the servers for each team, and at the end of a period of time one side is declared the winner. There’s not really much of a story to Demigod, but in the grand scheme of things I think it’s ok. It would be nice to get more of the overarching plot elements and learn more about the world Demigod is set in, but really the focus of the game is on the combat and the gameplay. The individual demigods do have really well written backgrounds, but that information is never expounded upon in the actual game. Really, NOTHING is expounded on in the game. There’s a four paragraph story in the manual that lays out the entire game – the ‘Ancients’ (ie. gods) found out that one of their own, the ‘Progenitor’, broke some god-rules. So they killed him. Now they need someone to take his place. Luckily, the Progenitor was kind of a god-slut, so he knocked up a bunch of mortals who eventually gave birth to these demigods. Some of the gods thought mortals were gross, so they proposed an elaborate game for the demigods to prove themselves worthy. There’s your story. On the surface, the gameplay seems very simple. You’re split into two teams, light and dark, and you go at each other until someone wins. At the outset, you’re given an objective – kill a certain number of opposing demigods, destroy the other teams citadel (home base structure), capture the enemy’s flag and bring it back to your base, destroy a bunch of smaller key structures scattered throughout the other team’s base, or earn the most points by capturing the most flags. Pretty basic, and relatively easy to understand. The way it actually plays out is a bit more complicated, although still relatively basic. All of the maps are symmetrical, so everything is as fair as can be. You start in your home base, which consists of your citadel, where you can buy an assortment of upgrades to help you out, a healing crystal, some gold mines, and an item shop. As you go further out into the map, you’ll notice that both you and your enemies have defensive structures scattered around the map that deal some pretty serious damage. They’re put in place to prevent rushing on the outset, so as you move forward you’ll have to take out all the towers you come across so that the rest of your team can safely assault the enemy’s base. Along the way, you’ll see a whole bunch of “flags” (really, they’re control points) you can capture. While not required to win (in most game types), you’ll want to control as many of these as possible, because they all give you an extra advantage in battle: extra damage done by your units, extra damage taken by the enemy, more gold mines, an artifact shop with a wide variety of powerful (and expensive!) trinkets – typically there are more control points on the map than players on each team, so you have to make strategic choices about which flags to go for, which flags to defend, and which flags to just let go.As you might have gathered, the game is much deeper than it may initially let on. Demigod is one of those games where it’s very easy to just pick up, jump in, play and have a good time. However, to truly master the game, you have to go much, much deeper. Each Demigod has a fairly large skill tree, with 4 abilities each and a number of passive abilities to learn as well. Since the max level in a match is 20, you’ll never be able to learn everything. Unlike a lot of strategy games though, there doesn’t seem to be an “ultimate build” for any of the characters. The skills you pick will largely be dependent on what demigods are already on your team, what demigods are on the opposing team, and what game type you’re playing. Add in a variety of weapons, armor, and artifacts that all give varying bonuses coupled with the fact that gold is relatively limited and you’re forced to make choices between buying personal items for yourself or buying upgrades at the citadel for the good of your whole team, and you have a surprisingly deep experience. So far, most people playing online are still learning what exactly to do, but I imagine a month or two down the road it’s going to be much harder to be successful if you’re not carefully planning and communicating with your team. Unfortunately, communicating with your team isn’t easy. Not to go off on a rant here, but so many companies now are trying to introduce their own versions of Steam so they can make a little extra money. Now, Steam isn’t perfect, but do you know why they’re the most successful? Because it does exactly what you need it to do. Demigod runs on Stardock’s Impulse service, which, sadly, does not have voice chat. While Demigod does have its own chat program built into the game (which is actually pretty cool, and the game developers hang out in the main channel and talk to people fairly often), for a team based game like this voice chat is absolutely crucial. Finding friends on Impulse is difficult as well, because as far as I could find there’s not any user search function or way to add people from recent games you’ve played. If you don’t know someone’s Impulse username (which can be different than their Demigod user name), then you can’t even add them as a friend. Seriously guys, I’m getting sick of running 4 different programs to play games because each company wants their own Steam – if you’re going to try to compete with them, you need to make your product do as LEAST as much as Steam does, if not more. The game itself looks gorgeous. The levels and backgrounds have a nice level of detail, and are kind of awe-inspiring. While the battlefield itself is relatively plain (which is a good thing, since you’re not distracted by all sorts of crazy extra stuff going on), the art and detail surrounding it is what’s nice to look at. The units are well animated, and with the ability to zoom from a bird’s-eye-view to focusing on one or two individual units you can really get up close and see all the little details they’ve put in. The music is less exciting, although not bad, but it just kind of fades into the background. The announcer, however, is totally epic, and reminds me of the announcer from Unreal Tournament. There are a couple of issues I have with the game, however. While I understand that Demigod is primarily a multiplayer game, the single player aspect seemed really rushed and thrown together. I suppose it’s not terrible for a mostly multiplayer game, but back in beta the developers had been claiming that they were going to do something incredible and unique for the single player mode, beyond basic CPU battles, and it’s sad to see this never materialized. I do like the idea of Pantheon, but more often than not I get people dropping out of the game and replaced with crappy CPU players, or people who lag the game to the point that it’s unplayable. While a lot of the server issues have been fixed, there are still some fairly serious problems. (Ed Note: Wedge correctly pointed out that my original explanation of how the servers worked was incorrect. I've changed it slightly, and I'll admit I don't fully understand Stardock's netcode or connection process.) Demigod's peer-to-peer connection system means that you have to connect to every single other player in your game, and also means that one person with bad ping destroys the game for everyone else. It's very common to get into a game and have one person slow the game to the point of unplayability because of their lag or porn torrenting. Word on the forums is that they’re looking into this, but I’m concerned that as long as they stay with this peer to peer connection system, there will still be issues. Hopefully, I’m proven wrong. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, the lack of voice chat is a fairly serious deficit, especially for a game that’s almost entirely team-based. While you can set up Skype or Steam with your friends, you can’t do it with any randoms you play with (and in Pantheon you can’t go in with a premade team). Voice chat needs to get into the game quickly and soon, because a game that requires this much planning and strategy absolutely needs a fast form of communication. Chat doesn’t cut it. Finally, I’m slightly concerned about the longevity of the game. I’m having a blast playing it now, but with a limited number of maps and only eight demigods, I’m wondering how long it will stay fresh. I know the strategy is really rather deep and it will likely take people a while to master, but knowing how fickle gamers are I feel that for some people, it may not be enough. I know the developers have announced that at least 2 more demigods will be coming in a couple months via DLC – hopefully maps come as well. Even then, for people who want lots of options and cut their teeth with DotA’s ridiculous number of playable characters, it may not be enough. That said, I’ve been having a fantastic time with Demigod, even when the multiplayer wasn’t working well. While there are some noticeable flaws, the game is fun enough that it doesn’t overly affect the experience. The game is surprisingly deep, accommodates a wide number of playstyles, and requires quick thinking, solid planning, and an ability to adapt on the fly to whatever your opponents are doing. Strategy fans will have a field day, and action fans will be happy with the lack of micromanaging and the fast pace of the game. Not quite an RTS and not quite an action game, Demigod is an extremely successful blend of both. Whether it will still have a massive legion of followers two years down the line is debatable, but right now I’m hard pressed to think of any other recent PC games that would be worth buying over Demigod. 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

As you may have heard, Demigod was released almost a week before the official date by Gamestop. As a result, the folks at Stardock ended up rushing the game out so that everyone who bought it could play it, and so for the fir...

Destructoid review: Super Yum Yum 3

Apr 20 // Colette Bennett
Super Yum Yum 3 (iPhone)Developer: AirPlay UK Ltd.Publisher: AirPlay UK Ltd.Released: April 20, 2009MSRP: $4.99I will warn you of this much before I begin: if you dislike vividly colorful games or are turned off by cuteness, this is not the game for you. Of course, if you have eyes, you may have already figured that out -- even the title screen of Super Yum Yum 3 is bursting with adorable faces. However, if a cheerful theme doesn't bother you and you like a good puzzle, you may find Super Yum Yum 3 has a lot to offer within its bright candy shell.The game begins with the abduction of Leon the Chameleon's babies by the large and rather overly-makeup caked Ms. Tum Tum, who reminds me a bit of a character from an old Mario game. One thing I noticed right off the bat was that the game seemed as if it assumed you had played the previous titles in the series, offering minimal instruction on how to play at first. However, AirPlay let me know some tweaks were already in the works to make the experience a little more friendly for new fans, so by the time you check this out they will likely already be in place.You'll find yourself (and by yourself I mean Leon) standing in a snowy field dotted with cherry blossoms to begin. Each level is navigated easily by touching Leon to move him from place to place. The levels are peppered with gates, which will admit you into each of the game's thirty-six levels. The objective is simple: to move around each level, you'll need to walk around and eat pieces of fruit that are scattered about. The trick is that you turn color with each fruit that you eat, and you can only eat fruit that matches your skin color.At first, this is not a difficult challenge -- a few minutes spent looking at the fruit on the board (you use your finger to drag the map around to see it all), and you'll figure out what order to snuffle them up in. However, it's not just as simple as eating the fruit -- each fruit's leaves are the color you'll end up being if you eat it. After eating them all, you will be clear to step on a portal that looks a bit like a spinning peppermint, and the game will show your your score on the level (how many fruits gathered out of the total available and how many babies collected).As the game progresses through four different worlds, the challenge increases, introducing the babies you must rescue and new large fruits that you can only eat with their help. To progress to a new area, you will find a scale waiting for you which will "weigh" your progress. The scales are rather forgiving -- even if you haven't gotten a perfect score on most of the levels, I found I often had collected enough fruits to be able to move forward anyway. If you're set on getting a perfect score though, you'll definitely notice the difficulty rising as you progress to later levels. Good news for the completionists out there!The picture above shows off a minigame you'll play after completing a world. Leon will appear with all the rescued babies in tow. Ahead of you, Ms. Tum Tum will throw a giant fruit in hopes of obstructing your path. Considering you have a slew of fruit gobbling helpers, that probably wasn't her best move, but villains always seem to make bad choices. The red bar in the top left has a marker that moves from side to side, and by tapping the icon at the bottom when the market sits in the yellow, you can kick one of your babies into the fruit. After you kick them all in, you'll need to eat your way out by using the same technique to chomp. All this is timed, but it's not hard -- you'll be out and on your way to the next level in no time.With its crisp, attractive graphics, easy-to-use controls and pleasant music, Super Yum Yum 3 definitely improves on its predecessors in every way. My only complaint about the sound is a tiny one, and it's that I found Leon's constant exclamations of "Yum yum!" and "Oooohhh!" every time he ate a fruit to be a little much. Of course, this is coming from a person who is pretty sensitive to sound effects. The voice fits him, but considering how much eating you do in the game, I would have liked to hear it a little less frequently.Overall, the game is really solid and well worth the $4.99 price tag for the 8-10 hours of play you get (there's definite replay value as well, especially if you're aiming for a perfect score). Fans of the first two games will be amazed by how good it looks and sounds, while it offers a lot of new ground for puzzler fans to discover. AirPlay is also hosting a contest for the first 25 people to complete the game with a perfect score, so if you find yourself working on that expert playthrough, let them know!Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

While some gamers pile scorn on the casual gaming market, I've long since pulled the stick out of my ass and left that attitude behind as the right type of game in this genre can totally win my heart (cough PopCap cough). I'v...

Destructoid review: TNA Wrestling

Apr 17 // Brad Nicholson
TNA Wrestling (iPhone)Developer: Longtail StudiosPublisher: Longtail StudiosReleased: March 26, 2009MSRP: $4.99 When I was younger, professional wresting had me firmly in its grasp. I was drawn in by the spectacle of muscle-bound men slapping and grabbing each other on top of the springy canvas. I grew out of it pretty quickly. I think the catalyst that got me looking elsewhere for entertainment was Bill Goldberg’s monumental title defense against Diamond Dallas Page. Three Diamond Cutters, man. Three. That shit just doesn’t jive with me.But I tell you what does -- TNA Wrestling for the iPhone. Surprisingly, Longtail Studios has crafted quite the charming wrestling title that almost perfectly captures the sideshow antics -- both physical and mental -- of TNA’s brand of wrestling. TNA Wrestling is an undemanding game that relies heavily on the eccentricity of the company’s stars and your willingness to engage in their ridiculous banter to propel an intuitive turn-based style grappling system. As a whole, the game is digestible, hilarious and even a little addictive. The objective in TNA Wrestling is to take an unknown wrestler that you create to relative stardom at the top of TNA’s roster. And it won’t take much effort on your part. The game throws you matches consistently and a fairly linear progression makes sure you’re never treading water -- even if you’re pissing off the suits or embarrassing Scott Steiner.Character creation isn’t that big of a deal, unfortunately. You’re given a few mundane characteristics to fool around with at the beginning of the game -- stuff like hair color, chest build and facial hair. The game deals in absolutes, so no multi-colored goatees or rainbow briefs. Wrestling is the only vehicle of progression in the game, which is probably my biggest knock on the title. TNA Wrestling has a fairly diverse dialogue system that allows you to make moral decisions that affect immediate conversations and who you’ll face in some matches. I ultimately got the feeling that these decisions -- based on a “Heel” versus “Face” structure -- really amounted to nothing. About midway through the game, you’re thrust into matches that would have happened regardless of your actions. I would have liked to see more backstage stuff and perhaps a less physical route to the top of the wrestling food chain.On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to follow my wrestler home. What do these guys do in their spare time anyway? (Other than pump iron and beat their children.)Anyway, so there’s a dialogue system that propels you into the wrestling action, which is by far the most enjoyable experience in the title. Wrestling is turn-based and controlled by statistics, not wholly unlike an old-school role-playing game. Instead of casting “Fire,” you get the option to punch, kick, grapple or throw an adversary into the ropes.The system uses Battle Points, which are earned by netting Experience Points from defeating opponents and making dialogue choices. It’s a flat earning system -- you get points no matter what words you choose. It’s a bit disorienting at first. The usage of the turn-based system makes matches strategic. A series of punches and kicks will wind up activating a special move like an eye rake or some kind of suplex. (A nifty HUD keeps track of what moves you can pull off, your health, and even the amount of battle points you have to spend.) The key to getting off a move is paying attention to the battle points that you have, as well as the amount of reversals your opponent still has at his disposal. (You can have three initially.) Of course, once your turn ends, you’ll need to wisely spend your reversals as well.What it all boils down to is a cautious five minutes of battle that will commonly end in your favor since the AI isn’t that intelligent. At the same time, though, matches can spiral out of control if you spend your reversals like a moron or if your opponent manages to pump up the crowd -- another fighting option that can be taken at the beginning of the round.There is one slightly annoying caveat to all of this: every special move and pin requires you to mess around with quick-time events. The QTEs are usually just little swipes and flicks on-screen, but if you miss, your turn is automatically forfeited. Usually, by the time you have an opponent ready to be pinned, you’ve already used all your reversals. So when he pops up, your face has just become a meaty punching bag. I’ve lost entirely too many matches thanks to my slow reaction time.Still, for a mobile wrestling game, you can’t argue with the results. TNA Wrestling is wicked fun and you’ll probably spend a few more minutes in the title than what you reckoned every time you pick it up. The visuals are quite sharp, the dialogue is witty, and the action has a dash of complexity. Pick this up if you’re a fan of wrestling games or if you’re just looking for a slow brawler on your iPhone.Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

A few years ago, my friends and I would have huge wrestling game parties thanks to the long line of absolutely rockin’ Nintendo 64 titles. We’d stay up all night, giggling like little girls while we smashed each o...

Destructoid review: The Dark Spire

Apr 14 // Colette Bennett
The Dark Spire (Nintendo DS)Developer: SuccessPublisher: AtlusReleased: April 14th, 2009MSRP: $29.99The Dark Spire begins simply and, like any good retro game, throws you more or less directly into the action. You'll find yourself face to face with the guildmaster, Eventail, who will ask you to create your party before heading into the training room. This part of the game will be old hat to anyone who's ever played a proper dungeon crawler before, but for those of you who haven't, the character creation allows you to choose a name, a race, an alignment, and then asks you press a button a few times to randomly set each character's stats.After creating a party (or if you like, you can use the four characters already created), you'll be shipped off to combat training. This will be taught by Sir Garland, a knight with a strange sense of humor and a few weapons for your woefully underequipped motley crew. Be smart and equip yourself with the goods he gives you and then get ready for a battle.Your first fight is a good introduction to the basic menus. For each action you take, there will be a little arrow to the right of it that will allow you to tweak it a bit. For instance, when attacking, you can choose a swift, precision, lunge or rage attack, and when defending you can either choose to counter or hide. In many games, what you choose in these types of battles doesn't really make a vast difference, as you will probably be able to win anyway. In The Dark Spire, making the wrong choice can cost you the death of the entire party, you included. You'll need to put your strategy cap on if you expect to get through this alive. Defeating Sir Garland will also introduce you to your first treasure chest, as well as your first trap. By inspecting a treasure chest, you can tell whether or not it has a trap on it. To disarm the trap, you must choose a party member to do so (your thief is always a good one to go with) and then choose which parts to disarm in order. Despite success or failure you still get the items within, but screwing it up means a nice dose of poison or some flying needles to go with them.After returning to the guild and reporting your success, you'll be given the main quest, which is to climb the tower and defeat the wizard. Before leaving, you can prepare your characters by visiting the shop for items or the inn to rest and cure party members. After leaving town, you'll also notice that you can visit the Hall of Order or the Hall of Chaos. Both halls will offer you services such as reviving dead party members, curing ailments and praying, which levels up your faith stats. However, your ability to enter one or the other is alignment-specific, so you cannot enter the Hall of Chaos if your party members are all Lawful or Neutral, and vice-versa for the Hall of Order.The training session is not too difficult, but once you enter the tower, things become truly hard. After all, if you use the default party, your strongest warrior starts out with  a whopping total of 13 hit points. If you barrel forward without taking some time to level these guys right at the start, you're destined to die and die fast. Use a little patience though, and you'll quickly learn the rewards of thinking before each move you make. One thing that will help you out here will be to spend some time paying attention to your items and how they work with your party members. For instance, you can equip your warrior with a wand if you so desire, but expect to see his status suffer for it. There's no guide that tells you what weapon is best on each type, except the tiny bit of info you can glean from pressing Y while in a shop, so it's all about trial and error when it comes to equipping your characters properly. Pay close attention, as it could save you a few dozen deaths.Of course, if you're all over the hardcore difficulty, you may enjoy a little lagniappe that the developers threw in called Classic Mode. Hit start and select this from your menu, and the game will revert to wireframe mode, which ought to hurl you directly back into 1981. The average gamer is totally not going to get into this feature -- it is all about the hat tip to the dungeon crawlers of the past here. So let's say that you do persevere and manage to push your party past the first round of early deaths and actually advance a bit, you'll really get a taste of what elevates The Dark Spire from being good to great: its personality. For instance, while wandering about on the first floor of the dungeon you randomly encounter a guy who wants to sell you an "Important Item". No word on what it actually is, mind you, and he won't tell you anything about it, but you can either choose to take it or leave it. During this encounter I actually found myself thinking of the Goriyas in The Legend of Zelda who says "grumble, grumble" to you -- something about the subtle humor of both encounters has a charm that too many games miss entirely.That being said, The Dark Spire is simply not a game for everybody. The patience it takes to level your characters up enough to even pass the first few levels of the dungeon is of a quality that many gamers will not possess. However, for hardcore fans of dungeon crawlers and roguelikes, The Dark Spire will provide a stylish and enjoyable experience that will keep you busy for some time. You have to hand it to Atlus and Success for taking on a project that's aimed at such a niche audience -- their passion for giving gamers a hardcore title obviously ranked above any need to dumb the game down. Bravo!  Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.) 

If you were born in the eighties (or did your retro homework), you may have have fond memories of a little Commodore 64 game by the name of Wizardry. I was only four years old when it came out, but I managed to get my hands o...

Destructoid review: Assault on Dark Athena

Apr 14 // Brad Nicholson
Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], PC)Developer: Starbreeze Studios/Tigon StudiosPublisher: AtariReleased: April 7, 2009MSRP: $59.99 Richard B. Riddick lurks in the shadows of a dark, decadent expanse of star systems where outlawry, wickedness and the bestial nature of man rules. It’s a universe of unapproachable evil that only the corrupt and perverted can thrive in. Riddick’s vision of this setting isn’t distorted. He’s no more a hero than the renegade slaver, but that’s why I love him. He’s a monster like everyone else, motivated by the baser desires of revenge, greed, and freedom of distraction.And he’s finally back after a long videogame hiatus. Starbreeze Studios’ The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is an “episodic” continuation of the 2004 surprise hit, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Unfortunately, Assault on Dark Athena doesn’t do much more than extend the 2004 Riddick fiction that it’s bundled with. The integral mechanics of the previous title -- the first-person stealth and shooting -- have been carried over with minor tweaks. If you’re unfamiliar with Riddick, let me acquaint you. Riddick is a grim guy who favors the dark more than the light. Even before he gets his shine eyes -- an ability that you can access at any time to see in a dark room -- from a slam preacher in Butcher Bay, you’ll find yourself sneaking around and sticking to Butcher Bay’s poorly lit corners, carefully monitoring enemy movements, calculating the best possible time to jump in for a sick melee-based kill. It’s the charm of the title, and its bread and butter as well. Of course, you could always rip into a passage with guns (assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols) blazing or knives brandished. There’s really no wrong choice with choosing either stealth or outright aggression. Both games rarely punish you for being noisy, other than the occasional extra guards. While Athena’s melee system isn’t radically different from Butcher Bay, there have been a few tweaks. Riddick now has more melee moves. Pressing different directions with the left knob while swinging will generate different attacks. There’s not a traditional combo system, but you’ll find yourself opening up opponents with a lot more ease. And yes, it’s all brutal stuff with real-time deformation. The viciously curved knives, Ulaks, cut swaths across your opponents’ chests, while fists deform faces and give bloody impressions on skin.What you get from both these action elements is a sweet mixture that provides strategic action choices -- shooting or sneaking. The AI isn’t dumb, nor is it a slouch with a rifle. The enemies aren’t wholly unperceptive of your sneaking approaches, either -- move too quickly, and you'll have frantic shots and loads of soldiers beginning to descend on your position. It’s pulse-pounding stuff, brilliant in execution and deeply satisfying.Time hasn’t been kind to some of Butcher Bay’s components. (The visuals, however, have been upgraded.) The trial-and-error gameplay -- constantly reloading when you have taken excess damage or were noticed before you were ready to fight -- can become a chore, and the ancient autosave system has a tendency to screw you over in profound ways. I had to start my game over at one point in the mines thanks to respawning soldiers, low health, and a mech that was turned towards me as soon as I reentered the arena. You won’t have saving problems with Dark Athena, but the trial-and-error stuff is still present. One section at the beginning of the campaign in particular displays the need for continual reloading. It’s a room packed full of cybernetic zombies (or Drones) and you’ll have to test the waters several times, monitoring how they react and work together as you pass through each portion. Trial-and-error is frustrating, especially when you find yourself repeating sections for the sake of health. It’s common to roll through an hour of gameplay in Dark Athena -- especially towards the end -- without any healing stations. What I loved the most about Dark Athena was its aggressively grim tone. From the very beginning of the content, it’s very clear that Riddick is toying with real monsters. The “Dark Athena” is a renegade ship that travels in dead space, pillaging mining colonies and kidnapping workers for manufacturing purposes. The renegades are creating half-human, half-machine Drones that can be remotely controlled for guarding purposes. It’s a hellish union between machine and flesh.Even the unconverted prisoners that aid Riddick are twisted. One merc talks incessantly about raping the woman next to his cell. One prisoner rubs one out before your eyes. It’s dark, man.The first five or so hours of Dark Athena’s content is a testament to great design. The different sections of the ships generally add and build on new gameplay elements, which include better platforming. I had a great deal of fun sneaking behind Drones, disabling them, and dragging them off to the shadow before the next one became aware of what was happening. Even the portions where you have to shoot -- when you’re either taking control of a drone remotely or handling an assault rifle yourself -- are a blast. However, the stealth and combat fun screeches to a halt after this time period. At some point you’re greeted with a world without many shadows. It’s an aggravating section of the game full of backtracking, awkward enemy encounters and unintuitive puzzle-based stuff. The game picks up again with about fifteen minutes left in the campaign, returning you to familiar territory and mechanics. It’s a thrilling series of encounters; each one should leave you with a big smile.Assault on Dark Athena does have a multiplayer component, but it’s largely unpopulated and underwhelming. Before I claw into it, let me preface this first: I searched for matches -- both ranked and public -- for extensive periods of time. Over a three-day period, I never found a match with more than six people (and that was a fluke; commonly, rooms have 2-4 people). Riddick’s multiplayer is largely dead.There’s a bunch of traditional multiplayer modes available -- team deathmatch and various objective-based twists on that formula -- but the key to remember about the multiplayer is that it uses the same gun mechanics from the single player.As a whole, it’s unsatisfactory. Assault on Dark Athena is no more than a competent shooter -- it’s the mix of stealth and out-and-out confrontation that gives the title its edge. In multiplayer, it all breaks down. Headshots are common, respawn times are jokingly short, and level design is bad. The matches have an up-tempo, almost CounterStrike feel -- there’s even a mode that uses a weapon system like CS -- yet they lack that title’s refinement. The savior mode, I thought, would be Pitch Black. It’s a mode that pits one melee-armed Riddick against several player mercenaries. After picking up a big weapon as a mercenary, you’ll be granted a flashlight to see Riddick in his shadows. If a player manages to kill Riddick, then he instantly becomes Riddick and the match is reset. It sounds great in theory, but the execution is clunky. You can’t grab as Riddick, the move you relied on in single-player; you can only swipe helplessly with your curved blades. It’s much too easy to burn Riddick when he’s fumbling around in a melee animation.If you disliked Butcher Bay, then nothing about The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena will win you over. However, if you enjoyed the original title and are thirsty for more of the same action with several tweaks, feel free to get this game. Just try to forget the last few hours of Athena and don’t mess around with the multiplayer too much.Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

You’re probably wondering why we haven’t reviewed The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena until now. Well, wonder no more. Blame our lack of coverage on germs, man.Late last Thursday, I got wicked sick -...

Destructoid review: Art Style: AQUIA

Apr 13 // Jonathan Holmes
Art Style: AQUIA (DSiWare)Developer: Skip LtdPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 3, 2009MSRP: 500 DSi PointsOk, so maybe I exaggerated a bit about how truly new Art Style: AQUIA's is. At its core, the game is firmly planted in the Planet Puzzle League jigsaw-shifting, color-matching subset of puzzle games. That said, Art Style: AQUIA does do a lot of weird stuff. It's definitely different, which may or may not be a turn off to you, depending on your tastes. In Art Style: AQUIA, you play the part of a deep sea diver's oxygen tank. Weird, right? On the far left side of the screen is the diver, slowly swimming towards the ocean floor. Your job is to constantly work towards connecting three blocks of the same color in the game's playable area. Every time you do, the diver gets more oxygen, which helps him to swim faster; it also keeps him from blacking out. When the diver gets to the bottom, you have to reconnect a set of blocks so that they form a specific shape. Take too long, and your diver drowns.  It's this death-by-drowning thing that really makes Art Style: AQUIA stand out. Just about every puzzle game involves some sort of slow, gradual march towards death: as the blocks/bubbles/snoods/animals/cookies/whatever you're stacking or matching at the time move ever closer to the "dead zone," usually the top or the bottom of the screen. In Art Style: AQUIA, the dead zone doesn't show up until you've started to run out of oxygen, which happens almost immediately on the tougher difficulty levels. As your diver's brain starts to shut down, the top of the screen starts to turn black. When the black reaches the bottom of the screen, you're dead. This requires the player to be constantly creating color-colliding combos while keeping track of the precise location of all blocks on screen. You will have to work in the "blackout" space, the space that the "dead zone" has already taken over, on a regular basis in order to survive. This works to increase the difficulty and invoke a sense of panic in a way that's unique to the game's deep sea diver scenario. The only way to completely get rid of creeping, black death is to connect three special "oxygen blocks." In order to get these special blocks to appear, one must (you guessed it) connect tons of regular blocks of the same color, preferably in combos.Even for Puzzle League veterans, that will be no easy task. Art Style: AQUIA may be a jigsaw puzzler like Puzzle League, but it works on a totally different mechanism. You can only move blocks by first punching them out of the playing field, and only connect blocks by punching them back in again. It's a tough thing to explain in words, but hopefully it's sufficient to say that the game requires its own way of thinking. Just like how Marvel Vs. Capcom experience will help you to get into Guilty Gear, knowing Puzzle League will definitely give you a head start in wrapping your head around Art Style: AQUIA -- but in order to really get anywhere in the game, you'll more or less need to learn a whole new set of skills.  The game consists of ten levels of ever-increasing difficulty, as well as an "endless" mode. There are also three different shapes you can "play" as (horizontal rectangle, vertical rectangle, and square), which goes a long way to providing the game with some longevity. Strategies that work with the horizontal rectangle won't work with the other shapes, and vice versa. Going back to the MvC analogy, using the different shapes in Art Style: AQUIA is a lot like using different characters in a fighting game. It's pretty surprising how differently the game plays depending on which shape you choose. All of the game's levels are available from the start. The thing you're actually playing for is the goal to unlock different in-game "Aquariums"; there are twenty-five in all. Each unlock provides you with a new oceanic animal to gaze at. As with all the visuals in the game, these fish, turtles, and manatees seem like they were made to relax the player, which is strange, seeing as how the game's actual gameplay is so tense and scary most of the time. The music is also relaxing as hell. It's a series of ambient sounds that work in conjunction with the game's sound effects in a way that reminded me a lot of Electroplankton. Each time you punch a set of blocks, it lets off a tone like a wind chime. Connect some same-colored blocks together and you get two wind chimes. Set off a chain reaction, and you get a whole damn symphony of chimes. For a lot of people, Art Style:AQUIA will probably come off as a little too different for its own good. It's a tough game to get used to, even for old-time puzzle game fans like myself. Personally, I found all the new stuff the game provides to be fresh and interesting, and while later levels in the game are almost unfair in their difficulty, I enjoyed playing the game enough to keep going even after things got punishing. I still haven't managed to beat the last couple of levels with the horizontal shape, but I plan to keep trying. If you are up for a puzzle game challenge or just interested in seeing an alternative take on the classic "match three" puzzle game design, Art Style:AQUIA will be more than worth your five bucks. The game is far from perfect, but it's interesting, and I feel like I better understand the puzzle genre as a whole for having played it. Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

There was a point in my life when I was sure I'd never see a truly new "color matching" puzzle game ever again. This was around the time that Snood got immensely popular, despite the fact that it was a beat-for-beat...

Destructoid review: FF Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time

Apr 11 // Jim Sterling
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (Wii, DS [reviewed])Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: March 24, 2009MSRP: $39.99For what it's worth, the game's story revolves around stopping an evil German Librarian who has shattered your village's Crystal, causing most of your friends to disappear. While he talks of some great incoming tragedy that will strike the planet, you must collect pieces of the shattered crystal and restore order. The story is light and unfortunately lacks characters as memorable as those in Rings of Fate. However, the game is more customizable this time around, allowing you to choose from one of the series' four races and create your own character. The title attempts to capitalize on the Monster Hunter craze that is still captivating Japan, putting the focus on four-player multiplayer and quests that can be completed at leisure. You can switch between single-player and multiplayer at any save point, but it's highly recommended that you don't bother unless you're going to play locally. The online mode, at least in the DS version, is utterly pathetic. The platforming action, already hampered by a number of control and camera issues, is made impossible by lag, as characters respond to commands whole seconds after input. While the developers are to be commended for allowing online interaction between the DS and Wii versions of the game, such commendation is meaningless when the interaction simply doesn't work.  You can choose to create some AI companions, but really ... don't bother. AI has never been in a Crystal Chronicles developer's vocabulary, and you might as well just go it alone if you can't get any local players to join you. The main quest is mainly focused on making you play through the same areas multiple times, and coincidentally, so are the rather shallow sub quests.  The worst aspect of Echoes of Time is that it threatens to be enjoyable so often. I have a soft spot for Crystal Chronicles games, and the character customization, equipment leveling, spellcasting and cute artistic style are all present and can often be fun to play with. Unfortunately, for every positive aspect of the game, there is also a negative that severely hampers any fun that could be had. It's hard to stay mad at some games. It's impossible to stay forgiving of this one.  Most of the game is spent in its dungeons, short enough to suit a portable game, but long enough to be demoralizing if you die inside them and have to start from the last save point. Simplistic combat and equally simplistic platforming are the meat of the gameplay, but both of them are incredibly flawed, mostly marred by issues that plagued the last game. First of all, platforming with an isometric camera angle is just ... stupid. I would use a more eloquent word to describe it, but such an exercise in awful gameplay design deserves no such word. It's fucking stupid, and it needs to stop. It's difficult to judge jumps, especially the trajectory of swinging ropes. It's not fun in the least, and for a game sold in 2009, it's absolutely appalling that we're stuck with a mid-nineties camera. The fact that it's a DS game is no excuse. The fact it's also a Wii game is just disgusting. As far as combat goes, it's just as rough and sloppy as last time. The magic system has been improved, replacing the rubbish Magicite system with a more traditional MP meter, but aside from that, it's the same lack of targeting and random button mashing as before. Also, please don't release a portable game with no pause function. Getting trapped in a menu while being beaten to death by an enemy is not my idea of a good time.  I stuck with Echoes of Time as long as I was able to because, like I said, there is fun to be had somewhere. However, the game's unquestionable commitment to being terrible fights you every step of the way, and each time I started to get into the game, another problem, usually one that Square Enix should have fixed from prior games, rears its ugly head. Messy and chaotic combat, characters not picking up the right objects because is clustered and cluttered, platforming disasters that we've not seen since the N64 era. It's all there for the taking in Echoes of Time, and frankly, it's not worth your time, or my time, to see through to its grisly conclusion.  As far as the graphics go, this is one of the better representations of 3D graphics you'll get on the DS. It looks as good as polygons will get on the handheld system, and the designs are are cute and affable as always. Bear in mind that the game looks the same on the Wii as the DS. Yes, it really comes to something when an apparently current-generation home console is sharing graphics with the DS, but there you go. The music is catchy and the sound effects and voices are all pretty good. The presentation is the best part of the game. It's a shame that the bits that make it a game are absolutely rubbish.  I really want to like Echoes of Time, I truly do. However, you'd need the patience of a saint and the mind of a fish in order to stomach the piles of garbage that cover what could have been a really nice portable adventure. Sequels are supposed to build upon the flaws of the last game while maximing the good points. Somehow, Square managed to reverse that formula, giving us Echoes of Time. Avoid it. The few glimmers of enjoyable action simply aren't worth the hassle.Score: 4.0 -- Below Average (4s have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst games, but are difficult to recommend.)

The Crystal Chronicles series of games has never really seemed to catch on, despite having the prestigious Final Fantasy name attached to it. That might have something to do with them rarely being very good. Not exactly terri...

Destructoid review: Wildfire Wireless Controller

Apr 10 // Brad Nicholson
Wildfire Wireless Controller (PlayStation 3)Company: DatelMSRP: $39.99I don’t want to run the risk of sounding like a broken record, but once again, I’m facing a bit of a technological barrier while reviewing Datel’s Wildfire Wireless Controller. I’m not familiar with the innards of a controller. I don’t know why one controller’s face buttons feel stickier than another model’s. I’m not absolutely certain how D-pad membranes differ, nor do I understand why button response times vary. And while I would love to learn, I don’t think the technical stuff aids these reviews.I’m a gamer. I’ve handled many different controllers during my lifetime -- many more third-party controllers than I would like -- and I’ve come to recognize what I identify as quality. A controller needs to feel good -- it needs to be shaped in a way that contours to my hands and gives me access to all the buttons. A controller needs to have responsive sticks and buttons so I can effectively riddle a Brute’s head with bullets or jump across a chasm predictably. A controller also needs to be stylish, unobtrusive. And finally, a controller needs to work as advertised.And yes, the Wildfire works. Datel’s PlayStation 3 controller is essentially a Sony DualShock 3 with turbo (or ‘rapid fire’) functionality. It has a different look and feel from Sony’s controller, but it packs the same kind of Bluetooth, rumble, and motion detection technologies out of the box. Since this controller is all about turbo, I’ll cover that portion of the controller before hitting the buttons, design, and cosmetics.The Wildfire controller is named as such because it promises to open up a world of cheating possibilities. The controller has three different modes of rapid fire. A red LED in the center of the controller denotes the intensity of the turbo with intermittent flashes of light. It’s a cute and simple little addition. Unfortunately, the process of setting up turbo isn’t so simple.To engage rapid fire, you need to hold down the Start button, then hold push the PS button in the middle of the controller. After this, you can let go of the start button and assign one of the eight traditional buttons as the rapid fire button. It’s an unintuitive process and definitely not something you want to try in the middle of a game. I have a feeling that most Street Fighter IV competitors won’t pause so you can assign kick as rapid fire. Aside from the bulky assignment, I have two problems with the functionality: (1) you can’t choose more than one button, and (2) you control the rapidity of the turbo by pushing the PS button outside of the programming. Number two is an issue particularly because an accidental press (this is a small controller) can cause the turbo to slow. The worst-case scenario with this -- and, yes, this is a bit nit-picky -- is that once you scroll through the two turbo options, you’re forced to reassign the button again with the process. It also has some clunk in the trunk in regards to its buttons, sticks, and D-pad. The buttons are sticky and hard to press down. The sticks are insanely loose and make an unholy clacking sound during furious play. And the d-pad feels gunky, like its membrane is submerged in stiff quicksand. Now, I never experienced a single problem with response, but I don’t appreciate the smorgasbord of different-feeling components. I like plain hamburgers just fine, thank you. My biggest qualm with the controller is its design. The face buttons and joysticks are in their usual positions, but the D-pad and L2 and R2 buttons have been shifted. The D-pad rests in the upper left-hand corner of the controller, while the two back shoulder buttons have been moved into trigger positions (think Xbox S-type controller). I wouldn’t have a problem with this move -- hell, I would prefer it -- if Datel decided to off-center the left analog stick and kick the smallish design.The controller resembles a small and tight horseshoe, which only aggravates me with the button positioning. Because I don’t have infantile hands, I’m not able to push the shoulder buttons and the triggers at the same time. Also, most games on the PS3 don’t allow full button reassignment. Playing Killzone 2 is a mess with this thing.For what it’s worth, the controller looks damn good for a third-party controller. The black matte paint job is sharp, and the bright white and red buttons offer a nice contrast. And the grey rubber thing on the wings complements, but also fails at the same time. I can’t get my palms aligned with the controller because of its size.If you’re in the market for a cheaper PlayStation 3 controller with turbo functionality and you have wicked tiny hands, then the Wildfire might be worth a glance. But I can’t tolerate the Hobbit design and schizophrenic components. I suggest you steer clear and wait for another contender.

Mortal Kombat II turned me on to third-party peripherals. When I was a young lad, I couldn’t beat Shang Tsung. My memory is fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure that I rarely even progressed past the first round of our conf...

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