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Reviews in Review: Mario Kart 8, Super Time Force and more!

May 17 // Ben Pack
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 1Publisher: NintendoRelease Date: May 30, 2014MSRP: $59.99 Mario Kart 8 is my favorite series entry since Double Dash, and if it gets arena battle tracks at some point by way of DLC, it will be a near-perfect package. Its vibrant visuals will hold up for years to come, ensuring that the game will withstand the test of time, and it will be a staple in my household for a long, long while. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Mario Kart 8 review Ether One (PC)Developer: White Paper GamesPublisher: White Paper GamesReleased: March 25, 2014MRSP: $19.99 Ether One nails its puzzles, atmosphere, and sound (ambient and voice acting). It also nails its story -- whether or not you decide to fully unravel its world and its mysteries -- culminating in a, well, refreshing, smart finale that will stay on my mind for years to come. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Ether One review The Walking Dead Season Two: In Harm's Way (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesRelease: May 14, 2014 (PC, PS3) / TBA (iOS, Vita, Xbox 360)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Episode three was probably my favorite from season one of The Walking Dead -- so far, I'm feeling the same way about In Harm's Way. Based on the preview the next tale seems to be a buffer of sorts before an explosive end, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Clementine's journey ends. You hooked me yet again, Telltale. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full The Walking Dead Season Two: In Harm's Way review Super Time Force (Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Capybara GamesPublisher: Capybara GamesRelease date: May 14, 2014MSRP: $14.99 All told, Super Time Force is a satisfying run-and-gun game made even better with a fun (and funny!) take on time travel. It's as enjoyable to play as it is to look at. You'll likely be able to burn through the game in a few hours if you're not going for full completion, but it has such a winning personality that you'll find yourself coming back for more. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Super Time Force  review Demon Gaze (PS Vita)Developer: Kadokawa GamesPublisher: NIS America Released: April, 2014MRSP: $39.99 You'll have to have plenty of patience and a pretty good imagination to get the most out of Demon Gaze. The dungeon crawling is great and the NPC interactions outside of the dungeons are fun, but it's insanely challenging (even on the easiest setting) and the high level of repetition and mostly static presentation could get to you after some time. And you'll also have to be okay with the game's many horny NPC situations as they didn't skimp on the fan service. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Demon Gaze  review Cloudbuilt (PC)Developer: CoilworksPublisher: Rising Star GamesReleased: March 20, 2014MRSP: $19.99 Cloudbuilt is frustrating. It's frustrating to play and frustrating to recommend. I like the style, I like the parkour mechanics overall, but there's a lot of junk to contend with. The antagonistic design (minefields everywhere) is one thing, but the unforgiving checkpoints and limited lives lead to a lot of repetition. Meanwhile, the combat ends up about as unsatisfying as Mirror's Edge, with worse enemies that either absorb too many bullets or deflect them with shields anyway. If you want something that is going to fight you every step of the way as you shave seconds off of run times (and you have a strong pinky finger), this is for you. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Cloudbuilt  review JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle (PS3)Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Bandai Namco GamesRelease Date: April 29, 2014MSRP: $49.99 Overall, despite its shortcomings, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle is a colorful spectacle that both fans of the anime and future fans of the anime will want to pick up and experience, even if just to watch a man use only his upper body strength after hopping off his horse to hold his own in combat. It's funky, gorgeous, and oozing with style. And where it comes up short, it simultaneously delivers in terms of fanservice and content. You won't be putting it down for quite some time, unless, you know, you need some time to eat a few more breads in your life. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle review
REVIEWS! photo
Plus The Walking Dead, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Hey, what are you doing here! There's a ton of good games that came out this week! No wait, come back and watch this video for a couple of minutes, read the article, then you can go play those games.

Reviews in Review: Sportsfriends, Amazing Spider-Man 2

May 12 // Ben Pack
Bound By Flame (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360)Developer: SpidersPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveRelease Date: May 9, 2014MSRP: $39.99 The game is actually on your side when it comes to whipping your character into shape, too, as if to compensate for dim AI and the repetitive grind that some may not find as rewarding as I did. There's plenty of loot scattered throughout the multiple winding passageways and easy-to-navigate dungeons, giving you numerous chances to craft new potions and other necessary items for use in battle. While gold isn't exactly in short supply, you'll still be faced with enough opportunities to make your own fortune rather than looking for your next payday. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Bound By Flame review Hitman GO (iOS)Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: April 17, 2014MSRP: $4.99 Still, I was more than enamored with the numerous nods to classic Hitmanmoments, additional costumes, and the amount of polish lavished upon this bizarre yet savory addition to the Hitman universe. It's not perfect, and it certainly won't appeal to everyone, but if you're jonesing for your next taste of the life of an assassin, Hitman GO is the hippest way to emulate everyone's favorite sharp-dressed agent.  Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Hitman GO review Republique: Metamorphosis (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 5], Mac, PC)Developer: Camouflaj, LoganPublisher: CamouflajReleased: April 30, 2014 (iOS) / PC (TBA)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) I had my doubts about the Republique project as a whole, but it's clear to me now after two episodes that Camouflaj "gets it." The studio is finding a way to improve upon the core tenets of the game while maintaining an episodic format, which many other developers don't tend to do. While I wouldn't recommend that everyone rush out and buy the Season Pass right now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the next episode brings to the table. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Republique: Metamorphosis review Sportsfriends (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Die Gute FabrikPublisher: Die Gute FabrikRelease Date: May 6, 2014MSRP: $14.99 Despite the fact that I don't think I'll be playing Barabariball or Super Pole Riders for very long, Hokra's level editor gives it legs, and Johann Sebastian Joust shouldn't be missed by anyone who enjoys having company over. It's a very uneven package in the sense that there could have either been a few more games and a few could have been better, but honestly -- $15 isn't a terrible price just for Joust alone. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Sportsfriends review Raiden IV: OverKill (PS3)Developer: MOSSPublisher: UFO Interactive GameReleased: April 29, 2014MSRP: $19.99 Raiden IV: OverKill could have used a few more extras, but the fact that you can get it cheaper than the Xbox 360 version when it launched (it's $20 now digitally as well) is a compelling reason for genre fans to pick this one up. While theRaiden series in general isn't my favorite collective of shmups, it's been a steady staple for over two decades for a reason. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Raiden IV: OverKill review The Elder Scrolls Online (Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One)Developer: ZeniMax Online StudiosPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksRelease: April 4, 2014 (Mac, PC) / June 2014 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)MSRP: $59.99 ($14.99 subscription fee, with 30 days included in base game) I think right now, the most prudent thing to do is to wait for ZeniMax to iron out all of The Elder Scrolls Online's kinks (including how it handles post level 50 content to make it less grindy), and play the console version of the game. Not only will it arrive with all of the updates from the PC version in tow, but it'll also have full native controller support -- which feels more natural than a mouse and keyboard in this instance. Verdict: 6.5/10 - Read the full The Elder Scrolls Online review Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Big Finish GamesPublisher: AtlusReleased: May 7, 2014MRSP: $19.99 / £14.99 The humor doesn't always work and the puzzle design is still rooted in the series' 1990s adventure game roots, meaning it feels archaic in spots, but there are some welcome concessions to modern design with the flashlight and hint system. Tex Murphy might be alive in 2014 but he'll need to learn a few more tricks if he's to stay around for another adventure.  Verdict: 6.5/10 - Read the full Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure review  
Review recap photo
Plus Tesla Effect, Raiden IV: Overkill
Hey some dude in the comments said I should do this drunk so Max made me drink malt liquor. Anyway here are the reviews I reviewed last week (as well as a couple more that went up after the video).

Review: Hitman GO

May 07 // Brittany Vincent
Hitman GO (iOS)Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: April 17, 2014MSRP: $4.99 Playing through one of the included fifteen scenarios feels a lot like messing about in a serial killer's macabre dollhouse, viewed through copious amounts of Instagram filtering outfitted with new-school HUD icons and menus so clean they're almost surgical. Five board game boxes await you at the onset, with four requiring unlocks as you work your way through each scenario. Should you choose to skip straight to your favorite, unlocks are available as in-app purchases, but there's no dire need to since Hitman GO moves at a reasonable and organic pace. Every ornate game board is set up with a grid on which limited navigation is possible. Lavish mansions, dingy basements, and plenty of other seedy and sometimes exotic locales are up for exploration as you move 47 one space right, left, up, and down per turn. Each assassination is split up into several puzzle sections you'll have to power through in order to have a go at your main target. Kills are so straightforward it's scary, requiring you to simply walk into an enemy into their blind spot. For instance, to take down a target, you need to position 47 so that his next move intersects with an enemy board piece. As long as you're not facing the enemy, you're golden. The only trick is that you're forced to move 47 one space ahead during each turn rather than hiding in a strategic hiding spot and waiting for guards with AI as dumb as a bag of rocks to maybe spot you like in the regular games. There are places to hide, though, as well as shortcuts that may or may not place you exactly where you need to be in regard to an enemy's location. A well-timed move through these "chutes and ladders" could be the key to victory, or starting over again. [embed]274166:53781:0[/embed] Pickups vary from board to board, and are one-use items that must be used once obtained. In some situations this works out well, and in others it's disastrous -- you may find yourself armed with a tennis ball to use as a distraction, but it might not be the best time to use it. It must be deployed during the turn you pick it up on, so planning your pickups accordingly is required if you want to use them to aid you in your quest to reach the goal space on each board. Whether it's a rock, a tennis ball, or a silenced pistol, timing is everything. Each mission plays out until either all targets are eliminated or 47 is taken out in the same way. As you progress, you'll find that once-docile targets may suddenly possess traits like the ability to turn and face 47 at different increments, and some may patrol the board in a manner that can make even the most seasoned of stealth vets nervous. It's as tense as it is stylish, and sometimes you have to be able to make the call and restart the mission before you're inevitably caught between an enemy and a hard place. But perhaps ironically, what makes Hitman GO work so well as a board game also strips away much of what made the rest of the franchise so much fun: the ability to choose your own pathway to victory. Some missions are adamant that you not harm one hair on one guard's pretty little head, and as someone who regularly powers through enemies and terminates with extreme prejudice, I was a little disappointed that there weren't options built in for a little more carnage. That appeared to be the same direction Hitman: Absolution was headed in, and stealth obviously makes sense for a board game situation, but it would have been an interesting addition for players with a powerful thirst for blood to be able to tackle missions with a little less finesse and a lot more shots to the head. Still, I was more than enamored with the numerous nods to classic Hitman moments, additional costumes, and the amount of polish lavished upon this bizarre yet savory addition to the Hitman universe. It's not perfect, and it certainly won't appeal to everyone, but if you're jonesing for your next taste of the life of an assassin, Hitman GO is the hippest way to emulate everyone's favorite sharp-dressed agent. 
Hitman GO review photo
Murder, simplified
Agent 47's steely gaze and austere demeanor are far too threatening to be properly translated to a stoic board game piece. That, and given the nature of the Hitman series revolving around stealth and murderous intent, a mobil...

Review: Republique: Metamorphosis

May 07 // Chris Carter
Republique: Metamorphosis (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 5], Mac, PC)Developer: Camouflaj, LoganPublisher: CamouflajReleased: April 30, 2014 (iOS) / PC (TBA)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) There's no long exposé or lengthy tutorial sequence at the start of Metamorphosis, as it picks up right after the first installment ends. Our protagonist Hope is on the run and searching for answers to the dystopian society she inhabits, and you'll start things off in a typical "locked room puzzle" -- which functions as a way to re-acclimate yourself to the game's controls. If you had your save file erased and are worried about not being able to access Metamorphosis, you can go straight to episode two even without a prior save file. For those who haven't played it before, you're basically playing the role of a shadowy "helper" type character that can operate the world's various security cameras and bits of technology, and you can only see things from the viewpoint of said cameras. In many ways it's like Metal Gear Solid, just with touch controls (that work well) and a different viewpoint -- but more of an emphasis on stealth since Hope isn't exactly battle-hardened. Gameplay is relatively the same as before, but I feel like the series is just starting to hit its stride. Episode two takes place in a futuristic library of sorts, and as a whole, the story is more interesting from the get-go, and the locales are brighter and more fun to explore. There's also a new enemy (the ARC Prizrak) that's smarter and tougher, which changes up the gameplay significantly from the relatively weak AI in the first episode. For starters, Hope can't use stun weapons against these foes and they tend to just wander around random paths rather than set beats, which makes everything more unpredictable in general. It's a nice way to mix things up and keep it fair, as you'll still have to be slowly escorted to a prison when you're caught. New to Metamorphosis are the prediction and spy powers, which allow you to calculate enemy paths and see through walls, respectively. It's a perfect addition for a second episode, because I really liked how the game handled its currency and power system to begin with. The beauty is that abilities aren't overpowered in the slightest (as they run on a limited battery), and in order to acquire them, you need to find intel to sell it back to the vendor NPC. It encourages you to explore for rewards, which is genius for a stealth adventure game. If you spring for the Season Pass, you get extra access to some behind-the-scenes commentary tapes by locating the various developer tags across Metamorphosis. These are very well done as you not only get some insight into the game's creation process, but some candid shots of the developers as well as some concept art. The audio logs are also short and to the point, so you'll want to listen to them bit by bit. I had my doubts about the Republique project as a whole, but it's clear to me now after two episodes that Camouflaj "gets it." The studio is finding a way to improve upon the core tenets of the game while maintaining an episodic format, which many other developers don't tend to do. While I wouldn't recommend that everyone rush out and buy the Season Pass right now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the next episode brings to the table.
Republique 2 review photo
I'm starting to see some more hope
Republique started off with a lot to prove. As a Kickstarted stealth game featuring stars like David Hayter and Jennifer Hale, the project garnered an equal amount of high expectations and skepticism. The move towards an epis...

Reviews in Review: Child of Light, Daylight, Kirby Triple Deluxe

May 04 // Ben Pack
LEGO The Hobbit (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PSVita, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One, WiiU)Developer: TT GamesPublisher: Warner Brothers InteractiveRelease Date: April 8, 2014MSRPP: $29.99 (3DS, Vita), $49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One) Still, there is a good bit to like about the game as well. If you've enjoyed the many other LEGOadaptations, this one is not without it's charm. The characters and backgrounds match the films well, and the game follows the story of the movies very closely, down to the questionable bonus material padding. Though again, being a bit limited by the original voicework may not allow for the normal LEGO slaptick-type humor, and a few scenes of real tension and whimsy from the films seem to fall a bit flat. Verdict: 6.5/10 - Read the full LEGO The Hobbit review Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)Developer: HAL LaboratoryPublisher: NintendoReleased: May 2, 2014MSRP: $34.99 Kirby:Triple Deluxe is yet another winning entry in the franchise. It delivers the core Kirby experience alongside of a few very well done extras, which is pretty much everything a fan could ask for. While the Kirby formula could easily be getting stale for some, it still represents a whimsical corner of platforming games that's centered around one central ideal -- fun. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Kirby: Triple Deluxe review Child of Light (PS3, PS4, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: April 30, 2014 Child of Light will satiate pretty much everyone but the most hardcore of RPG fans, and even then, they'll find plenty of enjoyment. There are a few minor issues here and there that hold it back from instant-classic status that could be enhanced in a sequel or future work, but regardless, Child of Light is a noble effort from Ubisoft Montreal, and another win to put in the studio's diverse portfolio. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full Child of Light review FRACT OSC [Mac, PC (reviewed)]Developer: Phosfiend SystemsPublisher: Phosfiend SystemsMSRP: $14.99Released: April 22, 2014 FRACT OSC is a game where you need to be willing to go in blind and just explore; this might be something that puts a player off within the first 10 minutes, as there's no tooltips or tutorial to tell them what to do, unlike most modern games. If you allow yourself to be drawn into the strange, geometric landscape and understand the structure of the puzzles and progression, then you'll be rewarded with a great experience. Verdict: 8.5/10 - Read the full FRACT OSC review Life Goes On (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Infinite Monkeys EntertainmentPublisher: Infinite Monkeys EntertainmentReleased: April 17, 2014MSRP: $12.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Life Goes On might not start with the most mindblowing hook, but the idea is solid and Infinite Monkeys develops it well. By constantly adding new tricks into its repertoire and not dragging itself out unnecessarily, it maintains a good quality throughout. Puzzle difficulty ranges from easy to medium-hard; it rarely gets diabolically difficult, and when it does it is only when completing optional objectives. Although it is not particularly nice to look at, the underlying gameplay is worthwhile for any puzzle platformer enthusiast. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Life Goes On review Borderlands 2 Headerhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax (Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Gearbox SoftwarePublisher: 2K GamesReleased: April 15, 2014MSRP: $2.99 As with the other entries in the Headhunter series, Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax is a short experience with a relatively low price tag. Although it does not complete Borderlands 2 with a bang, it does a decent job of rounding out the series and setting up for the next one. Those particularly interested in the path of the characters moving forward will enjoy what this DLC does toward that end, but most other Borderlands fans would be just as well waiting for the release of the Pre-Sequel this fall. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Borderlands 2 Headerhunter 5: Sir Hammerlock Versus the Son of Crawmerax review Daylight (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: Zombie StudiosRelease: April 29, 2014MSRP: $14.99 Overall I felt as if Daylight was made as a jump-scare machine with a loosely tacked-on plot. I never felt invested in Sarah or cared much for the mysterious man rambling through her phone. In fact, I was more concerned with getting Miss Ghost off my back so she’d stop screaming, more so out of annoyance than fear. Daylight would have benefited from a fresh set of spooks rather than intermittent scares and muddy plot lines, but at the end of the day if you’re looking for a cheap thrill you've found it. Verdict: 4/10 - Read the full Daylight review Destiny of Spirits (Vita)Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Q EntertainmentPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentMSRP: Free-to-play Released: March 25, 2014 As is the case with any free-to-play game, you really have nothing to lose but time by trying outDestiny of Spirits. It helps if you're a hardcore Sony fan and strive for some of the more unique characters, but otherwise the pace is far too slow, and the rewards are far too little for the amount of time you need to invest in it. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full Destiny of Spirits review The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: BeenoxPublisher: ActivisionMSRP: $59.99Released: April 29, 2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't a complete disaster, and I can easily see fans of Spidey enjoying it at a deep discount. It's just a shame that Beenox somehow got worse at makingSpider-Man games over time, and that the powers that be insist on rushing them as movie tie-ins. Somehow, someway -- we will get our Arkham of Spider-Man games again. Until then, you can just pick up a used copy of 2004's Spider-Man 2. Verdict: 6/10 - Read the full The Amazing Spider-Man 2 review Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer:  Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixMSRP: $39.99 ($12.99 per month, with a free PS3-to-PS4 license transfer) Released: August 27, 2013 (PC, PS3) / April 14, 2014 (PS4) Despite those issues, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is my favorite MMO since World of Warcraft. It has a lot of things going for it, tons of content to explore, and best of all -- lots and lots of support. I have no doubt that the popularity of A Realm Reborn will continue to rise with every major update and expansion, and I wish Square Enix nothing but the best. I didn't think it was possible, but they have absolutely atoned for the original mess that was Final Fantasy XIV -- and then some. Verdict: 9/10 - Read the full Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn review
Reviews! photo
Plus LEGO The Hobbit & More
It's the end of the week which means that it's time for another episode of Reviews in Review. This week a TON of games came out, so if you missed any of our reviews just check out the video for a quick recap. Seriously, what else are you going to do for four minutes? This week I use some really bad accents.

Reviews in Review: FFXIV, Arkham Origins DLC & NES Remix 2

Apr 26 // Ben Pack
Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montréal / Splash DamagePublisher: Warner Bros.Released: April 22nd, 2014MSRP: $9.99 (part of the Season Pass) Cold, Cold Heart feels like a legitimate addition to the Arkham Origins lore, and not just a cheap cash-in. It's definitely a side story that's too big to be shoved into the core game, even if it doesn't really innovate in any meaningful way. While I wouldn't go out of my way to buy Arkham Origins just for it, I'd implore any current owner to take a look. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Heart review NES Remix 2 (Wii U)Developer: indieszeroPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 24, 2014MSRP: $14.99 This is something that I'm going to be playing for quite some time with friends every so often, comparing scores until the cows come home. I wish this mode was a bit more fleshed out overall though (two Mario games is a bit much), and I'd love to see it as a standard in future iterations of this franchise (SNES Remix, perhaps?). In other words, I wouldn't buy it just to play Championship mode, but it's enjoyable all the same. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full NES Remix 2 review. Disney Magical World (3DS)Developer: h.a.n.d.Publisher: NintendoReleased: April 11, 2014MSRP: $29.99 That's the theme of Magical World -- simplicity. There are no secret times you need to get to a club to hear a certain song, no special residents that will only grant you a rare item on a certain hour of a certain day (there is a clock, but its effects are mostly aesthetic). For those of you who like min/maxing turnip prices and the like, you won't scratch that same itch here. It's not like that's a bad thing in my book -- I think an increased amount of accessibility is great -- just be wary that it can affect the game's longevity. Verdict: 7/10 - Read the full Disney Magical World review Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)Developer: CamelotPublisher: NintendoRelease Date: May 2, 2014MSRP: $29.99 Mario Golf: World Tour's presentation is strong, especially when it comes to the varied characters and costumes. The course designs are colorful and exciting, and they're packed with little secrets to find. The low resolution of the shot grid is the only place where the presentation of World Tour lets you down. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Mario Golf: World Tour review  
Reviews recap photo
Review these Reviews in Review
Reviews in Review is back, and due to the fact that this is episode 2, it officially has lasted longer than that time Fox tried to bring back The Osbournes after it got cancelled.  Anyway, onto the reviews. This week I talked about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Batman: Arkham Origins: Cold, Cold Hearts, NES Remix 2, and Disney Magical World. Check 'em out.

Reviews in Review: Steins;Gate, Half Minute Hero 2, Trials Fusion

Apr 19 // Ben Pack
Trials Fusion (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: RedLynx, UbisoftPublisher: UbisoftReleased: April 15, 2014 / April 24, 2014 (PC)MSRP: $19.99 / $39.99 physical release with Season Pass (Xbox One, PS4) Trials Fusion is a good game -- and I can only see it getting better over time as user-made levels excel and DLC is released -- but what's there now, at launch, is a step down from Trials Evolution. It's disheartening, then, to see the game come in at a higher price point than its predecessor and also try to sell users on a $19.99 Season Pass in-game right out of the gate. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Trials Fusion review. Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (PS Vita, 3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: AtlusReleased: April 15, 2014Price: $39.99 As the game progresses, the ritual scenes become a bit longer and naughtier. Toward the end of the game, when you've maxxed out the bonds with the girls, the scenes of baby making become even more horny. You'll see hands against walls, rears out, with girls wincing. Again, nothing is happening as far as contact is concerned, but depending on your tastes, these scenes could be offensive. I've been around the block a few times and have seen way worse. For me, these scenes were more silly than anything. Verdict: 7.5/10 - Read the full Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars review. Steins;Gate (PC)Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus Publisher: JAST USAReleased: March 31, 2014MSRP: $29.99 And things will indeed get intense. Steins;Gate is a taxing game, but it's also quite beautiful, from the talented Japanese voice cast (no English dub, unfortunately) to artist huke's unorthodox visuals. It's an exemplary visual novel with a thrilling premise, memorable characters, and a fantastic "true" ending that may very well move you to tears. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Steins;Gate review. Putty Squad (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Vita)Developer: System 3 SoftwarePublisher: System 3 SoftwareReleased: March 11, 2014MSRP: $29.99 You should only pick up Putty Squad if you're a fan of the original, and have an unhealthy affinity towards platformers. Everyone else need not apply unless the game drops to a rightful price of $10 or less. Verdict: 5/10 - Read the full Putty Squad review. Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming (PC)Developer: Marvelous AQLPublisher: Marvelous AQLRelease: April 4, 2014MSRP: $19.99 Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming makes a number of improvements on an established formula. It's endearing, provocative, and silly. But it lacks variety and never quite recaptures the magic of its predecessor. No longer a breath a fresh air, The Second Coming settles for being an enjoyable lark. And I'm perfectly okay with that. Verdict: 8/10 - Read the full Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming review.
Review in Review photo
Review these Reviews in Review
"Reviews in Review" is a new show that releases every week where I will go over the reviews published this week on Destructoid, as well as give a score to the week in general. This week I talked about the reviews for Steins;...

The best and worst games of the week - A Bravely January

Feb 02 // Wesley Ruscher
The Banner Saga (Windows PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: StoicPublisher: StoicRelease: January 14, 2014MSRP: $24.99 This game feels like a project created by artists. It's uncompromising to a fault. Tiptoeing its way around trite conventions and hackneyed design choices, I have no doubt that the team at Stoic created the game they wanted to make. By the end of the journey, I cared for my banner like a shepherd tending to his flock. I commiserated with their hardships, as the thread of despondency wove its way throughout virtually every aspect of the experience. Read the full The Banner Saga review  Nidhogg (PC)Developer: MesshofPublisher: MesshofMSRP: $14.99Release Date: January 13, 2014 Nidhogg is a perfect game wrapped in a not-so-perfect package. When playing locally against another human, it is the epitome of competition. Playing online is a mixed bag of lag, disconnects, and a weird chat system. Hopefully some of the bugs get ironed out over time, especially whatever stopped the tutorial from functioning, to make everything more functional as a whole. Read the full Nidhogg review  Muramasa Rebirth: Fishy Tales of the Nekomata (PlayStation Vita)Developer: MarvelousAQLPublisher: Aksys GamesReleased: January 14, 2014 (US) / January 22, 2014 (EU)MSRP: $4.99 I heartily enjoyed my time as a cat in Muramasa Rebirth, and I can't wait to see what the other DLC stories can do. Vanillaware ingeniously was able to tie the heart of the game into its first Genroku Legends side story, while giving it a fine heart of its own. It's so well done in fact, that I could easily see a full game starring Okoi one day. Read the full Fishy Tales of the Nekomata review  Two Brothers (PC)Developer: Ackk StudiosPublisher: Ackk StudiosReleased: December 3, 2013MSRP: $14.99 It's very much the type of game you play for the story, which has flashes of brilliance that can only be effectively realized in an interactive medium such as this. Unfortunately, it's tied to lackluster mechanics, technical problems, and a disappointing lack of polish. Two Brothers may not be an overall success, but its best moments are worth experiencing first-hand. Read the full Two Brothers review  Continue?9876543210 (Linux, Mac, PC[reviewed])Developer: Jason OdaPublisher: Jason OdaMSRP: $9.99Release Date: January 3, 2014  Continue?9876543210 truly does feel like a personal and emotional experience: someone else’spersonal and emotional experience. It did not connect to me the way it was seemingly intended to. Good “experience” games either have super simple controls so that the player never has to think about them, or the controls and mechanics tie directly into the game’s central themes. Continue?9876543210 does neither. Read the full Continue?9876543210 review  OlliOlli (PS Vita)Developer: Roll7Publisher: Roll7Release Date: January 27, 2014MSRP: $12.99 There's a lot to love about OlliOlli. The game is in the sweetspot of "simple to control" and "just difficult enough" to keep you playing without tearing your hair out. The Daily Grind and Spots challenges will keep the score-centric crowd happy, and Career mode will have you blistering your thumbs as you try to perfect each level. A masterpiece. Read the full OlliOlli review  Broken Age: Act 1 (PC)Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsRelease Date: January 14, 2014 (for backers) / January 28, 2014MSRP: $24.99 (with free update for Act 2) I haven’t felt this surge of nostalgia and excitement about a game in a long time, and I truly thinkBroken Age will be looked back fondly as one of the greats. That being said, the first Act is only a few short hours and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger with no word on how long we’ll be waiting for the rest of the game. In some ways I feel cheated, but in the end it’s the heart of the game that matters - and that certainly isn't broken. Read the full Broken Age: Act 1 review  Dead Rising 3: Operation Broken Eagle (Xbox One)Developer: Capcom VancouverPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease Date: January 21, 2014MSRP: $9.99 As it stands, there is literally no reason to get Broken Eagle. It's criminally short, you can't enjoy it with a friend, there are no real benefits if your character is maxed out from already playing the core game, and it doesn't add to the overarching lore in any meaningful way. Hopefully the other Season Pass offerings will be an improvement, since we still have three to go. Read the full Operation Broken Eagle review  Soul Fjord (Ouya)Developer: Airtight GamesPublisher: Airtight GamesRelease: January 28, 2014MSRP: Free, with microtransactions Soul Fjord started with a good idea, and even has a few redeeming qualities, but in the end, it is just too dull to be enjoyable for longer than a few minutes. The free-to-play aspects don't ruin the experience, but they don't particularly help it either. If nothing else, Ouya owners should probably give this a try since it costs nothing upfront, but this is not the system savior that we have been hoping for. Read the full Soul Fjord review Bravely Default (3DS)Developer: Silicon StudioPublisher: Square EnixRelease: February 7, 2014MSRP: $39.99 Bravely Default gave me an experience that seemed to put me right back in my bedroom in the middle 1990s, where I'd sit in front of a small Hitachi television set and play the day away with a Super Nintendo controller in hand, so engrossed that I'd forget to eat. It harkens back to a time where we were all in love 16-bit Japanese role-playing games, and couldn't get enough of them. Read the full Bravely Default review Call of Duty: Ghosts: Onslaught DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Infinity WardPublisher: ActivisionReleased: January 28, 2014 (Xbox 360, Xbox One) / TBA (PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) I was pleasantly surprised by Onslaught, especially considering the fact that Ghosts was so underwhelming. Although it won't do too much to change your mind if you're an adamant Call of Duty hater, the new Extinction episode is promising, and there are three solid maps here for the taking. Read the full Onslaught review  Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Young Horses, Inc.Publisher: Young Horses, Inc.Release: January 30, 2014 (Linux, Mac, PC), March 2014 (PlayStation 4)MSRP: $14.99 ($11.99 until February 6)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit n the end, I would not be surprised to hear that the Octodad community is thriving years down the road. It exudes a certain weirdness and charm that makes it stand out from a lot of other titles out there, and there are tools in place for it to live on past the point when the credits start to roll. Though it has some issues with framerate drops and its approach to control is definitely not for everybody, Dadliest Catch kept a smile on my face for most of its duration. Read the full Octodad: Dadliest Catch review Dungeon Keeper (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])Developer: Electronic Arts, Mythic EntertainmentPublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: January 31, 2014MSRP: Free It's a huge shame, because Dungeon Keeper is such a great franchise. I vividly remember getting hooked on the original for the very first time, and hooking in non-strategy fans with its unique perspective and visual style. But you're getting none of that here, as you're instead presented with a hollow freemium shell of what once was. Do yourself a favor and go to GOG.com and grab the original. Read the full Dungeon Keeper review Polk N1 Gaming SurroundBar
Reviews!!! photo
Week ending 2/1
January has come and gone, but that doesn't mean there weren't some great games to play. Just look at all the amazing "indie" games that hit the PC this month. We had the fruition of two KickStarter campaigns finally see the ...

Review: Republique: Exordium

Dec 20 // Chris Carter
Republique: Exordium (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 5], Mac, PC)Developer: Camouflaj, LoganPublisher: CamouflajRelease Date: December 19, 2013 (iOS) / PC (TBA)MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Republique is a stealth game at heart, with a bit of adventure style exploration involved. It follows the Telltale scheme of distribution, so you can buy the roughly two hour first episode now, and the four other episodes will arrive at a later undisclosed date. Right off the bat it's pretty easy to understand the concept, as the theme is your standard dystopian tale of freedom versus control. You play the role of Big Brother. Literally. Using an entire network of cell phones and cameras (just like the ending of The Dark Knight), your job is to save Hope -- a young woman who is in danger of being "re-calibrated" because she read some literature she wasn't supposed to. The tale is told by way of top voice talents, and as a general rule, is on par with some of the biggest AAA games out there. An Otacon-like partner named "Cooper" (who talks only in text-to-speech) helps add some welcome comedy to the proceedings. Having said that, Camouflaj hasn't really sold me on the world or the lore yet. Barring a cliffhanger ending and some hints of an interesting story, Republique hasn't offered anything unique in its first episode that really has me hooked. It's mostly just straight stealth, with constant (underwhelming) hints at what's to come. It's a good thing then that the series has plenty of promise. [embed]267744:51971:0[/embed] As I said before, the entirety of Republique is seen and played through a security system, and it's done so well that it doesn't feel like a gimmick. Lest you think that a stealth game cannot work on a mobile device -- think again. Republique basically blew me away with how responsive its icons are, and the way Camouflaj handled the design is brilliant. Pressing the camera button in the top right corner "pauses" the game, and views every selectable object in the field instantly. No matter where an object or individual is on the screen, there's an icon attached to it, floating off to the side -- just tap on that icon, and it instantly selects it. There's no pixel hunting, or "precise pinky touching" here -- you just tap the giant picture and go. It helps, because there are no clunky virtual joysticks or controls -- you touch an area to make Hope move, you touch a camera to "jump" to it, and so on. Everything is done by pointing at it like you would a mouse, and I was pleasantly surprised at how I had little trouble getting to where I needed to go. The only problem is that traveling long distances is incredibly slow going. Even if you double-tap to get Hope to (slowly) "run" to the area you wish, only some of the time will the camera automatically switch to her new area. So basically, you have to command her to go to an area, press the camera button, pause the game, find a camera, jump there, then un-pause. In short bursts it's extremely fun to quickly switch and change up tactics on the fly, but it gets really old if you're just running around looking for items. Republique initially stated it had elements of a Metroidvania in its Kickstarter, but I don't really see much of that here. Given the fact that you don't really want to explore too often because of the camera, it doesn't help that a lot of the first episode consists of heavy backtracking and one room, linear areas with nothing of interest. Maybe that'll change with subsequent episodes, but for now, the idea isn't fully realized yet. Republique makes some compromises though, because although Hope is mostly defenseless from guards, she does have a few tricks up her sleeve like pepper spray and tasers. By equipping either one of these items, Hope can either attack a guard or use it as a defensive ability -- similar to the daggers in the Resident Evil remake. It works as these items are sparing in nature, which helps keep Republique as a stealth game without getting too action heavy. It's incredibly addicting to steal from every guard too, similar to the dogtags from Metal Gear Solid. You can also sell data to the "Data Broker" at select terminals to earn upgrades like eavesdropping on phones (for more data, basically), and distraction hacks to keep guards busy. It's not too overpowering a feature, and it adds some RPG and progression elements to the proceedings, which is pretty unique for an episodic adventure.  There's another hang-up here, though. Hope can't die, as she is "ordered" to undergo a certain punishment by the higher-ups -- so if the guards catch you, they'll always bring you to a containment cell that you can quickly hack out of. At first, it's pretty unique, as you can thwart guards leading you to the cell by locking doors behind you (thus shutting them out), but you'll get sick of it very quickly after going through it every time. Eventually you can press a "fast forward" button to skip the escort part, but most of the time, it's more painful and pace-killing than a checkpoint or game over screen. Unexpectedly, Republique brings with it a cool like meta-world element to it, similar to Kojima's oddball videogame, literature, and film references. Beyond the obvious Orwellian jibes, it may very well be the first videogame to heavily reference other Kickstarter projects, and pick-pocketing guards will sometimes yield old gaming cartridge collectibles with some commentary from Cooper. These little jokes range from "I spent too much on this Kickstarter for this poster," "before Infinity Blade, I thought mobile games were for babies," and so on. Scanning guards will even sometimes yield the mugs of heavy backers. It's not overly funny, but it's a cute way to tie-in the game's roots.Like any episodic series, Republique's quality will be based on its offering as a whole, and not necessarily a single episode. Having said that, the game has the solid framework of a serviceable stealth title, but the story and cast haven't sold me yet that this will be a tale worth telling. I'll be waiting with bated breath to see if episode two is an improvement.
Republique REVIEWED photo
Running on a touch of Hope
Republique was quite the ambitious Kickstarter project. With big names like Jennifer Hale and David Hayter attached, not to mention the million dollar budget, to say this stealth adventure promised quite a bit is an understatement. Having played the first of five episodes, I can safely say that most of the lofty goals have been met, but there is a bit more that's yet to be seen.

Review: Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time

Aug 15 // Chris Carter
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time (Android, iPad [tested on an iPad Mini], iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])Developer: PopcapPublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: August 15, 2013 (iOS) / TBA (Android)MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) Plants vs. Zombies 2 starts off innocently enough. Just like the first game, you'll defend your house in a grid-based fashion from a typical zombie horde, using the same basic plants and structures. Then your neighbor Crazy Dave has to go and eat a taco. But it's not just any taco, as it happens to be the best taco ever made -- and good enough to go back and time for. Of course, Dave's talking time machine doesn't quite work as planned, and you end up traveling across time and space, battling zombies for no apparent reason. Without a doubt the entire narrative is just an excuse to travel through time and explore various historical locales -- but that's completely okay with me, because time traveling happens to be a ton of fun. Actually playing the game is just as easy as the first, simply collecting sun to pay for and place towers (plants). In addition to the same tried-and-true strategies of the original (placing sun-producing Sunflowers in the back, with Peashooters in the middle to fend off zombies), you'll encounter a ton of fresh faces, like the Bonk Choy, a melee fighter that can't shoot projectiles, but packs a huge punch if properly protected, or the Spring Bean, a unit that can launch zombies into the water for an instant kill. You'll traverse across three worlds in the launch edition of the game, including Ancient Egypt, the Pirate Seas, and the Wild West. Each realm has specially themed zombies, like a Pharaoh-suit zombie that uses the staff of Ra to steal sun, and so on. But different shades of zombie aren't the only variants in these new levels, as there are also unique mechanics like limited space and planks in the Pirate world, and maneuverable mine carts in the Wild West. You can buy every level outright with an in-app-purchase, or you can just go through the game in a linear fashion. Thankfully, I didn't encounter paywalls of any kind that were progress related, so it is definitely possible to clear Plants vs. Zombies 2 without buying stages. Unfortunately the mini-game selection is pretty skimpy and you'll only get to occasionally experience a fresh gametype, which is a big step down from the cavalcade of diversions in the original. If you've played Plants vs. Zombies on a touch device, you've arguably played the best version of the game, and the smooth control scheme faithfully translates into the sequel. All you have to do to place plants or collect sun currency is to tap them, or tap wherever you want your plants to go. I had zero issues controlling the game on an iPad given the larger screen real estate, and outside of the occasional mis-tap on the iPhone, I didn't have much trouble in general. The brand new mechanics in It's About Time also work great with a touch screen. These come in the form of plant food that buffs one unit at a time temporarily, and offensive magic powers (inconsequential things like pinching zombie's heads off) that cost gold to cast. Although the powers are a pretty throwaway addition, plant food is easily my favorite welcome change for the sequel, as it adds a whole new layer of strategy that wasn't present in the original. Now, instead of simply planting your towers in a perfect formation and calling it a day, you can use plant food to spring special powers that are unique to every single plant. For instance, the Sunflower will generate more sun power on the spot, the Cabbagepult will launch projectiles randomly across the entire map, and the Wallnut will don a suit of armor for extra defense. Knowing when to use these abilities (and on what plants) is key to your success in Plants vs. Zombies 2, and it kept me a bit more engaged in some of the later levels. Plant food isn't an IAP-only item, either -- throughout each map, defeating glowing zombies will earn you single-use packets of plant food. You can also restock plant food or use powers by spending in-game gold (which I'll get to later). As you may have noticed from the info box above, the game is free -- so it has terrible microtransactions, right? Well, surprisingly, not really! At least, not yet it doesn't. The only content that's walled off is a small selection of plants for $3 each -- mostly legacy plants from the first game (the Squash, Imitator, Snow Pea, Jalapeno, Torchwood, and the Power Lily) that won't make or break your enjoyment in the slightest. Of course, it's always possible that EA will add "freemium" unlocks for other worlds and crucial plants down the line, as the game is already hinting at future updates. As it stands I'm actually quite surprised at how well IAPs have been handled in Plants vs. Zombies 2, especially given the fact that it's free. There are other microtransactions available in the form of boosts (like starting with more sun), and the ability to straight-up purchase gold. Again, these IAPs do not break the game, as you can still very much complete the entire experience without them. Having said that, they're basically cheats you can pay for, and the gold costs are so high that it's very unlikely you'll be able to use them consistently without paying real money, if that matters to you. Launching Plants vs. Zombies 2 exclusively on iOS platforms first is a really odd choice for a game that was originally a big-hitter for the PC, but it may very well pay off -- especially given the fact that the game is actually good. So long as EA and PopCap don't eventually ruin the game through greedy in-app purchases, the base game at launch is a treat, and worth a download from every iOS owner out there. What you're getting is basically more of that classic Plants vs. Zombie experience, with just enough tweaks to keep it interesting -- and that's more than enough for me.
PvZ 2 review photo
Just as addicting as the first
Plants vs. Zombies launched in 2009 on the PC and absolutely changed the face of tower defense games. It was a cultural phenomenon, inspiring even the most infrequent of gamers to play for hours on end, popping off one zombie...

Review: Deus Ex: The Fall

Jul 11 // Chris Carter
Deus Ex: The Fall (Android iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])Developer: Eidos MontrealPublisher: Square EnixReleased: July 11, 2013 (iOS) / TBA (Android)MSRP: $6.99 The Fall opts to jump in at a fairly odd part of the overall Deus Ex narrative, picking up with the story of soldier Ben Saxon after the novel Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect. The "Icarus Effect" is the psychological practice of limiting the individual potential of humankind to maintain the status quo, and the "Tyrants" -- a PMC of sorts that Saxon formerly belonged to before he was betrayed -- are a delivery system for said effect. To be blunt, the narrative is not nearly as engaging as the story of Adam Jensen in Human Revolution, as the vast majority of the story tends to fall short of your typical "soldier's revenge" tale. But despite the less engaging narrative, Ben's method of revenge and destruction is very similar to Jensen's tactics in Human Revolution, as the core gameplay of the franchise is preserved despite the move to the mobile platform. I'm pleased to say that although they are pared down at times, there are situations that faithfully mirror Human Revolution, such as the ability to choose between a guns blazing, stealth, and hacking approach (or any combination thereof). This freedom is immediately evident, as one particular area towards the beginning of the game gave me the ability to hack through a shortcut to avoid a dangerous trip through a drug den -- but only if I had enhanced my hacking abilities fairly early into the game. This design continues throughout the entire game, offering up a decent chunk of sidequests, hidden areas, and collectibles to keep you interested. Ben can upgrade his abilities via augmentations in all three disciplines, which allows you to customize him the way you want to play. The first and third person mixed perspective returns from Human Revolution, offering up a zoomed out viewpoint when in cover, and an FPS style view during the vast majority of the game. Movement and aiming are controlled by two virtual joysticks on the left and right side respectively, and most of your actions (including firing) are performed with virtual buttons, which can get a bit dicey when you're really in the thick of combat. Now, I don't mind touch controls in the slightest for the vast majority of mobile experiences. Games that are designed for the platform tend to have a variety of tricks of the trade that help curb the lack of tactile feedback, and sometimes, games can actually feel better with touch controls. But here, even with the accommodations with auto-aiming and on-screen buttons, I can safely say a controller would have provided a clear-cut better way to play The Fall. Thankfully, there are some moments of reprieve, such as the ability to re-arrange the entire UI to your liking, and the option to toggle the virtual analog sticks on or off. You can also just tap the screen to move to the desired location, tap cover to snap to it, and tap enemies to auto-target them, so it is manageable if you embrace it -- it's just not ideal. It helps that the visuals look very sharp on an iPhone 5, to the point where it approaches early life cycle PS3/360 quality. The Fall should last you around five hours, which, for a Deus Ex game, is fairly brief. There are a few story choices, to make but these don't really feel poignant as much as vessels for a slightly different narrative. Thankfully, the variety in how you approach actual scenarios is where you're going to get your replay value from, and thanks to a New Game+ option, The Fall offers a chance to try out different missions, augmentations, playstyles, and seek out new areas or collectibles. There are microtransactions present that allow you to buy items with real cash, but I never felt compelled to use them, and many times I tested the game in Airplane Mode just to see if it would break if it couldn't contact the in-game store -- it didn't. Thank goodness for that, because The Fall would be a pretty hard sell with egregious paywalls. Deus Ex: The Fall works far better with touch controls than one would think, and it offers up a lighter, if a little bare-bones Human Revolution experience. In many ways though this experiment feels like a waste, as it would really be stronger as either a PlayStation Vita game or even a downloadable console title. Until a potential port rolls along, I'd only really recommend The Fall for mobile veterans who are already acquainted with first-person games on the go.
Deus Ex: The Fall photo
Falls just short of a mobile revolution
After a pretty tantalizing teaser, Square Enix was all set to announce the anticipated follow-up to the successful Deus Ex Human Revolution -- and much to the ire of fans, it ended up being a mobile exclusive. It's not all ba...

The best and worst games of 2013: May Returns

Jun 03 // Jordan Devore
[embed]255225:48921:0[/embed] Zeno Clash II (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) The world of the original Zeno Clash was genuinely interesting, and certainly an example of less is more, but this time around it merely seems interesting, before revealing itself to be a bit shallow under the veneer of zaniness, though the veneer is certainly impressive and did succeed in keeping me eager for more. Zeno Clash II might be bigger than its predecessor, but it fails to be truly better. It's worth experiencing for those who loved the original, because it still contains a lot of what made that title unique, and the combat -- when not descending into huge brawls -- is wonderful. But in an attempt to spin a meaty, almost Argonautica-style epic, ACE Team might have gotten a wee bit lost, just as I did when I tried to use that good-for-nothing, half-arsed map. Read the full Zeno Clash II review Haunted Hollow (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) Haunted Hollow is a surprising little game. It manages to rise above the status of a throwaway mictoransaction-begging App by providing a deep and compelling system at the core of the experience. With a few more tweaks, it would be worth spending more time with, but as it stands, depending on your ability to play with others it may be a more fleeting experience. Read the full Haunted Hollow review Anodyne (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux) Anodyne’s weaknesses would’ve been greatly justified by a solid narrative. Instead, we’re left with a semi-decent dungeon crawler featuring some rather attractive sprite art and great soundtrack. So while Anodyne’s minimalistic riff on Zelda is definitely unique enough to warrant a purchase, it unfortunately never comes close to inheriting the legacy of its father, too lost in its odd pretentiousness to ever arrive at the point. Read the full Anodyne review Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PS3) The foundation of Deadly Premonition, the stuff that matters, is still absolutely perfect as far as I am concerned. It is true, of course, that this perfection has been scarred somewhat by the faults found in The Director's Cut, and there's no denying that longtime fans may not be getting what they hoped for in this package. To newcomers or the severely dedicated, however, this is still a bloody great time, and remains one of those games that truly, desperately, must be experienced to be believed. Read the full Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut review Way of the Dogg (Android, iOS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Way of the Dogg is a wasted opportunity. As someone who consumes pretty much all the media on offer in this game it doesn't even appeal to me, which should tell you that something's wrong. It's a shame, because with an "M" rating and a little more plot tweaking, this could have been something special. Someone call the popo -- this game just did a 187 on your wallet, foo. Read the full Way of the Dogg review Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo (3DS eShop) Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo is just what it advertises itself to be: a fun little portable game experience built for quick play sessions. It's not overly difficult, but does add challenging goals for those who wish to have them. There's a decent amount of content for such a little game, and I defy you to not have fun with it. Simple, addictive, and easy-to-control gameplay, coupled with the goofy looking cartoon-y characters make for great bite-sized fun. Read the full Super Little Acorns 3D Turbo review Jack Lumber (iPad, iPhone, PC [reviewed]) All in all, Jack Lumber is pretty straight-forward with what it's offering you. While it could have stood to include a bit more content with the PC re-release and a few enhanced tweaks, it's still an incredibly fun time-waster that happens to challenge you from time to time. You'll cut wood, you'll freeze time, repeat, and somehow it remains compelling. Read the full Jack Lumber review Poker Night at the Inventory 2 (Mac, PC (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) If you are looking for a good poker game, then this is a no-brainer, but even if you aren't a huge poker player don't overlook this. The witty conversations and fleshed-out characters make this a fantastic little game, with very little holding it back. While it would be nice to not hear repetitive dialog, minor faults don't ruin Poker Night 2 as a whole. For five bucks (on PC) I highly recommend this gathering of fictional celebrities -- and I'm not bluffing. Read the full Poker Night at the Inventory 2 review Mars: War Logs (PC) Mars: War Logs is the kind of experience one can only call serviceable. It exists, it does what it does, and it performs its job suitably. It doesn't do anything terrible, but it never once goes above a basic standard of acceptability. It's very clear that it wants to ape the best action-RPGs of the genre, but its too basal and hurried to pull off a single remarkable thing. It's a shame because Spiders' last attempt -- Of Orcs and Men -- was genuinely great, a game that similarly failed to be all it wanted to be, but at least had an interesting story and some wonderful presentation.  War Logs, by contrast, simply exists. Read the full Mars: War Logs review Star Command (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5]) Star Command is an addictive sci-fi simulation experience, provided you're willing to stick it out until the second playthrough to get to the real meat of the game. There just isn't enough there the first time around to captivate the majority of potential buyers, as most of the initial gameplay boils down to a few repetitive, shallow actions. Still, good things come to those who wait, and if you're looking for a fun, cheap sci-fi game on the go, this is it. If you go in expecting a more zen garden-like experience than a real space sim, you shouldn't come out disappointed. Read the full Star Command review Gears of War: Judgment Call to Arms DLC (Xbox 360) Even with the VIP Pass, what you get is only total of six maps and two game modes, and the ability to play for double XP. For a game that is already light on multiplayer content, this really feels like a lazy, half-hearted effort to generate a quick buck from the fans of a dedicated franchise. While the Master at Arms game mode is fun and injects a certain level of enjoyable chaos to your standard free-for-all game type, and Blood Drive is a nice throwback to Gears of War 2, three maps and one new game type simply isn't enough for the price. Read the full Call to Arms review Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS eShop) A part of me misses the classic arcade action that seemed poised to make a comeback at the start of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, but I'm still glad Nintendo decided to explore new avenues for the Minis. Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move retains some of the Lemming-like quality of the more recent MvsDK titles, but the drastic changes to the gameplay have resulted in a faster, more free-form experience. It can be as simple or as mind-bending as you want it to be; either way, you'll be satisfied for many hours on end. Read the full Minis on the Move review [embed]255225:48924:0[/embed] Game Dev Tycoon (PC, Mac) When Game Dev Story introduced the idea of a game development sim to Japan in '97 and then the West in 2010, it was a novel concept that made overlooking its flaws easier. While Game Dev Tycoon is a superior experience with a better interface for its platform, it still suffers from the same pitfalls of monotony and lack of player feedback that Game Dev Story suffered from. While I appreciate the perspective Game Dev Tycoon has given me on game development, from indie studios in debt to huge studios juggling multiple projects, it was never the game's sim elements that had me returning. It offers a pleasant walk down memory lane of past consoles and technology, but that's about it. Read the full Game Dev Tycoon review Victoria II: Heart of Darkness (PC) Heart of Darkness still contains many of the issues that hampered the core game, with the frequency of rebellions making the late game frustrating, as populations become extremely liberal and demanding, and the tutorials are still insufficient when it comes to explaining the game beyond the most basic principles. Put in the work, however, and Heart of Darkness will reward you for the effort. It's still huge and uncompromising, but there's no better way to experience Victoria II. The improved combat and naval mechanics were oft-requested, and Paradox followed through, while the new features make the studio's vision of Victorian war, politics, and economics all the more believable and grand. Read the full Heart of Darkness review Color Commando (DSiWare) Color Commando has initial shades of fun, but it's basically over before it starts. Despite the cheap-looking enemy designs, there is a decent amount of charm here -- the game just doesn't get an opportunity to develop it. If you're itching for a platform puzzle title and have exhausted all of your choices on both the DS and 3DS, Color Commando is a decent way to spend a couple of bucks, but otherwise, it's skippable beyond a shadow of a doubt. Read the full Color Commando review [embed]255225:48925:0[/embed] Metro: Last Light (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Metro: Last Light is a disappointment in several respects. That simply has to be said. Its design painstakingly addresses criticisms of Metro 2033 to such an overzealous degree that it actually undoes many of the things 2033 was praised for. The fact you have to pre-order or pay to access a game closer to the original's heart is also damn near inexcusable, and again I emphasize that I will not review a mode that has been tacked on in such a fashion. However -- and it's a big however -- Last Light is also a fine game on its own, and if we're to judge it without the shadow of 2033 looming overhead, we can say it's a game packed with structurally sound combat, a rewardingly fluid narrative, and an atmosphere that runs the gamut from intriguing to chilling. Read the full Metro: Last Light review Reef Shot (PC) Reef Shot could have been much, much more than what is offered. As a first-person adventure game, it does little to stimulate the player to keep pressing on, except perhaps to hopefully see more fish variety. If you're like me and want to just meander about the ocean floor and take some photographs of virtual fish to relax and enjoy yourself, Reef Shot offers very little. Read the full Reef Shot review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Blade Wolf (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Blade Wolf rides on the coattails of an interesting character, but suffers from some of the same issues as the Jetstream DLC in that it doesn't do enough. With all new environments and maybe some more of the aforementioned old-school VR mission action, this would be a must-buy. As it stands, only the most hardcore should apply here, but at least it offers up some good old-fashioned robotic chainsaw-hacking fun. Read the full Blade Wolf review [embed]255225:48926:0[/embed] Anomaly 2 builds upon the original in every way, leaving me to wonder if this is as good as the concept of a deconstructed tower defense game can get. Anomaly 2 is an immediate and exciting strategy game unlike any other, but over time the repetition and lack of depth leaves something to be desired. It’s a welcome distraction on a phone or tablet, but the limits of the game are quickly noticed when played in long bursts on PC. For fans of the first that looked past these shortcomings, Anomaly 2 is a bigger, smarter, and better looking game. Read the full Anomaly 2 review Eador: Masters of the Broken World (PC) Eador: Masters of the Broken World is laden with good ideas and myriad reasons for strategy nuts to go... well, nuts, but for every compliment I could pay it, there's a caveat. Strange design choices and a serious lack of polish mars the things it does so very well. For a while, I couldn't even play the damn thing it was so unstable. Crashes every few minutes, and a bug around every corner made it not worth my time. After a few patches, I finally managed to play it without fearing that I'd be dealing with a freeze or a crash every time I moved my hero, and I'm glad I stuck it out. It manages to capture what makes titles like HoMM or Kings Bounty so gripping without simply treading the same old ground. Yet it's still really quite flawed. Read the full Eador: Masters of the Broken World review Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (3DS) Truthfully, as a retro gamer, while I never found the core game to be that challenging, attempting to get everything (including the extra mirror mode that restricts you to one heart and no power-ups) is one of the hardest quests you can ever embark upon in gaming. While I gave up in the original due to some motion frustration, I'm well on my way to utterly completing the 3DS version (I only have mirror mode left), and I'm loving every minute. If you missed out on Donkey Kong Country Returns the first time around, or you disliked the motion-heavy controls of the original, pick up this version. With solid tactile feedback, the 3DS edition of the game has cemented itself as one of my favorite platformers of all time without question. Read the full Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D review Dust 514 (PlayStation 3) Dust 514 has promises of greatness. It reaches high and attempts to accomplish something not many games have even tried to this day, which should be commended. But right now, it needs a few more major updates before it gets there. With a hefty amount of microtransactions that border on offensive, there is a very ambitious, competitive game underneath the sloppy veneer. Read the full Dust 514 review The Starship Damrey (3DS eShop) Despite being entertaining in its own way, The Starship Damrey ultimately fails to provide a hardcore, old-school adventure as promised. There's potential for an even more expansive campaign, which I hope Level-5 explores one day -- if Liberation Maiden can get a sequel, so can this! For now, rein in your expectations. Read the full Starship Damrey review Resident Evil Revelations (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U [reviewed], Xbox 360) Resident Evil Revelations isn't as good on consoles as it is on the 3DS. It clearly wasn't designed for larger machines, and the somewhat clunky, rudimentary controls indicate that it would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to prove a superior alternative. However, it's still a fine game and still the best Resident Evil game available right now, and if you've not played it already, you truly ought to. If you've already tried it on 3DS, there's not a lot to bring you back, but any other Resident Evil fan would be best served giving it a go. Read the full Resident Evil Revelations review Plants vs. Zombies Adventures (Facebook) Plants vs. Zombies Adventures is fairly inoffensive fun, and serves as the appetizer to PvZ 2's main course. The implementation of sprays makes combat a bit more interactive, and there's a decent variety of plants to keep your strategy liquid. It could stand to implement a more forgiving energy mechanic, but unlike many other social games, it at least gives you something to do while you wait. Read the full Plants vs. Zombies Adventures review Reus (PC) The pace of Reus, starting players off with tutorials and then short games, ultimately growing into two hour sessions where all of human history plays out, off-sets the game's complexity. Its simple controls and clean interface also makes something that could have been an obstinate chore pleasant to get to grips with. At first I bemoaned the lack of more detailed menus and alternative control options, but I miss them not at all now. Reus is a game of logical, organic systems presented as simply as possible. It's a delight to play at every turn, and it strikes the perfect balance between providing new content and not overloading players. Beneath its unassuming appearance exists a challenging experience that will last a good long time. Maybe not as long as it took for humanity to grow from nomadic tribes to city-dwelling go-getters, but who the hell has time for that?   Read the full Reus review Sanctum 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade) As a whole, Sanctum 2 feels confused. It isn't quite as much tower defense as fans of the first game would probably hope for, since more of the emphasis this time around is placed on the first-person shooting element. It also hides way too much information from the player, leading to a lot of guess-and-check strategies. The game remains a refreshing hybrid of genres, however, and many of the frustrations temporarily wash away as you lay witness to the last enemy in the last wave die, proving that your strategic planning and accurate shooting have paid off. Read the full Sanctum 2 review Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC [reviewed], PSN, XBLA) Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a funny game and a satisfying romp, with clearly influenced ideas that all have their own unique little spins. I'll fully admit that I went into it expecting another damp squib, but came away thoroughly impressed. While it sadly won't get much attention, given the fact it launched quieter than a church mouse with its mouth stapled shut, I wholly recommend it to fans, newcomers, and those who felt burned by the last awful game in the series. Not only is Gunslinger the best Call of Juarez game, it's a damn fine and worthy shooter in its own right. Read the full Gunslinger review Might & Magic Heroes VI: Shades of Darkness (PC) There are many games that will only appeal to "fans of the genre," but this goes farther than that and becomes a game that appeals to "fans of the series." It's not really a terrible thing, but it's not a great thing, either. If you like Might & Magic, you should definitely play Shades of Darkness. It's a solid expansion with an insane amount of new content; you'll be giddy for dozens of hours. If you don't play the series, however, this doesn't provide a great reason to check it out. There need to be more tool-tips with information and an introduction to the factions, lore, units, and abilities -- none of that happens here. Read the full Shades of Darkness review Leviathan: Warships (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed]) Leviathan is best enjoyed if you already have friends playing. It's a game that offers little to the solo player, despite the single-player campaign. With pals, it's an entirely different, much more entertaining experience. If you do have a tablet, then I recommend picking it up for that rather than PC, purely because of the much lower price. All versions are completely identical, so you won't be missing out unless you desperately want to play it on a larger screen.  Read the full Leviathan review Best Park In the Universe - Regular Show (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5]) Best Park is spread over 15 levels, all of which feel roughly the same. Once again, the repetition begins to set in mostly as you face similar foes across levels that actually are quite different looking. More updates are planned for the game which will add extra levels, but for now, you'll have to deal with the ones you've got. It's a better attempt than prior efforts but Best Park in the Universe doesn't really aim all that high. As long as you're not expecting much, it's a decent beat-'em-up that somehow manages to produce a solid control scheme. If you're a diehard Regular Show fan, you may enjoy it. Read the full Best Park in the Universe review StarDrive (PC) For a one-man effort, StarDrive is impressive. It's huge, looks great, and it has a nice balance between automation and micromanagement. Lamentably it's also buggy, with crashes and glitches raising their head frequently -- though admittedly less now, since it's been out for almost a month -- explains its systems poorly, and it becomes extremely boring only a couple of hours into a game.  It doesn't add anything drastically new to the genre, and thus there isn't much reason why you should get it when titles like Galactic Civilization II are better and cheaper, or the contemporary Endless Space -- for all its flaws -- offers a more unique take on the 4X experience. Read the full StarDrive review Fuse (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The most troubling thing about this review is that I am possessed of self awareness enough to know it's going to look like a punishment. It's going to look like I'm one of the many disappointed gamers who saw the changes from Overstrike to Fuse and was prepared, from the outset, to hate it. I cannot disprove such a perception, if that is the perception you wish to have. All I can say is that I, a fan of Insomniac, had faith when I was assured Fuse would be just as good as Overstrike promised to be, and I was looking forward to playing it. To have my residual doubts about the game brought miserably to light was not pleasant, and certainly not desired.  Whether it's true or not, Fuse does feel every bit like another victim of the heavily focus-tested, leader following, perpetually terrified mainstream game industry. It's every cloying and desperate element of the retail console market, brought together -- fused, if you will -- to create a factory standard example of a game that tries to be everything the hypothetical mainstream consumer drools over, and ends up as nothing remarkable. Read the full Fuse review Dragon Fantasy Book 1 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita [reviewed]) In staying true to its roots, Dragon Fantasy Book 1 is a bit of a drag. I like the main characters well enough, but I'm not particularly interested in the glibly presented story or world, and some of the retro JRPG systems are super aggravating or simply mind-numbing. That being said, the game did grow on me in the last three sections, and I think the bridging of storylines -- and mechanics -- in Book 2 could prove a bit more fruitful. Read the full Dragon Fantasy review The Night of the Rabbit (Mac, PC [reviewed]) What got me through those instances was the menagerie of woodland critters (and an Alan Moore-inspired forest guardian), the sumptuous art, and the mystery that is slowly teased, but ultimately unravels in a quickly wrapped-up, anti-climactic ending that I could definitely have done without. Yet for all its flaws, The Night of the Rabbit may still be Daedalic's best adventure game. The issues are numerous, but the significant size of the game also offers up a lot of opportunities for it to redeem itself, which it does manage. The Night of the Rabbit still contains all of those classic "ah ha!" moments when you, at long last, cease to be dumbfounded, and the novelty of the magic spells surprisingly doesn't wear off, continuing to be implemented cleverly throughout the long experience. With a lot of patience, you could find yourself having a bloody good time. Read the full Night of the Rabbit review The Swapper (PC) I came away from The Swapper with nothing but amazement. From the first time you see the literally hand-crafted visuals until the final moment in the game, which is sure to give you pause for thought, you will be in complete awe. Brilliant puzzles with even more brilliant solutions compliment the philosophical plotline, leaving an unforgettable experience unlike any other. Read the full The Swapper review
May 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of May 2013
May was largely a quiet month for new game releases. Despite what felt like a slower schedule, especially coming off of a rather absurd April, here on Destructoid we did have a pair of 10s with the portable Donkey Kong Countr...

The best and worst games of 2013: Hyperdimension April

May 02 // Jordan Devore
The Organ Trail: Director's Cut (PC) Organ Trail: Director's Cut has a few things going against it. It's a parody game, which is always a risk, and it involves zombies; an increasingly tiresome creative crutch. But through wit, ingenuity, and good old fashioned sadism, it manages to succeed against the odds and provide a truly rewarding spin on a number of classic ideas. For the price, you really couldn't ask for more. Read the full Organ Trail: Director's Cut review Ms. Splosion Man (iPhone [reviewed with iPhone 5], iPad) When you add it all up, buying all three worlds solely through in-app-purchasing amounts to less than the asking price of the original XBLA game (less than $10). But there's something really wrong with the way the system is presented here. Simply put, if it's a paid app, the game should be fully unlocked -- especially if there are microtransactions already in place -- and especially since there is no warning of this withholding of content before you purchase the game. It's a shame that there's such a weird barrier between the player and actually playing the levels they want. With a bit more tweaking of how many coins it takes to unlock each stage, or the elimination of the system entirely, Ms. Splosion Man would be one of the finest games on the entire App Store. Read the full Ms. Splosion Man review BattleBlock Theater (Xbox Live Arcade) If you absolutely positively hate platformers, I'm not so sure you'll enjoy BattleBlock Theater. UnlikeCastle Crashers which had the benefit of the simplistic, pick up and play beat 'em up genre, you get more out of BattleBlock the more you're willing to put into it. Positive reinforcement is gained through skill and triumph rather than simply bashing things in mindlessly, so in that regard, the universal appeal is a bit lower than most of Behemoth's older titles. But as long as you're willing to give it a chance, you'll reap the rewards of a fairly deep, interesting game that was built with a lot of heart. I can't wait to see how Behemoth follows this up, and I hope it doesn't take five years to do it. Read the full BattleBlock Theater review Toki Tori 2 (PC, Wii U [reviewed]) Although charming and admirable, Toki Tori 2 at times is almost too minimal. Puzzles never really reach maddeningly difficult levels until more than halfway in, but often times it's hard to feel inspired to move to the next area -- or bother discovering it -- if there's no real incentive for doing so outside of general completion. Read the full Toki Tori 2 review Evoland (PC) Evoland makes for a thoroughly enjoyable few hours, and I'd recommend it to any Zelda or Final Fantasy fan in a heartbeat. While a few of the referential jokes cross over into cringe territory, most of them hit the mark, and there are a few little gags that really encourage a smirk, if not a real-life, out-loud chuckle. It's incredibly difficult to fault what's on offer, but it's quite easy to lament what isn't there -- chiefly a lot more of what's on offer. Read the full Evoland review Edge of Twilight: Athyr Above (iOS) Athyr Above comes across predominantly as a game on the wrong system. With some design tweaks, it may have enjoyed a far better time on something like the PlayStation Vita, which can handle a game clearly more suited to physical buttons. I've got nothing against the touch interface, and enjoy quite a few iOS games, but Edge of Twilight clearly has no place using it, not if this is the best it can do.  Read the full Edge of Twilight: Athyr Above review Dungeon Hearts (PC [reviewed], iPad) Once a game of Dungeon Hearts is won, new soundtracks unlock (five total). This would a stick instead of a carrot if it weren't for how great of a musical score it is. Along with the graphics, the music is a clever homage to the days of SquareSoft but manages to have an identity of its own. I can extend that statement to the entire game. Dungeon Hearts takes the Final Fantasy worship that has inspired many a RPG Maker indie and does something far more inspired and enjoyable with it. On a positive note, Cube Roots has been very active on listening to feedback on social networks and even provided a noteworthy update four days after release. Whether you are a fan of fast-paced, challenging puzzle games or an old-school RPG fan, Dungeon Hearts' charm will rub off on you. And if you are a fan of both of those things, you won't even mind its shortcomings, in time. Read the full Dungeon Hearts review BADLAND (iPhone, iPad [reviewed]) Much of the fun that comes from BADLAND is from the anxiety it will cause you in narrowly avoiding an insane deathtrap with your last fuzzy after watching a whole mess of clones explode throughout a rough patch of poisonous plants. LocoRoco this game ain't, as it's nearly impossible to save ALL of your community and so it becomes quickly necessary to focus on the ones that you just might be able to save and let the stragglers fall by the wayside or get burst into pieces by razors blades, gears, or javelin spikes. Read the full BADLAND review Tactical Intervention (PC) For those of us who remember the days of hostages falling down canyons and giant APCs glitching through walls in Counter-Strike, Le has made a game for you. It's unfortunate then that the game is buried under a myriad of problems, from dated, ugly presentation to shooting that feels clumsy. With how Le has talked up the game over the years, it's not a surprise that it's so ambitious. And with the many delays and last minute open beta, it shouldn't be a surprise that it's a total mess. Read the full Tactical Intervention review Receiver (Windows [reviewed], Mac, Linux) Just like the skate. and Monster Hunter franchises, Receiver focuses on the player's mastery of the game's unique mechanics. It will take some time and dedication to truly "master" the game, especially considering that each pistol demands the player to spend a lot of time with it just to understand how to reload the damn thing. By the same token, Receiver is one of those games that feels so incredibly satisfying once it is finally understood and everything clicks. Then you remember that a group of talented people made it in a week and you question what exactly you're doing with your life.  Read the full Receiver review Slayin' (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) Slayin' is one of the best games I've played on iOS in some time. I'm really glad that it keeps In-App-Purchasing down to a minimum, and delivers enough thrills (retro or otherwise) to justify the meager price tag. If you're a fan of retro games and prefer gaming in small chunks, give this a shot immediately. Read the full Slayin' review Guacamelee! (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita) The game fully supports PS3/PS Vita crossplay, and you can use the Vita to control Tostada in 2P co-op on the PS3. The perks don't stop there either. Collectibles, a horde mode-style dungeon, side quests, a new difficulty mode upon completion, and plenty of other secrets help with the replay value. None of those bonuses would mean squat if the Guacamelee! didn't provide a fun world to mess around in, which it does. Right from the start, Guacamelee! offers up a sugar skull-covered playground to delight in and devour with mucho gusto. It's a game I'll be playing and replaying again for some time to come. Read the full Guacamelee! review Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (PlayStation 3) It reeks of laziness, but that pales in comparison to what is easily the worst part of the entire experience. The quest system. Ugh! Poorly implemented and only there to waste your time, a seemingly endless number of errands awaits just to artificially lengthen the game. Rarely challenging, never interesting, these fetch quests exist only as arbitrary roadblocks that will need to be surmounted before the story is allowed to advance. Dwelling somewhere between mediocrity and greatness, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It just isn't a very good one either. A nuanced, rhythmic, and generally entertaining combat system awaits alongside a nascent story for those that can endure more than their fair share of suffering. Read the full Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory review Afterfall: InSanity Extended Edition (PC) InSanity was never going to be a great game. It would have struggled to be considered a good one. It did, however, have that certain special something, possessed of enough charisma to at least make me debate whether or not it was a bad game. That is, until the gear shift and rapid decline, at which point I gave up trying to be nice and settled in for an absolutely terrible time. It's a shame, because it had its hands all the tools necessary for underground success, but failed to prove itself consistent enough to stand out from all the other obscure, low-budget, bottom-feeding action games on the market. Read the full Afterfall: InSanity Extended Edition review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: Jetstream DLC (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Hardcore fans will most likely want to experience Jetstream because it's more Revengeance, but if you were lukewarm with the core experience, more of the same probably won't wow you in any way. Platinum Games doesn't really do DLC all that often, and the studio really need to up its game if it wants to dive into add-ons in the future. Read the full Jetstream review Tekken Card Tournament (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on iPhone 5], PC) If you're actually interested despite the constant paywalls, the good news is there will be physical cards this Summer with QR codes to add to your digital deck. If you're a card game fan like myself, finding a group of people to play this with in a social gathering and getting free digital cards may be more enticing than ponying up for microtransactions. But again, that isn't available yet. In many ways, Tekken Card Tournament is a shame, because it's actually a decent, simple little card game. If someone laid a real-life starter deck in front of me, I'd actually play it for an extended period of time, but as it stands, it's not worth slogging through the mictrotransaction and "energy" nonsense to do it. Read the full Tekken Card Tournament review Sonic Dash (Android, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) Sonic Dash isn't a bad game, but it could stand to be much better than it is in its current state. With more zones and less weighty in-app-purchases by way of an update, Dash could be one of the more enticing endless runners on the market. As it stands, you might find yourself picking this up, and running right past it after a fleeting sense of enjoyment. But said time with it will undoubtedly be enjoyable, nonetheless. Read the full Sonic Dash review Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (3DS) Soul Hackers is not a full-on remake, and more of a re-release. But you know what? Considering how well the game holds up even today, that's ok. Soul Hackers may have a number of antiquated principles and mechanics, but none of them are unprecedented or that difficult to deal with. So long as you're willing to put up with a bit of age, you'll be diving into one of the most accessible and enjoyable Shin Megami Tensei games in the series. Read the full Soul Hackers review Pandora's Tower (Wii) I previously called this title a "middle," but maybe that's doing it a disservice. Curious gameplay issues abound, only some of which I touched upon, in addition to the visual and voice acting mishaps. Still, it's bursting with so much content that you are bound to find a morsel that tickles your taste buds. There are even shades of that infamous NES-era challenge, though the difficulty thankfully stops shy of being completely overwhelming. It's just a damn fine videogame. Pandora's Tower is a bittersweet end to the Wii's life: a taste of the kind of software that could have carried the console during those slow months. As it stands, it won't be anything more that an engaging action RPG with a clever hook. But I suppose I can live with that. Read the full Pandora's Tower review Age of Empires II HD Edition (PC) Yeah, it actually took me longer than I’d like to admit to notice and fully grasp the importance of that inclusion. It’s only been a few days since the game dropped and there are already a pretty decent set of HD texture packs, gameplay tweaks, and tons and tons of other goodies. In the same way that Skyrim took my initial investment of 75 hours and magically extended that to something in the neighborhood of 500, the Workshop for AoE II is an amazing bonus. And, combined with access to multiplayer via Steam, it's really the only addition the game needs. All told, while a little frustrating if you’re not into tons of micro-management, Age of Empires II HD with the Workshop and updated multiplayer features is an excellent title. The brilliance of the game’s design is still there, you just might need to look past its age to see it. Read the full Age of Empires II HD Edition review Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Uprising DLC (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) One arena withstanding, Treyarch had a lot of fun with this map pack, and it really shows. From the joke-ridden Studio and Magma, to the surprisingly refreshing Mob of the Dead, there's a lot of solid content on offer here in Uprising. In terms of raw layouts, pretty much every map on offer here delivers solid FPS action, and there wasn't one arena in particular that I outright disliked. I feel like at this point in Call of Duty's history, the design needs to be a little bit more out there to really sway new users, but for fans and enthusiasts alike, you really can't go wrong with these maps. Read the full Uprising review Terraria (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed]) Terraria is an incredible experience, and no game has filled me with the same sense of wonder and drive to explore in a very long time. In this port to consoles, those feelings are preserved, but perhaps not as elegantly as they could have been. The control scheme turned out better than expected, but the multiplayer functionality is far from ideal. Still, I cannot recommend this enough to anybody with a heart for exploring the unknown and an inherent passion for discovery. Read the full Terraria review Cities in Motion 2 (PC) Though these issues hamper the overall experience, Cities in Motion 2 is a jump in the right direction, and is a significant improvement over its forebearer. It's more polished, though the occasional minor bug cropped up from time to time, and Colossal Order cut the chaff while adding in new, oft requested features such as the timetable system, which allows players to tailor the departure times of vehicles to cater to demand -- or lack of demand -- during certain times of the day, like the morning or evening rush hour. I didn't expect the game to grip me in the way it did, and I certainly couldn't have predicted how excited I would become at the prospect of getting people to their jobs in time. Cities in Motion 2takes a mundane and, frankly, boring subject matter, and makes it genuinely compelling. It has made my dreary real-life bus journeys a tiny bit more interesting. Read the full Cities in Motion 2 review ShootMania Storm (PC) Shootmania Storm is a community-centered first-person shooter with next to no community. It's an unfortunate situation, but one that the game finds itself in nonetheless. Though the menus are clunky and the game doesn't do much to welcome new players, the core game of Shootmania Storm is so wonderful to play that I can't help but want to always improve. It has a remarkably high skill ceiling, even if the basic controls seem simple at first. I believe the phrase is "easy to understand, difficult to master." Yeah, that fits this game perfectly. Read the full ShootMania Storm review Sacred Citadel (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) A nice presentation helps make things a little more interesting, but there's still no escaping the fact that Sacred Citadel fails to inspire much passion. It's an okay game, a solid arcade throwback, but it's a mere face in a crowd and doesn't stand out very much. It'll give you five or so hours of satisfactory action, dishing out amusement and annoyance at varying points, and while I think it's worth checking out for Sacred fans, most brawler connoisseurs would be better off sticking with the classics.  Read the full Sacred Citadel review Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger (3DS eShop) Like a lot of country music, The Last Ranger suffers from being repetitive and overly simplistic at times. Thankfully, it's very well performed, infectious, and packed with plenty of personality. If you play in occasional 20-30 minutes burst, you may never grow tired of this composition, but if you try to marathon through this album of outlaw armadillo hits, you'll be tempted to put the thing down for good. Read the full The Last Ranger review Injustice: Gods Among Us (Android, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad) As mindless as it is, Injustice iOS is a very easy way to get reacquainted with your favorite DC Comics characters. It would have been a much better experience as a straight $4.99 download, with the ability to unlock every character in the game through straight progress, but despite that wasted opportunity, you really can't go wrong with at least trying out this free game. Read the full Injustice mobile review Fish out of Water (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5]) If you're looking for a new time waster, Fish Out of Water is a decent experience, despite its lack of depth. If you require something with a little more meat on its bones, feel free to wait, because in all likelihood, just like Jetpack Joyride, this will go free at some point given the fact that in-app-purchases are already featured. Read the full Fish out of Water review [embed]252288:48312:0[/embed] Dead Island Riptide (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Is Dead Island Riptide a fun game? At times, yes. In terms of raw combat and power fantasy, it's just as good as Dead Island ... and it's just as bad at the same time. The bottom line is that there's no excuse for it not being superior. Being "just as good" isn't good enough, especially not whenDead Island had things on its side that Riptide doesn't. Those new to the series entirely will likely not notice the problems quite so much, and be as forgiving to it as newcomers were to Dead Island. While Riptide banks on you having loved the first, in actuality you have a lot more to gain if you've never touched it.  If you played the first game, however, I'd recommend waiting for a real sequel, because Riptidefails to get away with pulling the same trick twice. Read the full Riptide review God Mode (PC [reviewed], PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) As mentioned earlier, God Mode is the type of game that grows on you. The biggest complaint I have is a lack of variety, which is to be expected of a budget title. What Old School Games did include in this straightforward, arcade-centric shooter shows promise of a more fleshed-out project. There's also a hint of personality with a goofy narrator, but the execution isn't quite there.God Mode is an easy recommendation to make for those who want relatively mindless entertainment -- just don't go in expecting much more than that. Read the full God Mode review Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall (PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) While The Knife of Dunwall's missions may not reach the heights of the Boyle's masquerade or the Golden Cat, the first mission -- which sheds more light on Dunwall's grisly whaling industry -- is undoubtedly one of the best designed game-spaces in both the DLC and game proper. It both encapsulates what makes Dishonored such a delight to play and introduces a few new things, including the horrific Butchers -- a particularly nasty enemy who requires a wee bit more thought that most to dispatch. The new protagonist and plot may have been underwhelming -- and completely unfinished until Arkane releases the next piece of DLC -- but I'm less disappointed due to the polished gameplay. Daud has less tricks than Corvo, and damn do I miss the talking heart, but it all goes towards making The Knife of Dunwall a more focused package. Read the full Knife of Dunwall review LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins (3DS) The long load times from the Wii U version are also back, but with a vengeance! I'm talking load times that will trump even the earliest of PSOne Classics, sometimes dipping into the two minute mark. In addition to serving as an overall nuisance, it also makes going into buildings and loading new areas a chore -- and when load times impede exploration, you know it's really bad. Considering how other 3DS developers have done more visually with their titles, it's a bit odd to see a game like LEGO City suffer on the 3DS, especially given the aforementioned aesthetic sacrifices. If you're a diehard LEGO fan, odds are you'll get some form of enjoyment out of The Chase Begins. For everyone else, you're better off skipping it entirely, or picking up the superior Wii U version of the game. It's one thing to pare down an experience on a portable: it's another to sacrifice its integrity in the process. Read the full The Chase Begins review Monster Loves You (PC) If you go into Monster Loves You with the knowledge that this is really an interactive story for children, then you can get plenty out of it. It's quick to get through and packs the same kind of charm and sweetness as a good kids book but it really is a game designed for younger gamers. If you're looking for in-depth mechanics, then there's really not much on offer here but given the target audience, that is understandable. Read the full Monster Loves You review Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade) Monaco: What's Yours is Mine truly is a game for anyone and everyone. It is simple enough to pick up and immediately understand how things work, while at the same time offers the complexity to have multiple players spend a few minutes sitting still, devising a self-titled "Best Plan Ever" complete with tracing the plan on the screen with fingers, saying “Ready? GO!”, only to see it backfire in seconds. Regardless of whether you plan on flying solo or with some buddies, do yourself a favor and go play Monaco. I know I'll be doing the same for a long time into the future. Read the full Monaco review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Redemption (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Across all three parts, it took me a little over four hours to complete the content in total (with a few more hours tacked on for 100% collection/completion). But however you choose to buy this DLC, whether it's by way of the Season Pass or piecemeal, I'm not so sure the two first halves are worth putting up with to get to this. In fact, despite my enjoyment of the final chapter it's probably best to just wait until a proper Game of the Year Edition hits and play the side story that way. Ubisoft had major potential with King Washington, and sadly, there were a few missteps that prevent me from recommending the package as a whole. If you've already picked up the first two parts and are on the fence about Redemption though, it's probably a good idea to just bite. Read the full The Redemption review The Sims 3: University Life (Mac, PC [reviewed]) University Life is decent on its own as an expansion, but when you stack it up against the other eight for The Sims 3 it really doesn't jump out as being that special. It's better than Seasons, but it's not game-changing. If anything, this just serves as a sign that the series is getting long in the tooth, and EA needs to think about releasing a complete edition to make all of this stuff more accessible to more players. Read the full University Life review Robot Unicorn Attack 2 (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 4S]) Every added element invites you back into the core game, where you lose yourself to the sights and sounds, literally chasing your dreams. And with the incorporation of community events, you feel a pleasant connection, touching the lives of others as they are touching yours. It's a heartwarming thought to know that, rather than trying to eclipse someone else's high score for your own self-satisfaction, you are working together for the benefit of the whole. Nothing about this game can bring me down. Not even the curiously long load times when you open the customization menu -- which I'm sure will be improved via update later down the road. Simply put, it lifts me like few other games have. And you too can be as content as I am right this very moment. Read the full Robot Unicorn Attack 2 review Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R (PlayStation Vita) If it wasn't for the major omission of new features, the lack of online play, and the fact that Plus R is coming to consoles for free, I would have enjoyed Guilty Gear on the Vita a whole lot more. The fact of the matter is, the game still holds up even today, and the series is still relevant, tight, and competitive. So long as you aren't bothered by an utter fumbling of features in this port, you're still getting a solid fighting game that should at the very least, function as a portable training simulation for the console version. I'm pretty torn on the review given the omission of such a major function, but ultimately Guilty Gear is a great game, and that core was preserved here. Read the full Accent Core Plus R review Signal Ops (PC) Signal Ops is far from the game it could have been. The concept is great and for the most part delivers, but the Bolt character class and his job of carrying a radio does a lot of damage to the overall design. It feels incredibly restrictive, refusing to let the player go where they please and take their time getting there. It definitely has some moments of brilliance, but they are often quickly forgotten.  Read the full Signal Ops review Strike Suit Infinity (PC) Strike Suit Infinity is a solid deal, given its lower price point. It doesn't claim to be anything but a wave-based, score-centric space-arcade game, and that works in its favor. The simple design allows the game to focus on its wonderfully satisfying mechanics, even if they aren't communicated very well through the poor tutorial. If the crashes can be ironed out, what will be left behind is an absolutely great way to marvel at space and its beauty while blowing the crap out of some big, hunking space ships for that ever-so-tasty high score. Read the full Strike Suit Infinity review Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) In an odd move, the game is only available currently in its fully priced form -- so if you own the original, you need to purchase the $39.99 disc or full digital game with no option to purchase a discounted DLC package. As a result, it's really tough to recommend the game to anyone who felt lukewarm with the original given the fact that it's essentially the same experience, just with a new island. The small extras almost feel like a bribe of sorts, and Capcom could have done much better than this. Then again, it works both ways as you could rent the original, save a file, and then reap these benefits with Dark Arisen as your first experience. While I can't wholly recommend Dark Arisen to anyone but the most hardcore of Dragon's Dogma fans, if you haven't touched the franchise yet, this is a perfect opportunity to do so. Despite the issues, the series is an intriguing prospect that does many things right, and shouldn't be missed by action or RPG fans alike. While Capcom could have done a whole lot more with this expansion, the fact of the matter is the solid game underneath is still faithfully preserved. Read the full Dark Arisen review [embed]252531:48411:0[/embed] Don't Starve (PC) Playing Don't Starve can be infuriating. There's absolutely no guidance, and the initial punishing difficulty only increases. It demands that players figure things out for themselves and progress through exploration and experimentation rather than being spoonfed hints and tips. Its uncompromising nature will undoubtedly leave some unsatisfied and irritated, but for those who are willing to work and take risks, it pays off. The feeling of accomplishment when you manage to fend off countless cruel beasties, survive unrelenting foul weather, and fill your belly is potent. Mastering the wilderness is a difficult road, but from it comes a sense of empowerment. Of course, you could still lose it all in an instant. Such is the fickle nature of Don't Starve.   Read the full Don't Starve review Soul Sacrifice (PS Vita) Soul Sacrifice, true to its driving idea, is a game of compromises. There's a staggering wealth of content, but it can be tiring in its repetition. Battles are frantic and fun, but can be exhaustingly annoying if you choose the wrong friends. Very much like the game's Lacrima system, however, many of the sacrifices one must make to enjoy the game are negligible in the long run, and there's nothing that should stop one having a damn good laugh and getting utterly hooked on an adventure that really can be played until the Vita's batteries run dry.  Read the full Soul Sacrifice review [embed]251865:48405:0[/embed] Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The result of all this is a deep and well crafted premise in a somewhat shallow game. Blood Dragon is well made, and thoroughly entertaining to lovers of the eighties, but in many ways, it becomes a victim of its own success -- the core ideas are so fun, so lavishly crafted, one aches to see them in a game equal to their quality. Blood Dragon is a good little game, and I highly recommend checking it out, with the caveat that it's one of those games that does a few things well enough to inadvertently highlight its own flaws.  As critical as I may be, however, I'd rather have Blood Dragon exist as it does than not exist at all. A game this delightfully stupid can only make the world a better place, and I sincerely hope this isn't the last we see of Rex Colt.  Read the full Blood Dragon review Star Trek: The Video Game (PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) As predicted, this is yet another movie tie-in game that feels rushed and incomplete. Oddly, it has nothing to do with the plot of the upcoming film, so why it was rushed to coincide only proves it was made merely to cash-in on the popularity right at the film's release. With as many mechanics that it borrows from other titles, and how poorly it implements them, it should be beamed directly into the trash compactor. Sloppy, glitchy controls and graphics, tedious gameplay, and spotty co-op makes for one adventure you'll wish would boldly go away. It's dumb, Jim. Read the full Star Trek review Witch and Hero (3DS eShop) Outside of an interesting final battle, a decent twist ending, and an unlockable hard mode, there isn't that much substance here. You'll keep bumping over and over until you've bumped your way to the final boss (really, the only good part of the game) -- then if you want, you can bump some more. Variety could have really done wonders here. Even with a small budget, tiny nuances like sword animations, items in the shop, and mini-boss depth could have gone a long way. Witch and Herotakes a simple, charming concept and somehow manages to make it repetitive, dry, and unfun. Given the price, you're better off skipping this retro-centric experience in favor of the endless sea of classics on the 3DS eShop. Read the full Witch and Hero review Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U) When DC Comics’ most popular heroes and villains appeared in 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Aquaman was nowhere to be found. Thought of as a laughing stock with a shaky history in videogames -- the less said about Battle for Atlantis, the better -- Aquaman was tossed aside. Now, Aquaman is a total badass. Injustice shows a lot has changed in the world of DC since 2008. It also shows there is a lot that can still be changed in fighting games.For a game weighted down by genre conventions that are further imposed by fictional characters that have been around longer than most of our lifetimes, Injustice is full of the type of grand ideas we stopped seeing in fighting games since the late '90s. Whether it becomes embraced by EVO players or not, it's a nice shot in the arm for a genre that often feels niche to a fault. Read the full Injustice: Gods Among Us review
April 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of April 2013
This review recap is brought to you by Daft Punk's Alive 2007, which fueled the incessant copying and pasting efforts needed to put one of these together. I don't feel like I've blinked since I started working on this, but it...

Review: Sonic Dash

Apr 12 // Chris Carter
Sonic Dash (Android, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad)Developer: HardlightPublisher: SegaReleased: March 4, 2013 (iOS), TBA 2013 (Android)MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) Sonic Dash is one of "those" mobile games. You know, the endless-runner type that doesn't have a finite goal, and entices you with in-app-purchases to help you get "just a little further." But despite the fact that there's no endgame in sight, like Temple Run, it can be a great way to waste time in-between some of the more meatier offerings in the mobile market. Where Dash truly shines is the set of very responsive controls, which I've found to be some of the best in the runner genre. Instead of a convoluted and dead-zone prone tilt method, you simply control Sonic by swiping left or right to switch between three lanes, up to jump, and down to slide. That's it. It all works wonderfully well, and for the most part, Sonic does everything I want him to do with no issues. It's a stark departure from market leader Temple Run's forced tilt system, and an appreciated one. [embed]247989:47437:0[/embed] Another area that wasn't skimped on are the aesthetics of the game, which are surprisingly beautiful on the iPhone 5 (users are reporting issues with earlier iPhone models). The draw distance is fairly well done, Sonic himself looks colorful and great, and the world is faithfully recreated and translated to Sonic Dash quite well, to the point where it doesn't feel like a knock-off in any way. With the right team, a full-on game using a modified version of this engine could easily be a reality. But aside from that solid veneer, the lack of inspiration or effort starts to seep through the cracks. Mechanically, Sonic doesn't die if he hits an enemy with rings, which is a nice touch, but if he hits a wall, he instantly loses that run (barring your use of a revival power-up). It really kills the pacing of the game to say the least, when you add in the fact that certain checkpoints must be made to "bank" coins, lest you lose all of your progress during that part of the run. Losing a large amount of currency you've earned not only makes the player feel like he's wasted his time, but it also feels like an incongruous design to have one method "sort of" eliminate the run, and another method end it instantly. A lack of variety also hurts the experience significantly. You'll encounter a whole two environments throughout the game: the Green Hill Zone, and the Seaside Hill Zone. That's it. After a few hours, looking at the same exact scenery that you've already seen a million times at the start of nearly every Sonic game devolves the experience into a chore. Like Sonic Generations, a solid variety of stages would do nothing but help the game, and I sincerely hope that more levels are in the cards for a future update. In-app-purchases range from "not needed" to "pretty damn annoying." After every run, a "tip" will come up on the screen, usually having nothing to do with that particular run, that advertises an IAP of some sort. This was less acceptable when the game had a $1.99 pricepoint, but now that it's free, it doesn't bother me as much. Honestly, if you keep doing the challenges (of which the rewards have been upped since launch), you shouldn't feel the need to buy anything outside of the exorbitantly-priced characters, which are optional anyway; if you don't want to earn the stars to buy every character, it'll cost roughly $15. Sonic Dash isn't a bad game, but it could stand to be much better than it is in its current state. With more zones and less weighty in-app-purchases by way of an update, Dash could be one of the more enticing endless runners on the market. As it stands, you might find yourself picking this up, and running right past it after a fleeting sense of enjoyment. But said time with it will undoubtedly be enjoyable, nonetheless.
Sonic Dash review photo
Temple Run with Sonic in it
Not content with taking the Doodle Jump formula and simply placing Sonic in it with Sonic Jump, Sega has tapped a new mobile avenue, the 3D endless runner. Surprisingly, this sub-genre is the one that actually suits Sonic the...

The best and worst games of 2013: Infinite March

Apr 06 // Jordan Devore
Etrian Odyssey IV (3DS) Etrian Odyssey IV the best series title yet, and an excellent place to start if you've never played one before. It is, by far, the most accessible series game yet, with its Casual mode and its wide-open, free-exploration gameplay. And for the first time, despite being a dungeon crawler at heart, an Etrian Odyssey title feels like a sprawling adventure.  For series fans, everything you love about Etrian Odyssey is here, and then some -- better music, art, monsters, and mapping. You will not be disappointed. For everyone else: fans of classic dungeon crawling, fans of planning and plotting, or fans of a sizable challenge, I cannot recommend Etrian Odyssey IV enough. Read the full Etrian Odyssey IV review Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus (PlayStation Vita) On top of the technical issues, there's barely anything new that's been added here to justify another purchase. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed the original Ninja Gaiden 2 and Sigma 2. Team Ninja really missed the opportunity to add a killer feature like the ability to replay Time Attack missions with extra characters or enhance Ninja Race, which would have justified a double/triple-dip. With the removal of content like Japanese audio and online co-op, this game doesn't offer enough to truly justify the "Plus" in its name. Team Ninja really needs to get its act together going forward, or the Ninja Gaiden series will be beyond repair. Read the full Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus review March of the Eagles (PC) There still remains some obstacles to an enjoyable evening of name-calling and war-declaring, unfortunately. Throughout my multiplayer matches, there's been players dropping, a shoddy "metaserver" that simply didn't work, the need to connect directly via IP as if we were still in the '90s, and the weirdest issue so far: the checksum of half the players changing, stopping us from being able to play together for about 30 minutes. Get past that nonsense and it's bloody marvelous. If you have the patience.  I'd happily recommend March of the Eagles based exclusively on the multiplayer, but if you prefer your gaming to be a solo venture, then it might not really offer quite as much. Those looking to get stuck into a historical war and not a lot else may still find conquering Europe and giving ol' Bonaparte what for entertaining, though, and as a game doesn't tend to go on for longer than eight hours in single-player, it won't devour your life.  Read the full March of the Eagles review Driftmoon (PC) [...] diehard RPG fans like myself will find things like the lack of party controls and the basic skill tree a bit too simple when compared to games like Baldur's Gate orThe Witcher. Driftmoon is, in its own right, an adventure worth having though, largely thanks to its witty writing and absolutely splendid humor. It’s a bit of salvation in a genre that seems to be limping by these days. Driftmoon is very obviously a labor of love. A lot of time and dedication went into creating it, and it shows. Though it may fall short in some areas, this is a classic RPG through and through. Beginners and veterans alike should take note and try out the demo at the very least. Read the full Driftmoon review Alien vs. Predator: Evolution (Android, iPhone, iPad) In fact, as I think about it, I have to give the devil his due. AvP: Evolution is actually worse than Colonial Marines -- ever so slightly worse. At least getting from A to B in Gearbox's insulting mess was relatively stress-free and didn't cause me to want to break something. For that roaring triumph, Colonial Marines now gets to enjoy not being the worst Aliens game to be released this year.  Congratulations to AvP: Evolution! You've managed to be marginally worse than an unfinished, buggy, outsourced piece of trash. You must be very proud.  Read the full Alien vs. Predator: Evolution review Tomb Raider (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Tomb Raider could so easily have gone wrong, and its opening gambit looks like it's heading down a most erroneous path. It starts off with some ambushing QTEs and absolutely pummels Lara Croft into the dirt to such a degree, you'd almost suspect the developers were getting off on it. This first impression is an awkward obfuscation, however, one that soon erodes to reveal a savvy, thoughtful, and above all, immensely enjoyable game. In fact, I'm happy to go on record as saying this is the best Tomb Raider game I've played. Tightly produced, competent in both its puzzling and its combat, this is one reboot that manages to be unequivocally superior to its predecessors. Read the full Tomb Raider review Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires (PlayStation 3) The Empires series is generally considered the best type of Dynasty Warriors spin-off, but with Koei's latest efforts smacking of no effort at all, this particular release comes across as unnecessary and pointless, especially with Dynasty Warriors 8 already out in Japan and inevitably preparing for a Western launch in a matter of months. This is still a decent enough game if you literally cannot get your fill of Warriors games, but for this lifelong fan of the series, Koei's been delivering too much of too little for a while now, and I'm about at the end of my tether. Read the full Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) As a first episode, The Hangman does more right than it does wrong. The influence of Jane Jensen, and Phoenix Online's previous work on its labor of love, The Silver Lining -- itself inspired by the hey-day of adventure gaming -- makes Cognition feel very much like what I suspect Sierra Online would have been putting out now if they were still around. Most importantly, I'm eager to get stuck into the second episode.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Hangman review Dollar Dash (PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade) Dollar Dash is a serviceable game, even if it doesn't aim very high. If you're bored of constant deathmatches in Spelunky's multiplayer versus mode, or you've saturated every last round of Bomberman and the many clones it spawned over the years, Dollar Dash will give you a few evenings of enjoyment. Read the full Dollar Dash review Mass Effect 3: Citadel (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC) For those of us who are heavily invested in the series, for whatever reason, it means putting away something special. This was a modern sci-fi epic that attempted, at least, to give the player a voice. I don’t think this trip quite took the path that anyone thought it would, but it’s been an interesting ride. If this is how BioWare wants to close Shepard’s chapter, I can live with this. It’s not a perfect finale, but it’s one that highlights the best we’ve seen from the series so far, and it’s not without its own set of endearing idiosyncrasies.  Read the full Mass Effect 3: Citadel review DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) In a way, Vergil's Downfall represents the game DmC might have been -- less fluff, more style. But at the same time, like many areas of DmC, it lacks substance. You'll fight very samey enemies across five areas that also bear a resemblance to stages from the core game, which at the end of the day, just isn't quite enough to justify DLC pricing for everyone. If you loved DmC, you really can't go wrong here. But if it wasn't everything you had hoped for, Vergil's Downfall will do little than give you a glimpse into the stylish Devil May Cry of old, at least from an aesthetic perspective. Read the full DmC: Devil May Cry: Vergil's Downfall review God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3) Ascension had challenges coming from every direction from early on. Some of the franchise's core mechanics have grown a bit tired over the past years, which had gamers questioning the need for another title. Beyond this, some questioned the need for a prequel story. Most of all, the idea of a multiplayer addition was initially off-putting to vocal series fans. But, like Kratos, Sony Santa Monica ripped through every one of these challenges with their bare hands to bring us a game that is so fantastic that it should make anyone that ever questioned them feel bad for doing so. God of War has never looked or played better than this. Kratos has never been as deep or interesting as this. They've set the bar so high that I have no idea how they'll be able to follow this one up. Sony Santa Monica should be proud. Series fans should be proud.  Read the full God of War: Ascension review Kersploosh! (3DS eShop) With a bit more content and some tweaking, Kersploosh! could have been one of the best games on the 3DS eShop, because as it stands, it's a hard sell for people who like their experiences padded with more content. If you're okay with a short, enjoyable journey to the bottom of a well though, it's more than enough. Read the full Kersploosh! review The Bridge (PC) The Bridge surprised me multiple times during the eight or so hours I played it. It surprised me with the devious simplicity of the level design, the dark theme that permeates the entirety of the game, and I was especially surprised by how satisfying the game was as a whole. Some of the puzzles are a bit of trial-and-error since the more complicated mechanics take a certain amount of experience to fully understand. The difficulty can also be a bit wonky at times, alternating back and forth between "hard as a five star Sudoku" and "easy as a word search." Read the full The Bridge review SimCity (PC [reviewed], Mac) There is some promise for this to be a good game, but promise alone isn't enough. Even if they do manage to get their servers back online and functioning, I still know that if something goes wrong on their end I will lose all of my saved games. My cities are at the mercy of EA's servers and my Internet connection, and while there are some nice things to be found in SimCity, the need to always be online and feeling forced to play with other people ruins the experience.  I wanted to like this game, I really did. At first I started to enjoy it, but soon all I found was frustration. I can't recommend this game to anyone, and I don't want to play it anymore myself because I am afraid of seeing all my efforts lost due to server issues. It's a decent game if it worked right, but the online dependency, forced multiplayer, and DRM ruin it.  Read the full SimCity review The Banner Saga: Factions (PC, Mac) Consider Factions for what it is: A testing ground and potential cash cow for Stoic's upcoming commercial release, and a fun sample of what's to come. If I were not in the middle of Fire Emblem, I may continue to play Factions -- hell, I may play a random match here and there, anyway. This unorthodox release that has Kickstarter backers in a frenzy is not worth getting so worked up over, as it suggests the single-player Banner Saga may be a gem -- a gem that some will have Factions users to thank for helping make it what it is. Read the full The Banner Saga: Factions review ATV Wild Ride 3D  (3DS eShop) In many ways, ATV Wild Ride 3D is stuck in the 90s, but that isn't wholly a bad thing. It does everything that it advertises -- it allows you to ride ATV vehicles on some pretty neat courses, in 3D. Just don't expect much more than that. Read the full ATV Wild Ride 3D review Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds (Xbox Live Arcade) With its colorful characters, gorgeous sprite graphics, 8-bit tracks, and multiple game modes, there's a lot to love here. I must admit, while I wasn't familiar with the fighting game on which it's based, I'm seriously hoping it passes through localization, as I'd love to play that title as well. Whether playing couch co-op or online, it's a great way to spend an afternoon with friends, though hopefully they'll patch for having a more stable connection for the latter. Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds is a simple game that anyone can pick up and play, but belies a deeper feel for combos like a traditional fighting game would, while adding a minimal skill tree for damage and speed boosts like an RPG. It's deep without being too deep, which makes it just the right amount of fun. Read the full Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds review Richard & Alice (PC) There is a lot of text to get through, but Richard & Alice is a well-paced adventure. Dialogue-heavy moments between the titular characters are broken up by Richard, under player control, interacting with his room, emailing the prison staff, attempting to fix the AC, all the time still chatting to Alice, and then there are the flashbacks which are evenly paced throughout.  Despite being a short tale, there are multiple endings and subtle, easy-to-miss pieces of information that make Richard & Alice worth at least a second playthrough, something I just did this afternoon. It isn't required, however, as this is a complete story, and all the endings have something to offer both in terms of the closure they provide and their emotional weight. Read the full Richard & Alice review LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) For all its faults, charming is absolutely the word best describing LEGO City Undercover. While more could have been done to exploit the sandbox scenario, and while it sticks a bit too nervously to formula than it could have, Undercover is nonetheless a frequently pleasurable, occasionally hilarious little romp in a new LEGO world full of potential. Should TT Games get another chance to revisit this idea, I hope for -- and expect -- a lot more of an expansion on the concept, and a lot more focus on the fresh elements that provide Undercover's highest points. As for this first try, we have a pretty damn good effort that I'd love to see more of.  Read the full LEGO City Undercover review Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) Your mileage may vary; from various impressions around the net, a lot of folks have already voiced their approval. And that's fine. I'm happy if you are able to look past the complete exclusion of any of the traditional Castlevania values and appreciate the Western-focused approach, even if it isn't original in the least. I simply cannot share in your enthusiasm. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is not the fusion of old and new Castlevania designs that was teased; it merely cements MercurySteam's ambition to keep the Lords of Shadow sub-series as distant from the main branch as possible. Not the worst thing in the world, but still quite disappointing. Read the full Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate review Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3) In short, Gust definitely seems to be straddling the line with Atelier Ayesha, showing that they have the talent to construct a plot which doesn’t rely on swimsuit competitions, yet aren’t quite ready to dedicate themselves to the taxing demands of a full RPG adventure. What we’ve left with then is a game without an audience. Fans of traditional RPGs will be turned off by the minimal exploration elements; fans of anime babes in skimpy costumes are unable to get their fix, while fans of generic cutesy anime nonsense really don’t command the buying power to make Atelier Ayesha anything more than a niche title. Read the full Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk review Naruto Powerful Shippuden (3DS) It may not be a perfect brawler, but it's certainly a fun one, and one that any Naruto fan would enjoy. Don't let the art style dissuade you from enjoying the action here, as the RPG-esque elements of stat boosting and defense increases add a special something that future games in the genre should take note of. The humor may also not be for everyone, but if you're like me, you'll love the fact that the game doesn't take itself seriously. It fits the art style as well as the general goofy nature of the characters and situations. Plus, with it being based on Rock Lee's spin-off, you're already getting a unique experience gamers haven't yet tapped into. It's the ideal mix of fun and funny, without being too over-the-top. Read the full Naruto Powerful Shippuden review Super House of Dead Ninjas (PC) This is one game that I know I'll be playing long after this review is finished with. The instant challenge and frantic pace makes it perfect to just pick up and play for 15 minutes, while the tight controls and potentially limitless number of floors makes it easy to pour hours into. If you're not convinced, then check out the free version and see if it floats your boat. I do have one caveat, however. Whatever you do, don't play this with a keyboard. It's possible, but you'll just be giving yourself another unnecessary and fairly unpleasant challenge. Thankfully,Super House of Dead Ninjas comes with native controller support, and after a few initial hiccups, it seems to work perfectly now. Read the full Super House of Dead Ninjas review The Showdown Effect (PC) The Showdown Effect's success will ultimately be dictated by the number of players that stick around. They need to host the games, and they need to provide the challenge for other players. Unlike Magicka, it's a multiplayer, online-only experience, and that's something of a risky endeavor for a small studio. It's a game that deserves to be played, however, and it's one that's a hilarious spectacle to watch too -- something that Arrowhead clearly realizes and is keen to exploit with its Twitch.tv integration. Maybe I should make one of those video thingymabobs? Nah, I don't need any more people laughing at how awful I am.  Read the full The Showdown Effect review Dead Space 3: Awakened (PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3) Speaking as a fan of Dead Space, I feel I could skip Awakened and miss absolutely nothing of value. While some of the new ideas are nice, the sense of disappointment that none of them are capitalized upon offsets any good they do, while the story is nothing you couldn't explain in a single Tweet. While the gameplay is as solid as anything found in Dead Space 3, it could also be acquired simply by replaying chapters of Dead Space 3.  Dead Space 3: Awakened is a whole lot of not much at all. Read the full Dead Space 3: Awakened review Darkstalkers Resurrection  (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) If you're opting to play online, the netcode is extremely solid, and I had a chance to play around 50 games with little to no interruptions or issues. The GGPO-powered online system works just as advertised, and with eight-player lobby support, YouTube upload functionality, and an online tournament mode, Resurrection really shines online. Although the visuals deserved a much larger upgrade than a lazy filter, the fact of the matter is, the engine still holds up amazingly well, and the netcode is near perfect. If you've always been curious about this franchise, now is the time to take the plunge -- if you're a fan of old-school 2D fighters, you won't be disappointed. Read the full Darkstalkers Resurrection review Vampire Crystals (WiiWare) After beating the final boss, the story pulls a Ghosts 'n Goblins and forces you to replay the entire campaign for the true ending, only now the levels take place at night and enemies are unfathomably more aggressive. I died three times during the revamped first stage before dropping the controller and saying, "No more." Clearing the three worlds once only requires a handful of hours, but the tedium that sets in early on makes it feel like far more time has elapsed. There was no way I was suffering through all that again. I can appreciate the classic arcade spirit of Vampire Crystals, but it does little to mask the shortcomings of old-school design while adding its own set of issues. Playing it single-player is chore, but convincing a group to play with you might be even more laborious. There just isn't enough meat on these dusty old bones. Read the full Vampire Crystals review Ridiculous Fishing (iPad, iPhone [reviewed]) Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor.  Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing. Read the full Ridiculous Fishing review Gears of War: Judgment (Xbox 360) Gears of War 3 was still a great little game, but represented the kind of step down indicative of a series that's running out of steam. Gears of War: Judgment puts paid to that impression, proving there's plenty of vitality in Epic's flagship yet; provided it's willing to try some new spins on its established formula. OverRun alone is worthy of praise, but there's just so much stuff going on in this package, there's something for all followers of the series. A few of Judgment's experiments may not be as fondly received as others, but overall it's hard to complain about a game that tries so much, and succeeds in almost all its endeavors.  Read the full Gears of War: Judgment review StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC) Heart of the Swarm is a fantastic addition to the StarCraft series, and quite frankly feels on par with a $60 game. It brings almost nothing new to the table, but there's nothing wrong with sticking to a formula you know works well. If you enjoyed Wings of Liberty, or just like RTS games in general, there's no reason not to pick this one up.  Read the full StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (3DS, Wii U [reviewed]) Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate definitely isn't for everybody. It requires a lot of time and dedication that some people simply can't put forth. It will take a while to get used to the controls, to determine which weapon is best for you, and to discover the tiny nuances to the gameplay. After all is said and done and the big monster is slain, however, nothing is more rewarding. Encountering monsters in Monster Hunter isn't like most other games. Monsters will take your breath away shortly before they take your life away. This is a game that will force you to learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat them and achieve the same failure as before.  While the visuals are far from stunning and the online lacks any sort of host migration, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best and most rewarding experiences in a long time, and will certainly keep you busy for a while. Read the full Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The Betrayal tries to offer more variety than The Infamy did thanks to its high flying antics, but it never truly transcends those ideas on a base level. If it offered a full sandbox with ridiculous spirit powers, it could have made for a pretty amazing superhero sideshow. Instead, the powers feel fairly limiting, as do the worlds they take place in; which feels like a wasted opportunity. Perhaps if the third part can bring the craziness up to 11, this "what if" story will pack a little more punch. Until then, you may want to hold off on going all in, or even partly in, at this point. Read the full Tyranny of King Washington: The Betrayal review Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) In many ways, Dark Moon's ScareScraper is one of the best multiplayer modes I've ever played. There's so much variety to it, and the formula of combining the cooperative nature with competitive, playful elements is genius. My wife and I couldn't stop playing, and every time I had friends over who owned a 3DS, I beamed a download play version to their portables for a quick few rounds. If Dark Moon was just a single-player experience, it would have been a fleeting, yet enjoyable adventure. But with the addition of an infectious multiplayer element that can't be replicated anywhere else, it makes Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon even better than its predecessor, and one of the clear-cut best games on the 3DS. Read the full Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon review Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox 360, PS3) There is an enjoyable camp quality to the script, which is full of nonsensical twists and tough guy talk ("We've got a major shit sandwich!") that takes itself way too seriously. I can see some appeal in getting together friends and having some drinks while playing. The constant waypoints and enemy icons make me think that being inebriated would make for an acceptable challenge. Nevermind online, which is composed of 2 maps, 1 mode (Team Deathmatch), and 0 active servers. The task set before Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 is not a hard one: make sniping fun. Apparently, City Interactive didn't get the memo, filling the game with a never-ending sequence of following an NPC guide through uneventful, recycled, and ugly environments. Even at four hours, Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 requires a level of patience and commitment that even the best snipers won't be capable of. Read the full Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) While the game isn't a genuine sea change from its predecessors, it stays true to the franchise's foundations, and makes up for any lack of innovation with the grand, beautiful spectacle that is its hallmark. The iterative refinements Cyberconnect2 have implemented over the series' history have helped to deepen the gameplay as well, bringing a more satisfying competitive experience while still maintaining accessibility. Though it stumbles somewhat due to unfortunate narrative placement, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a must-play for any Naruto fan, as well as anyone looking to have a good time wallowing in fun anime ridiculousness. Read the full Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 review The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii U) It's easy to believe Terminal Reality had the skeleton in place for a unique and enthralling take on the Walking Dead franchise, but with a deadline looming, added absolutely nothing to the bones and tossed out something woefully undercooked. Survival Instinct clearly isn't finished, and has no business expecting money from any paying customer. It's the kind of hurried, jury-rigged game that risks dealing damage to a property -- an especially sour note considering all the excellent work achieved by Telltale's The Walking Dead. By contrast to 2012's adventure game, Survival Instinct cashes in all the property's goodwill to churn out a botched, incomplete, hideous little waste of time and energy.  Read the full The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct review Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (3DS) It's always tough to judge whether or not a game should be commended or punished for streamlining a series that previously catered to a niche audience. In this case, it simplifies the experience a bit too much, but given that this is the most accessible game yet, it could lead to more potential fans, which is always a good thing. Although it may not be the best game in the franchise, Gates to Infinity is still an enjoyable dungeon crawl, and a beautiful-looking game to boot. So long as you can deal with an easier adventure, this is another mystery worth solving. Read the full Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity review BioShock Infinite (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As a game, BioShock Infinite has its successes and its falterings consistent with any suitably complex piece of interactive entertainment. As a story, as an exercise in drawing the player into a believable and relevant world, as proof of exactly what a videogame can mean to a person ...  Well, I already said it. BioShock Infinite is damn near perfect. Read the full BioShock Infinite review HarmoKnight (3DS eShop) [...] HarmoKnight is a wonderful bundle of charm and joy that doesn't really punish failure but rather encourages perseverance and dedication. There isn't even a "Game Over" when you die! Instead, the screen reads, "Oh Dear..." Reminds me of a mother who picks up a child who fell off the jungle gym, dusts him off, and gently urges him to try again. It's such a minor touch, but it's nonetheless uplifting. Maybe I'm sentimental like that. It's been seven years since Game Freak last made a non-Pokémon title. HarmoKnight feels like the promising start of many wonderful new experiences to come, so I can only hope we don't have to wait another seven years for a follow-up. Read the full HarmoKnight review Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360) Satisfying gameplay is the crux of the Tiger Woods franchise. All the new modes in the world wouldn't matter if it didn't feel so amazing to actually play. Luckily, Tiger Woods PGA 14 stays true to the core gameplay, and adds a very worthwhile mode with Legends of the Majors. All of the other new bells and whistles are either mediocre or long overdue. The game is hard to recommend to someone who picked up last year's outing, except perhaps to the big golf enthusiasts among you who would appreciate the Legends of the Masters mode more than anyone else. If you're like me, though, and haven't picked up a Tiger Woods game in a while, PGA 14 has the classic gameplay that made the series stand out from its competitors, even if it is starting to show its age graphically. Read the full Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 review Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey (iOS, PC [Reviewed]) Though The Wise Monkey is not all it could have been, it's a strong second episode. Much of it, however, felt almost like filler. The murder of Erica's brother and The Hangman case remain effectively untouched throughout most of this installment, and it does worry me that it has now set up even more mysteries while answering absolutely nothing. I don't doubt that it will all tie together somehow, but Cognition throws so few bones to the player that even the enjoyment of speculation is fruitless.  Read the full Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - The Wise Monkey review Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) The core of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is still decent. It's a serviceable game, and provides the kind of no-frills, unimaginative action that can at least provide cathartic fantasy violence. If that's what you want, however, you're better off getting the last game -- one that felt more refined, offered more compelling interaction, and will likely be available to purchase for peanuts these days. The Devil's Cartel, by contrast, is buggy, unnecessary, and outstays its welcome before the credits close.  Army of Two has never been an especially bad series, it's just never been an especially good one.The Devil's Cartel is the ultimate example of this. Is it bad? Not especially. But it's a far, far cry from good. Read the full Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel review Sword of the Stars: The Pit (PC) The Pit is very difficult and has that same feeling of "okay, just one more run" that both Binding of Isaac or FTL: Faster Than Light have, but it still feels a bit "been there, done that." The Easy difficulty setting in conjunction with being able to save at any time are great boons for new players, while both the Hard and Insane difficulties are present for you crazy masochists who enjoy that kind of punishment. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Sword of the Stars: The Pit, there just isn't anything that is really mind-blowing. It is a well-polished roguelike that doesn't stray far from expectations, but instead stays in a rather comfortable zone from a game design perspective. Read the full Sword of the Stars: The Pit review Dead or Alive 5 Plus (PSVita) When it comes right down to it, one of last year's best fighting games on home consoles has become one of this year's best handheld fighters. Play control is never hampered by the more cramped constraints of the small button layout, graphics aren't sacrificed on the smaller screen, and just about everything from the feature-rich home version is included here, with a few noticeable exceptions. While not all the extra modes are fantastic, there's something to be said for extra content at all in a port, and the cross-save and cross-play functionality is a welcome addition to any Vita game. Read the full Dead or Alive 5 Plus review DLC Quest (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Indie Games) Still, for less than five dollars, there's enough charm to justify the entry fee. The game's dialog induces anything from smirks to cringes, while the retro-themed graphics and music are joyful in their simplicity. It's a cheap game, with a rudimentary premise, that does enough to keep its joke fresh and feels inherently validating for a player who's grown weary of the game industry's less savory practices.  At the very least, you'll get your money's worth, which often cannot be said for the many games DLC Quest owes its creation to. Read the full DLC Quest review
March 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of March 2013
What a month! Now that March is well behind us (and we remembered to take a look back to ponder), I feel confident in saying that between BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, and yet another Gears of War, we are well into ...

Review: Ridiculous Fishing

Mar 16 // Jonathan Holmes
Ridiculous Fishing (iPad, iPhone [reviewed])Developer: VlambeerPublisher: VlambeerReleased: March 14, 2013MSRP: $2.99 Like real-life fishing, Ridiculous Fishing is simple enough on the surface, but once you sink past that surface, you'd be surprised at the depths you'll plunge to. The game utilizes three phases of interconnected gameplay types to make every round of casting into a three-act adventure in and of itself.  First is the "dodge" phase. After casting your line, your goal is to dodge as many fish as possible in order to make your way as low as you can go. This runs counter-intuitive to your fishing instincts, as it pays off when you get to phase two. The farther down the briney depths you sink, the more types of fish you pass, with each new breed being more exotic and valuable than the last. [embed]248860:47604:0[/embed] When you hit a fish or reach the end of your line, your line starts its way back to the surface. That's when the "catch" phase begins. Now you play the aggressor and work to catch all those fish that you ran in fear from while passing them by in the "dodge" phase. The more fish you grab, the more fish you'll reach the surface with for the "shoot" phase. This is the part of the game where you fling your fish into the air and blast as many of them as you can with various firearms. It is ridiculous.  These three phases work on the "Pac-Man principles" of design. You're first made to feel afraid of making contact with other in-game characters, putting you in a nail-biting mode of heightened awareness as you negotiate a maze of threats and obstacles. That tension builds until the "power-pellet moment" of phase two, where the tables are turned and you work to aggressively gobble up everything that you were running from mere moments before. That rush of "get it while you can" is then turned up a notch in phase three where you have seconds to cash in on the lives of your defenseless quarry. It's an amazing formula, which is probably why the game's predecessor Radical Fishing was "admired" enough to be shamelessly ripped off by a-game-which-will-remain-nameless-as-to-reduce-how-successful-it-may-become. Suffice to say, Vlambeer (the developers of Radical Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing) had something to prove here. They had to make a game that not only made Radical Fishing totally obsolete, but would also completely outclass the game that ripped them off as well.  Vlambeer's personal drive to create the very best iteration of the Radical Fishing concept has paid off for all of us. Everything about the game has been maxed out in both content and quality. There is huge amount of fish to catch, each with their own behaviors and level of scarcity. Some of which actual steal money from you if you catch them, which is a great way to turn the the formula on its head. There are fish that can only be caught at certain times of day, in certain areas of the map, or otherwise require some unconventional means of discovery. There are even boss fish battles. No expense was spared in the creation of this world of fish and the people who kill them. The more types of fish you discover, the more areas on the world map you unlock, and the more money you're likely to acquire to use toward purchases of the game's many (often hilarious) items. There are loads of different guns, lures, and other items to collect, all of which add gameplay twists, but are never overpowered. This speaks to the game's finely tuned difficulty curve, which never leaves you feeling hopeless, but always gives you the idea that you may do just a little bit better after just "one more game." When you're not fishing, you can explore the game's largely optional narrative through the in-game Twitter parody Byrdr. What seems like a inconsequential trifle at first quickly unfolds to be quite an emotionally charged tale, which makes sense considering that it the ARG was written by The Stanley Parable creator Davey Wreden. The theme of redemption and questioning of self worth are perfectly in tune with the life of a fisherman. The art direction here utilizes an angular mosaic style that evoke the strengths of sprite-based graphics without leaning on the idea of "retro" appeal. The abstract look exudes an unpredictable, playful character that's the perfect fit for a game called "Ridiculous Fishing." The music is simple and strange, also a perfect fit for a game with such a name. Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor.  Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing.
Ridiculous Fishing review photo
It's the best fishing game
A lot of great game developers are fascinated with fishing. Pokémon, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Animal Crossing all feature the option to fish. Earthbound/Mother creator Shigesato Itoi created a ...

The best and worst games of 2013: February Rising

Mar 04 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Cart Life (Windows) Hofmeier gives the player the freedom to trap themselves in the rat maze of low-income retail, but surrounds this with a world of distant figures for whom jobs don't exist and success has been tamed. While in shellshock from the burn of menial work and poverty, only the character and short term problems seem to exist. The figurative and literal connections Hofmeier makes between physical input and character action are profound and immediate, creating emotions that bleed into reality and beg for contemplation. Eventually, the worker must look past their own problems and become a part of society. In Cart Life, there is no world to connect to. After personal discoveries are made through the game's mechanics -- which are unfortunately paired with a multitude of game crashes -- the player is left to repeat a virtual life of monotony and zero-sum progress. The most reasonable action is to do the thing that real life cart vendors can't: Turn your back on the job and go do something else. Read the full Cart Life review  Croixleur (PC) Drawing inspiration from Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, the game's story mode takes place in a tower filled with monsters. Players are placed in a series of arenas and must defeat a set number of enemies in order to progress to the next floor.  It's pretty simple and there aren't a whole lot of frills to the package, but what Croixleur does (combat), it does very well. Slashing, dashing, move canceling, the mechanics of everything seem incredibly refined and well tuned. Standard attacks are complemented by a sizable arsenal of unlockable weapons, each with their own properties and special moves. Nuanced systems help flesh out an otherwise unadorned game, as players will need to learn how everything works together to see it through to the end. Read the full Croixleur review  Tokyo Crash Mobs (3DS eShop) Tokyo Crash Mobs is a match three puzzle game where you play as one or two young women who throw or roll human beings at other human beings wearing the same colored clothes. This makes the human beings form "cliques," then disintegrate. At first, the two women appear to have different motivations for taking action in this way. Grace wants to have a fun time at the club, but she's at the back of the line. Only the first ten people of the line will get in. Her solution to this problem is to kill everyone in front of her using her mysterious disintegration magic until she gets to the front.  Read the full Tokyo Crash Mobs review  Omerta: City of Gangsters (PC, Xbox 360) If you're really into mafia movies and other cosa nostra flavored dealings, you might get some pure novelty enjoyment out of it on a Steam sale, provided you can put up with the repetitive nature of the game. For everyone else, it's probably best to "forgettaboutit". Read the full Omerta: City of Gangsters review Aero Porter (3DS eShop) Yoot Saito is most famous for creating the Dreamcast classic Seaman, arguably the strangest game ever made. It is a game where you take care of a fish man. That's it. Do a marginally good job, and you may have a few interesting conversations with it about existentialism and the possibility that The Beatles weren't real. Then he'll leave. Game Over.  Knowing this about Yoot Saito, I went into Aero Porter expecting something surreal. Shame on me for thinking I know what to expect from Yoot Saito. While Aero Porter does delve into a few playfully strange moments, it's a fairly straightforward game about sorting luggage. What's strange about the game is that it's compelling. Sorting luggage sounds boring as hell. You'd have to pay me to do it in real life. In videogame form, it's something that I'm paying Yoot Saito and Level-5 for the permission to do.  Read the full Aero Porter review Dungeonland (PC) Let me start off immediately by confirming the challenging nature of the game: indeed, this is a "hardcore" dungeon crawler in every sense of the word. Exemplified by the fact that Dungeonland's lowest difficulty setting is "Hard," this game will throw the kitchen sink at you, go to a hardware store and put every other appliance on credit, then throw more at you, while sticking you with the exorbitant bill. Read the full Dungeonland review Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, Xbox 360) When Warriors games get a sequel, it typically gives all its characters a complete overhaul, with new looks and movesets to justify a fresh purchase. Not so in Ken's Rage 2, where any aesthetic alterations are minimal at best, and playable characters boast the exact same moves they had in the last game. None of the existing content seems to have been updated at all, and in some areas, even appear stripped down and inferior. Read the full Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 review Dead Space 3 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Dead Space 3 could have been the best entry in the series, and in many ways, it still does provide some of the franchise's most energetic, thrilling, entertaining moments. The changes thrown into the game inevitably damage its charm, though, and make this a step down from its predecessors. A step down from Dead Space's high standards don't necessarily make for a bad game -- far from it, in fact, for this is still a bloody great game and well worth any fans' time. It's sad that market pressure and industry fear tried so hard to ruin things, but one can at least savor the victory of Dead Space 3's creative success in spite of commercial encroachment.  Try as they might, ain't nobody killing Dead Space yet.  Read the full Dead Space 3 review Proteus (PC, Mac) As mentioned, there is a beginning and end to Proteus. It won't take long, either -- I finished in under an hour. Since it is entirely about exploring an unknown, randomly-generated island, there are more things to see and do than can be accomplished in a single playthrough. You can make also "postcards" of a specific moment during the journey that act as save points and can be revisited at any time. It may prove difficult to tear yourself away from the game in the first place, since exploring the island becomes such a memorable experience. Do you remember your first night cycle in Minecraft? The terror and fright that struck as soon as that first monster approached from out of nowhere? There is a similar feeling in Proteus, except the feelings of terror and fright are replaced with beauty and splendor, gazing into the night sky and marveling at the stars. Read the full Proteus review Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC, PlayStation 3,  Wii U, Xbox 360) Aliens: Colonial Marines is more than a disappointment. It's downright depressing. I can't say if it's the result of a lacking budget, rushed development, or sheer carelessness, but having the nerve to present this as a full retail game is inexcusable. It's simply not finished, and it certainly isn't worthy of being considered a legitimate followup to Aliens. As a story, it's inconclusive, riddled with cliches, and underwhelming. As a game, it's incoherent, insubstantial, and blatantly unconsummated. It took over five years for me to finally play this game, and less than five hours to feel nothing but a shocked emptiness at the thing I'd first downloaded with feverish anticipation. Read the full Aliens: Colonial Marines review Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) In fact, "inoffensive" is probably the word that best describes Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time from the perspective of a fan. It fits right in with its predecessors, offering a rather lengthy campaign and a fair quantity of optional content that's fun to play, though not particularly challenging most of the time. While there may be an expectation that a series' arrival in a console generation outshine all that came before, Sanzaru has made a perfectly acceptable game that may not advance the genre, but feels comfortable with right where it is. Read the full Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time review Special Forces: Team X (PC, Xbox Live Arcade) I would hope that no one is so desperate for a third-person cover-based shooter on PC that they have to resort to playing Special Forces: Team X. It's bland, uninspired, unpolished, and borderline unfinished. The already paltry amount of players is sure to dwindle in the coming weeks and months, leaving Special Forces: Team X nothing more than a line in some unfortunate fans' Steam library.  Special Forces: Team X offers nothing unique to the genre and is likely to leave players unfulfilled. What could have been an interesting, inoffensive multiplayer game turned out to be a buggy mess without so much as a hint of something fresh.  Read the full Special Forces: Team X review Bentley's Hack Pack (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) If you're a retro gamer, you've already played other titles that present the core precepts these mini-games provide, but Bentley's Hack Pack has an interesting enough framework to actually compel you to keep going, with a bit of the ol' Sly charm to boot. For a few bucks, it's worth taking the plunge. Read the full Bentley's Hack Pack review Serious Sam Double D XXL (Xbox Live Arcade)  The aesthetic of Serious Sam Double D XXL isn't anything great, bordering on generic. All of the classic enemies from the core games are present, which really makes it feel like a Serious Sam game. Even the new enemies are absurd enough to fit right in with the existing world. The music is also generic, with background music that does its best to sound as epic as possible to accompany the chaotic action on-screen. Serious Sam Double D XXL isn't going to blow anyone away, but it can make for an entertaining afternoon, with or without a buddy. It does a good job of capturing what the Serious Sam games are all about while at the same time changing the type of gameplay typical of the series. Read the full Serious Sam Double D XXL review Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Metal Gear Rising is not Solid but still, unmistakably Metal Gear. Despite its lack of seeming significance to the larger scope of the franchise and less complex plot, it does no harm to the setting and features enough action-packed combat that nobody should really give a toss about the story anyway. Seasoned fans should be aware all the same that this is a wholly different series, taking a different approach with a team that has a wildly different set of skills and experience. The work they do well is stunning and overwhelms the shortcomings to mild grievances at worst. Very challenging difficulty settings and hidden unlocks await the enamored, while those seeking something a little less demanding of their time should appreciate the brisk pace. Players who don't expect they will return for a second round might consider making Revengeance a rental, however, if they have concerns that its short length won't measure up to the full retail price tag. Read the full Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review Capcom Arcade Cabinet (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) If you don't mind waiting until late May, Arcade Cabinet represents a decent value for the discounted $29.99 asking price over the $45 you'd pay for the five packs. I'm certain I spent over $50 in quarters in playing these titles for this review, if you'd like to look at it that way.  Of course, if you already have some of Capcom's other collections, you'll need to decide for yourself if the online and social features make these re-releases worth the outlay. As far as titles go, there's nothing that could be considered new in the collection, though the new online features and presentation should not be glossed over.  Read the full Capcom Arcade Cabinet review Crysis 3 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Crysis 3 attempts to strike a balance between Crysis and Crysis 2, but in doing so manages to lose a little bit of what made each game appealing. The result is a title that doesn't truly match the open-ended excitement of the first game nor the revelatory empowerment of the second, yet manages to provide enough of both to at least tantalize, even if it doesn't completely satisfy. Solo play is shorter than previous installments and not as enjoyable, but multiplayer goes some way toward apologizing for it by stepping up its game and providing a gripping new experience in Hunter mode. This is a game that feels like the very essence of a "third installment" -- Familiar to the point of looking overplayed, but nonetheless refined and suffering no lack of quality.  Read the full Crysis 3 review Urban Trial Freestyle (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) The setup for Urban Trial Freestyle is pretty simple. You play as a generic motorcycle rider who has to get from point A to point B, with no context given as to why the trip has to be made.  Your only job is to utilize your bike's acceleration, brakes, and directional capabilities to get there -- it's kind of like Excitebike, but a little more puzzle-like in nature. It's a lot harder than it sounds, as the slightest mistake can send you crashing into a wall or cracking your skull open on the hard pavement.   Read the full Urban Trial Freestyle review Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) As previously mentioned the main change in gameplay is the power of the wolf. Utilizing the ancient powers of one badass cup of tea, Connor will be able to summon a pack of three wolves to chow down on enemies, and cloak himself at will (using his health as "MP" essentially). Using the cloaking power is pretty fun at first. Basically, as long as an enemy doesn't bump into you, or you have a solid amount of health, you can stay cloaked. What this means is that you can stealth kill enemies right in front of other people and remain a deadly shadowy visage so long as you can pay the MP for it. This leads to a ton of cool stealth puzzle opportunities that force you to figure out what the best course of action is in terms of moving between hidden bushes and buildings, using the cloak to fill in the blanks. Read the full Assassin's Creed III: Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy review Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed]) Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables. Read the full Star Wars Pinball review Impire (PC) All of a sudden I was getting crashes every single mission, and to make matters worse, my saves were being corrupted. Most of the game is filled with "been there, done that" moments, but for me I literally had been there, playing that very mission, and I had to do it all over again. These aren't levels I wanted to do once, let alone twice. At this point, I should add, for the sake of transparency, that I failed to finish Impire's final mission. It crashed the first time I attempted it, then the second time it crashed and corrupted my save file. I packed it in at that point.  Read the full Impire review Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (Mac, PC, PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, Xbox Live Arcade, iOS) Runner2 feels like a very natural progression for the series. The team at Gaijin Games has crafted a more nuanced and impressive follow-up to what was great title in its own right. Avant-garde but with a healthy respect for the past, Runner2 is a marvelous rhythmic platformer that just about anyone should be able to enjoy. Read the full Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien review Everything else Destructoid reviewed: Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad All in all, I don't see myself using the Orbweaver for absolutely every game I own, but I keep it hooked up to my PC all the same, next to my keyboard. I've found that for basic image editing required for my writing career, and my frequent MMO habits, it suits my needs fairly frequently. I've created a number of profiles for a few MMOs I play, and one for a few image touch-ups that I'll be using for the foreseeable future. If you don't play a lot of PC games I don't see a need for splurging here given the high price point, but for everyone else, it's a decent investment. Read the full Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad review Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse The Razer Taipan is a great middle ground for those who like to play competitively, regardless of whether or no they're playing in actual tournaments. It's simple enough as to not be overwhelming, while at the same time having plenty of features that the more hardcore players want to see, such as quickly adjustable dpi settings and macros. Read the full Razer Taipan Gaming Mouse review The History of Sonic The Hedgehog There is a delightfully optimistic tone throughout the book, even while discussing the less-than-stellar chapters in the Sonic saga -- I'm looking at you, Sonic 2006! I find that to be quite reflective of the Sonic fanbase, but in a good way. We know the series isn't the most consistent in quality, but ol' Mr. Needlemouse was once on top of the world, so there's no reason why he can't make a comeback as long as the passion remains.  The History of Sonic The Hedgehog is must-read for the diehards and lapsed fans. We may be unsure of where Sonic is heading, but I think we can all admire his storied journey.  Read the full The History of Sonic The Hedgehog review
February 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of February 2013
Our monthly reviews recap continues on from the series return last month. January was packed full of great games, to the point of sensory overload. Thankfully February didn't have as many new titles, giving us a chance to cat...

Review: Alien vs. Predator: Evolution

Mar 04 // Jim Sterling
Alien vs. Predator: Evolution (Android, iPhone, iPad [reviewed])Developer: Angry Mob GamesPublisher: Fox DigitalReleased: February 28, 2013MSRP: $4.99 AvP: Evolution is a fairly unremarkable beat 'em up at its core, giving players a Xenomorph and a Predator with which to carve slices out of human soldiers and, occasionally, each other. Its campaign regularly swaps out the two alien creatures, with short and simple missions that usually involve clearing several rooms of enemies and moving on.  Combat is a simplistic affair, consisting of unremarkable combos chained together by virtual button taps, and executions carried out on weakened enemies through fundamental quick-time-event sequences (basically just swiping the screen). As a Xenomorph, players strike with claws and tail, while the Predator gets to use blades and ranged weaponry. As each character earns points, it can unlock new body or armor parts to enhance attributes, and a few new abilities such as counter attacks or temporary "rage" statuses. As you may expect, the level system allows Evolution to make liberal use of in-app purchases, allowing you to trade real-world money for more Xeno or Honor points. Fortunately, the campaign and side missions can be used to farm these points for free, and doing so isn't that huge of a grind. Nevertheless, the game does what it can to entice you with microtransactions -- not that it could ever be considered good enough to come close to tempting.  The biggest issue with Evolution is that it's disgustingly sloppy. To call the combat braindead would practically be praising it, given it's a sluggish, repetitive, utterly undemanding case of prodding the screen until everything's dead. Execution animations are canned and unvaried, accompanied by irritating sound effects. Attacks are as slow as they are unresponsive, many of the QTEs often failing to register, and the framerate is so inconsistent the game regularly fails to recognize your combo input.  An awkward camera and unwieldy movement controls add to the frustration, especially once the game starts trying to include stealth missions and awful first-person vent sequences that feel like trying to catch a greased watermelon in a bathtub of liquid butter. Graphical glitches aren't uncommon, and sometimes the game gives up trying to be a game entirely and just fills a room with an overwhelming amount of enemies in the hopes of being challenging.  No thought has been given to balance. Executions are important, as they refill health and kill enemies quickly, but surrounding opponents can continue to attack during the animation sequence and are regularly able to send you back to a checkpoint while you're trapped in a grappling QTE. Some areas are trial-and-error of the worst kind, requiring progress through a certain route but forcing you to learn that route by reloading a checkpoint time and time again. The Predator's weapons are slow to charge and regularly fail to lock-on to targets, rendering them largely impractical. Most of the special abilities are pointless, in fact, at best doing little to the enemy forces, and at worst leaving players vulnerable to attack.  I gave up on the campaign during a sequence that dropped the framerate so badly, I couldn't chain a single attack, while surrounded by opponents who repeatedly pummeled me to death. This is not a one-off occurrence, either. The game struggles to respond to the simplest commands, and even when it does, player characters are so slow to act the enemies usually get a cheap jab or two in the moment you try and do anything. Another favorite tactic is for the marines to box the player into a corner and simply poke their victim to death. The whole thing's a mess, and success is more down to luck than anything approaching skill.  The upsetting thing is that Evolution looks like it could, with effort, be a good game. The fundamental ideas at play are all workable, and if the game controlled well and had a bit more nuance to it, the tools are there for a genuinely fun brawler. Little touches, like an execution in which the Xenomorph pulls out a Facehugger and practically pie-faces an enemy with it, are pretty damn amusing, but ultimately serve to showcase what a massive waste of potential the whole thing is.  That's what Alien vs. Predator: Evolution is. A waste. A waste of potential, a waste of time, and definitely a waste of money. At least it feels more finished than Colonial Marines did, but that doesn't stop it being equally as bad. Simply trying to move around the environment or land a single attack is a constant, unreliable frustration, and it's not down to the touch controls. I've played 3D touch-controlled brawlers before, and there are far better ones than this. This was just badly made.  In fact, as I think about it, I have to give the devil his due. AvP: Evolution is actually worse than Colonial Marines -- ever so slightly worse. At least getting from A to B in Gearbox's insulting mess was relatively stress-free and didn't cause me to want to break something. For that roaring triumph, Colonial Marines now gets to enjoy not being the worst Aliens game to be released this year.  Congratulations to AvP: Evolution! You've managed to be marginally worse than an unfinished, buggy, outsourced piece of trash. You must be very proud. 
AvP: Evolution review photo
Survival of the shittest
When the makers of Alien vs. Predator: Evolution saw the negative press and subsequent fallout regarding Aliens: Colonial Marines, they must have laughed. I imagine them bellowing obnoxiously, roaring their gleeful approval t...

Review: Star Wars Pinball

Feb 26 // Brett Zeidler
Star Wars Pinball (Google Play, iOS, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: February 26, 2013MSRP: $9.99 (XBLA and PSN), $2.99 per table (Mac App Store), $1.99 per table (Apple App Store and Google Play)  At first glance, The Empire Strikes Back looks empty. There's a few lanes on the sides, a couple of ramps, and a big, flat platform in the center of the table that takes up most of the real estate. The player doesn't know it yet, but that giant, empty platform is where all the action is going to happen. Once the player hits two barricades ("Star" and "Wars") in the dead center of the table, a flap opens up right above the flippers that, when the ball is locked inside of it, starts the player's choice of one of five Empire Strikes Back scenes (this table's version of missions). Depending on their choice, various 3D models will appear on the platform and finally bring some life to the table. The coolest example has an AT-AT walking across the platform where the player needs to help the snowspeeder bring it down. Each mission has two parts, and should time run out (or some other misfortune occurs), a checkpoint is created at the start of the second part of the mission. This a new and, believe me, entirely welcome addition for aspiring pinball wizards such as myself. Empire also introduces a new mini-game that actually takes you completely out of the table and into a first-person mode where you control Luke Skywalker himself. There's what I like to call a micro-loop behind those "Star Wars" barricades mentioned earlier; going through it enough times to spell "Training" and locking the ball in the center slot starts up the mini-game. Featuring the scene from A New Hope where Luke learns to use the force on the Millenium Falcon for the first time, the player uses the plunger and flipper buttons to reflect blaster fire. It's pretty cool, but it feels slightly out of place even in a fantasy pinball table. The next table is probably the one everyone is most excited for: Boba Fett. Once everyone saw him in the original films, Boba Fett stole the show and became one of the most popular Star Wars characters. I can see the same thing happening here. Fett's table is centered around the concept of playing as the bounty hunter himself, where the player must receive either Empire missions from Darth Vader or missions from Jabba the Hutt, earn respect for doing so, and defeat each of his bounty hunter rivals. It doesn't matter which missions you do, as they give the player a choice of five missions that are exactly the same and only offer more points and respect (all you have to do is hit every single lane). The higher they go, the less time the player gets to finish the mission. Experiencing the rare moment of hitting every lane in rapid succession and locking the ball/bounty onto Slave I truly makes one feel like the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy. It's moments like these that will make the Boba Fett table the obvious fan-favorite and most rewarding of the three tables. Boba Fett features set pieces from his two short appearances in the films, such as Vader on his imperial ship (representing the left half of the table), Jabba's Palace (the right half), the sarlacc pit (which the ball can actually fall into), and Han Solo in carbon freeze hovering above said pit. The ramps and lanes are inspired by pieces of Fett's suit that will make even his biggest fans truly pleased with the love and care put into the creation of his table. The Clone Wars table is the dark horse of the three. Going in, I wasn't expecting much. Upon first firing it up, Clone Wars is the only table that has the classic intro text scroll. I thought was a really cool touch, especially as it was read by an announcer who also happens to narrate the entire game. This is by far the busiest table, with lanes and ramps stacked on top of each other on just about every visible inch of real estate, invoking a cramped, claustrophobic, and hasty feeling while playing the table. It's this quality of sheer fastness that makes one initially think it would be the most challenging of the bunch, but that turns out to not be the case at all. Clone Wars practically throws points at you, letting the player easily get five to ten million points just in the first handful of minutes alone, and it's not a demanding task to get far beyond that within a short amount of time. After spending so much time on Empire Strikes Back and Boba Fett (tables that will certainly put your pinball wizardry to the test), dominating a table for a change was a nice break from the difficulty of the other two tables, and seeing a new palette of colors was a refreshing change of scenery. Each table is chock full of beautiful art, character cameos, and tracks pulled straight from the films' soundtracks. These first three tables are a bold and equally stellar introduction to Star Wars Pinball, and they'll keep you more than busy until Zen Studios drops the next batch. At about $10, this is a bit more expensive per table compared to the usual $10 for four tables, but the package is certainly worth the asking price. If you're not a fan of Star Wars, but love pinball (or vice versa), Star Wars Pinball will make you a fan. Zen Studios has created the most interesting and content-rich tables yet, with their obvious love of the source material piercing through each of the fantastically crafted tables.
Star Wars Pinball review photo
The Force is strong with this one
It's been a couple years since Zen Studios first took on the Marvel license and subsequently released expertly crafted tables centered around the biggest characters and story arcs in the comic book giant's vast library. Each ...

The best and worst games of 2013: January May Cry

Feb 01 // Jordan Devore
A New Beginning: Final Cut The German-language version -- which was the original -- is meant to be better, but alas I know about ten words in German so I really cannot confirm or deny this. It does strike me that the worst aspects of the game are due to the terrible effort made by the translation team and English-speaking voice actors, though.  If you are truly desperate for good puzzles and sumptuous art, then you could do worse than play A New Beginning, but I found it impossible to look past the many issues and really enjoy the few things it manages to do right. There are too many superior adventure games to count, and it's not even one of the better games with an environmental message.  Read the full A New Beginning: Final Cut review The Sims 3: Seasons Each of these features adds a nice layer of depth to the game, but they really don't add a lot of new gameplay. There isn't any new career to follow, there aren't any exciting new public lots, and while playing, I pretty much just goofed around waiting for the seasons to change. If you find yourself playing The Sims 3 a lot anyway, then Seasons will add something to the experience. If you are waiting for a new expansion to make you get back into playing The Sims 3, however, skip Seasons and wait for the next one. Read the full The Sims 3: Seasons review Forge All in all, Forge is quite enjoyable. At the same time, I did find myself struggling to want to continue playing. I'm not sure if maybe it's that the game is more of a shooter than I expected, or how it lacks that progression and stat growth, or if it is just because it's incomplete. When I do play, I enjoy Forge, but I wish that I was playing an MMORPG with the same gameplay setup instead. In the end, unless you're someone heavy into shooters who is looking for something different yet familiar, or are into MMOs for the PvP mainly, then it would be worth waiting for the game that will be "forged" a few months down the road. Read the full Forge review Gunman Clive (3DS) Gunman Clive can be pretty tough. In your average oppressive 2D action game, a motivating, beat-driven soundtrack can really help you push through the process of replaying a level for the tenth time. When Gunman Clive's soundtrack goes for old west authenticity instead of platformer euphoria, it can make the more challenging parts of the game feel less like a battle and more like a grind.  That said, the game is still a steal at $2. Fans of 2D action platformers need to check it out. If Hörberg Productions is ever graced with the opportunity to develop a mainline Mega Man game, I'm confident that fans of the series would be happy with the results. Read the full Gunman Clive review Anarchy Reigns Despite some issues, brawler fans should find everything they're looking for with Anarchy Reigns. It's ridiculous, it's fun, and it's packed with enough content to last you a long while, so long as you don't get tired of beating dudes up over and over. The budget pricing of $29.99 makes this decision even easier. Read the full Anarchy Reigns review Joe Danger Touch Like Rayman Jungle Run, Joe Danger Touch really "gets it" when it comes to iOS gaming. You don't need to 100% replicate console experiences, and "simplified" doesn't have to always mean "dumbed down." All in all, Hello Games did a great job bringing the Joe Danger franchise to your pocket, and I highly recommend it to anyone -- former fan or not. Read the full Joe Danger Touch review Seduce Me However, taken simply as it is, as a game where solving puzzles leads to porn, it's near the forefront of its field, particularly among non-Japanese games. It does make an effort to provide more than naughty pictures, including cursory character development and some semblance of a narrative. It's pretty and technically sound. While slightly anemic in content, it's titillating when it needs to be, and is at times even fun to play - I wouldn't mind playing the card games with real-life friends (minus the sex). And frankly, for a porn game, that's sometimes all one needs. Read the full Seduce Me review Fire Pro Wrestling Fire Pro Wrestling on Xbox Live Arcade is the most basic of wrestling games. Flat, featureless, and simplistic, it is devoid of any redeeming qualities found elsewhere such as replay value or fun. What could have been a cool, cartoon-y version of a classic franchise is but a wasted shell of its former self. Read the full Fire Pro Wrestling review Final Fantasy All the Bravest Final Fantasy All the Bravest is not really a game. It's a cash delivery system, with you playing as the courier, your money the cargo, and Square Enix the unpaying recipient. After years of trying to monetize videogames, Square Enix has now moved on to monetizing customers themselves. It's cut out the irritating middle man that is the videogame, and found a way to simply get people to hand over money in exchange for nothing. That is what All the Bravest is. It's nothing. It's air. It's a thought. You're buying a concept in order to keep buying concepts. Read the full Final Fantasy All the Bravest review DmC: Devil May Cry There is an argument to be made that, when judged alongside the rest of the series, DmC is a bad Devil May Cry game. The suggestion may be debatable, but there's a potential case to be made. It's more streamlined, it's not as challenging, and ultimately it has stripped away what a significant portion of the fanbase love most of the series. However, even if one sides with the argument that this is a bad Devil May Cry game, that does not preclude it from being deemed a terrific videogame on its own merits, and in my estimation, that's exactly what DmC: Devil May Cry is. Read the full DmC review Kinect Party Kinect Party is a fantastic game in the right scenario. If you often have guests over your house, especially family or children, then this is definitely something to check out. It’s hard for anyone to dislike a game in which you build a castle and promptly turn into a dragon to destroy it. However, I find that this isn’t the best thing to suit lone gamers like myself. I do love pretending to be trapped inside a jello mold with my dog every once in a while, but that can get old. That’s not to say that it isn’t a good game -- it certainly is for what it aims to achieve -- but Kinect Party is best played with others! Read the full Kinect Party review AirMech (beta) If you're even remotely interested in MOBAs or RTSs, then you'll be doing yourself a great favor by downloading AirMech and firing it up. It succeeds in building on the solid foundation laid by Herzog Zwei over 20 years ago, while simultaneously feeling modern and fresh. Now, I need to get back to the game so I can eventually buy a UFO that transforms into a giant mechanical spider. Abductions here I come!   Read the full AirMech review  Krunch It isn't perfect, as certain level design elements are a bit jarring and the lack of a quick-restart level option can make five seconds feel like forever. That being said, Krunch is a title that is sure to please anyone who stayed up late completing the Skyscraper Warp Zone in Super Meat Boy or ripped their hair out completing the Veni Vidi Vici room in VVVVVV. Fellow masochists, rejoice! Read the full Krunch review Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch If you're a lover of games that require you to put in before you get out, and you recall the glory days of the Eastern RPG, where experience points were the lifeblood and the grind was king, you have literally no decent excuse for not finding a way to play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. A classic of the modern age, built entirely from classics of the past, it's advised you get comfortable, cancel all your plans, and prepare to enjoy a game that will dominate your life for the next few months.  Read the full Ni no Kuni review The Cave All told, The Cave is a morbid, humorous romp filled with life lessons which should be apparent already to all but the total sociopath. While there are some niggling issues with overall polish, it's a fun time for fans of adventure games that should set you to giggling and, hopefully, feeling just a little bit guilty about that glee. Read the full The Cave review Borderlands 2: Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt Enjoying Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt is about managing expectations, about knowing what you want out of Borderlands 2’s constantly expanding menu -- its strong suits are the subtle twists on combat and enemy behavior, exploration, farming, and a hidden raid boss that costs almost 100 Eridium to spawn. Its narrative and mission structures are too loose and shambolic, though, and implemented with the same lack of care that led the designers to include a tribe of mind-controlled “savages” throwing spears at each other as the campaign’s principle enemy. Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt is, like each of the game’s expansions, more Borderlands 2 at its core, but it’s a shallow version of it, without any of the main game’s self-awareness or charm. Read the full Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt review Strike Suit Zero When the final, sadly unsatisfying mission came to a close I was ready to put down SSZ. Replayability is offered in the form of scores, medals, and some unlockable ship bonuses you may not have been able to grab when first attempting the missions, but I'd had my fill. I would be happy to get in a thousand more dogfights, but I'm done with protecting and escorting my UNE chums. It's rare that a game knows when to call it quits, but that's the situation here. It's not so long that it outstays its welcome, but not so short that it fails to show off all its promise. The ending, or at least the one that I got (there are two different ones), implies the possibility of a sequel, and I couldn't be happier with that prospect. With better targeting, and less mentally sub-normal allies, I could very well find myself in Heaven. Until then, Strike Suit Zero will undoubtedly help you scratch that space combat sim itch you must have by now. Read the full Strike Suit Zero review Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Fans of Corpse Party would do well to pick up the second installment. The first game left a lot of unanswered questions and Book of Shadows does an admirable job at answering them. I've enjoyed spending time with these characters, even if it is the worst day of their lives. As for the uninitiated, well, they might want to consider expanding their horizons. But seriously, play the first before tackling this one. It's not like PlayStation Portable or Vita owners have been spoiled for choice when it comes to quality software as of late. Visual novels may be niche, but just about anyone can enjoy a good horror story. If you can get past the insipid gameplay, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows provides a pleasurable and haunting narrative that's well worth experiencing. Read the full Book of Shadows review Westerado The soundtrack goes perfectly with the detailed, sun-soaked pixel art visuals that tap into one's nostalgia, while also creating a surprisingly authentic western look. Westerado's a very animated game, never staying still for a moment. The protagonist's poncho constantly waves away, chickens never stop pecking at invisible seeds, and dried out weeds endlessly dance in the ceaseless wind. Even if you are put off by the plethora of bugs, it's free and accessible at the click of a button. You'd be doing yourself a disservice by not checking it out at least once. No doubt you'll find yourself checking it out again and again, as I have been. Drape that knackered old poncho over your shoulders, roll up that cigarette, and strap on a rusty six-shooter -- it's time to hunt down a real bastard. Read the full Westerado review Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (iOS) Although outsourcing to Tag Games was probably a smart business move, I can't help but think how picture-perfect Clash of Heroes would have turned out if Capybara had done it themselves. With a lot of polish in terms of the controls through a future update, this could be one of the finest games on the App Store. Otherwise, just stick to the other incredible versions if possible. Read the full Clash of Heroes review DJMAX Technika Tune DJMAX Technika Tune offers a smooth, enjoyably frustrating experience rooted in precisely-tuned gameplay fundamentals. It's presented attractively, with a level of engagement that relies on mechanics rather than sentiment and effectively transcends one's taste in music, which in the case of the arguably exotic track listing would present the highest initial barrier to entry. It may not be especially generous with the extras and fluff, but gets it all right where it counts the most, with the added bonus of making the PS Vita's touch gimmicks useful and relevant to play. Read the full DJMAX Technika Tune review Boob Wars: Big Breasts vs. Flat Chests Even playing devil's advocate and writing this from the perspective of somebody who might be into these games, Boob Wars isn't good. By the standards of those who want to masturbate themselves silly over violent cartoon sex, we're looking at something sub-par, lifeless, and cynical. To offend a regular bypasser is one thing, but this feels offensive to even the target audience. Then again, I could be wrong. Maybe this truly is the game fans have been waiting for. I don't claim to speak for them, and nor would I, but all I can say is, if you want to get off with cartoons, there's much better out there. I can give you the links later. You really don't need to waste your time with this brainless, gormless, depressing little exercise in grisly misery.  All that said ... the soundtrack's pretty good. Read the full Boob Wars review Kentucky Route Zero Kentucky Route Zero evokes the feeling of old ghost stories told around a campfire. There's the familiarity of friends and family around a warm, man-made fire, but with it comes the unnerving tale of the strange and unusual. Kentucky Route Zero is beautifully bizarre and perfectly poignant, and most of all, deserves your attention. Read the full Kentucky Route Zero review Fire Emblem: Awakening While Fire Emblem: Awakening may not turn the notch up to 11, it's everything that's right about strategy RPGs. Whatever options you choose to go with at the beginning of the game, it's either one of the most accessible strategy games to date, or one of the most difficult. It's a brilliant design that will pay dividends for Nintendo in the long run, as it will convert plenty of new fans. If you've been itching to get into a Fire Emblem game, this is a great place to start. If you've been playing them all along, you'll feel right at home. Read the full Fire Emblem: Awakening review Skulls of the Shogun While Skulls of the Shogun does a great job of offering a decent amount of units, there's no inherent "wow" factor when it comes to gameplay. Although the traditional grid is tossed in favor of a circular movement shadow, it still feels about the same as the genre always has, minus the game's visual and vocal charm. I wasn't enamored by Skulls of the Shogun, but I enjoyed my time with it. If you can find local friends that enjoy a good asynchronous strategy game (think local Advance Wars), you might get a bit more mileage out of this one. Read the full Skulls of the Shogun review Ikachan (3DS eShop) I appreciate that Nicalis is trying to share more of Pixel's catalog -- such as this, the foundation for his later works -- but asking us to part with $5 for what amounts to a concept project is a little too tough to swallow. Ikachan is a marvelous introduction to a much larger, more ambitious game. But that's all it is: an introduction. If you are willing to accept that, you'll happily enjoy the short time you spend in its watery world. Read the full Ikachan review Puddle Fans of LocoRoco or those hurting for games to play on their Wii U will probably dig it, so long as they have the patience to rev it up a little bit. It's still a neat little puzzler for sure, but it needs a bit more tweaking for me to wholly recommend it. If you've always been on the edge in terms of buying this game, this release should tip you, as it's the definitive version. Read the full Puddle review Antichamber Antichamber is a perfect example of how a player learns to play videogames. There’s no gameplay tutorial, no loading screen tips (or loading screens, for that matter), just good ole' fashioned learn-as-you-play information aided by the in-game advice. There’s never a reference of mouse or keyboard, outside of the main lobby area. Antichamber is a unique and delightful first-person puzzle game that relies a bit too much on the wrong kind of puzzles. The plot is intentionally vague and some players may completely ignore it, but it hardly detracts from the overall experience. Antichamber looks great, is confusing in all the right ways, and may change the way people approach not only videogame puzzles, but real life obstacles as well. Read the full Antichamber review Euro Truck Simulator 2 A far cry from some of the more technical and unforgiving sims on the market, Euro Truck is as welcoming as it is authentic, forgiving while still prepared to reprimand those who fail. It's one of the best jumping points anybody curious about sims could have, and for everybody else, it's still just a damn fine experience in its own right.  It may sound like a joke that so many people are piling glowing praise on a trucking sim, but Euro Truck Simulator 2 is the real deal.  Read the full Euro Truck Simulator 2 review Everything else Destructoid reviewed: Razer Sabertooth The customizability of this controller and the fantastic performance of its buttons and sticks would definitely appeal to professional and competitive gamers, but I fear that the $79.99 MSRP will prevent some from jumping in. That would be a shame as the d-pad and face buttons alone were enough to win me over. I'd love to see a version of this controller that drops the customization and OLED screen for a lower price point.  Read the full Sabertooth review ROCCAT Isku FX Is the FX worth the extra $10 over the Isku (or even other keyboards)? I'm going to have to say no, because the new keys simply aren't worth the additional cost. Even beyond the fact that both keyboards are oddly expensive for not being mechanical, I feel that it might have been smarter to just re-release the Isku to include multicolored key lighting instead of making an even more expensive version. Read the full Isku FX review The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia The book contains so much Skyward Sword that, if you don't like it in some capacity, you may be disappointed. If you have no appreciation of the retro titles as well, the impact may be diminished, especially the portions involving Miyamoto and Aonuma. Even still, Hyrule Historia is a great read. I learned some things both old and new, and I got to enjoy some beautiful art. Read the full Hyrule Historia review
January 2013 reviews photo
Review round-up: The games of January 2013
I'm not sure what it's like from the outside looking in, but as someone who's directly involved with covering games and has to be thinking about them on a daily basis, January was one hell of an action-packed month. We kicked...

Review: Final Fantasy All the Bravest

Jan 13 // Jim Sterling
Final Fantasy All the Bravest (iOS)Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: January 17, 2013MSRP: $3.99, $3.99, $3.99, $3.99, $1.99, $2.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99 Final Fantasy All the Bravest promises the return of the Active Time Battle system, boasts combat parties of up to forty heroes plucked from the series' history, and seduces fans with its nostalgic graphics and music. All the Bravest is not, however, the reminiscent tour de force it could have been. It is, instead, an exercise in providing as little entertainment as possible for the maximum financial return. It is an idea of a videogame, expecting money from consumers in exchange for memories they could have had by watching YouTube videos. Gameplay is practically non-existent, the software merely a conduit through which you directly deposit your dollars into Square Enix's bank account. It's a service that you both work for and pay for, while the company in charge does nothing but rake in the loot.  The game is essentially a series of "battles" in which all you need to do is wipe your finger across the screen. Swiping or tapping on a party member causes it to launch an attack, after which a timer appears above its head to indicate when it can attack again. To win a battle, you rub furiously at the screen until the monsters are dead, then move onto the next fight. No thought required, no strategy, no alternative methods of attack. You rub, rinse, and repeat, until everything is dead. Along the way, you level up, gain items to boost attacks, acquire new heroes, and earn Gil, but everything is handled automatically, allowing you to continue rubbing with brainless abandon. [embed]242519:46378[/embed] Every three hours (in real-time), you can activate a "Fever" mode which eliminates the "Active Time" portion of the battle and allows characters to attack freely. This equates to more rubbing, requiring no extra thought or impetus from the player.  That, literally, is Final Fantasy All the Bravest. That is the gameplay, described in its entirety. You smear your hand across your iOS device's screen until you hear the victory theme, then do it again. And again. And again. And again. Square Enix honestly could have eliminated the swiping process to make characters attack automatically, and it would have equated to the same experience, albeit with less wrist strain. Something is wrong when you could remove any form of player input without it negatively impacting your game.  Of course, All the Bravest does not exist to be played. That's not the goal. The goal is for its publisher to make more money beyond the $3.99 asking price. You see, in order to get a party that will decently stand up to the game's boss monsters, you're expected to spend more real-world cash to acquire powerful heroes. Spending $0.99 allows you to summon a famous hero from the Final Fantasy series, selected at random. This hero will then join the party and launch attacks the same way as any other character. Being randomized, players looking for a particular character will need to spend anywhere up to 35 dollars in order to get the right one.  Everything in the game is carefully designed to pressure you into buying things. The boss "difficulty" spikes are used to convince you that you really need a new hero. The inability to directly control the battle places the emphasis on purchasing more power rather than developing skills or tactics to surpass an obstacle. When you die, your party revives by one character every three minutes, in a bid to bore you into purchasing an instant-revival item. Despite being sold on nostalgia, the truly memorable Final Fantasy content is locked behind expansion packs, each costing a further $3.99. Make no mistake -- Final Fantasy All the Bravest did not come about through lazy design. While the mindless battles may look like the result of a total lack of effort, it was a coldly calculated, meticulously developed system crafted to draw out your wallet. It's as intricately designed a game as any other Final Fantasy installment -- the design simply wasn't used to enhance the gameplay this time around.  In a way, I'm almost impressed. This is a game that you don't really play while it demands money for no good reason. The nerve, the sheer rotten gall of that is almost laudable. Despicable, intellectually offensive, and grotesque, most certainly -- but still deviously magnificent. What really hammers it home is the fact that, during the course of the game, you acquire masses and masses of Gil -- in-game currency that has absolutely no in-game use. It's almost as if Square Enix is gleefully mocking its users by showering them with useless coins as it vacuums up the real ones. Final Fantasy All the Bravest is not really a game. It's a cash delivery system, with you playing as the courier, your money the cargo, and Square Enix the unpaying recipient. After years of trying to monetize videogames, Square Enix has now moved on to monetizing customers themselves. It's cut out the irritating middle man that is the videogame, and found a way to simply get people to hand over money in exchange for nothing. That is what All the Bravest is. It's nothing. It's air. It's a thought. You're buying a concept in order to keep buying concepts.  Final Fantasy All the Bravest is fucking disgusting.
All the Bravest reviewed! photo
All the Basest
Final Fantasy is close to being the Star Wars of the videogame industry, and not in a positive way. Square Enix, the George Lucas of this particularly scenario, has done a fine job exploiting its brand to almost damaging prop...

Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary

Dec 11 // Chris Carter
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 4], Android)Developer: Rockstar NorthPublisher: Rockstar GamesReleased: December 6, 2012MSRP: $4.99 Yep, Vice City is back. This new mobile version still features the same sexy 1980s veneer, and still features the wise-cracking mob scumbag Tommy Vercetti (Ray Liotta). Visually, the game has been updated a bit, and the new look suits the neon and bright pastel veneer quite well. Draw-distance issues while driving aside, the new lighting effects and smoothed-out engine really allow the game to pop like it never has before. Like the scheme used in the mobile version of GTA III, the controls for Vice City are a little better than you would expect, but still have the standard touch-precision issues. Movement is done by way of a virtual analog stick that appears wherever you put your left thumb. While it might sound great on paper, I've had instances numerous times where I've attempted to run away, only to have the d-pad shift to another spot on-screen. Outside of movement though -- and barring one unfortunate virtual button placement (the handbrake is near the "exit vehicle button," which can make for some funny mission failures) -- everything pretty much works how you'd want it to, with on-screen buttons for each potential action. Considering everything except the movement button can be sized and placed anywhere on the screen, you should be able to find a comfortable medium. Although there is controller support on the Android version of the game, the iOS version (which was reviewed here) had no such feature -- so if you're on an Apple device, you'll have to settle for touch controls. Smaller bonuses are included in the mobile package, such as the ability to autosave (with iCloud save support on iOS devices), the aforementioned customizable layout, a tap-to-shoot targeting system, and the ability to create your own custom radio station using your iTunes playlist. The tap-to-shoot scheme takes some getting used to, but it does work, and everything else also works as advertised. Outside of these ancillary additions to the anniversary version, by far the best addition is the Mission Retry function that debuted in Chinatown Wars, and was cemented by The Ballad of Gay Tony. Straight-up, I think it's a required function that should be in every GTA going forward. Nothing is worse than failing a mission a few seconds away from victory, only to start over at the hospital and have to find your way to the mission marker again. It absolutely killed the pacing in earlier games, and this addition alone is a great reason to visit Vice City again. As far as the core game goes, everything is intact. The soundtrack, the quirky Rockstar charm, the Scarface-influenced setting -- it's all here. I really enjoyed replaying some of my favorite missions from the PS2 classic, and even rediscovered a few new scenarios that I didn't experience originally. To be clear, there's nothing new content wise in this version, but the sheer scale of the GTA games makes it easy to come across a feeling of freshness. Although the game does show signs of aging even with the updated engine, fans of open-world games should still be able to enjoy Vice City with an open mind ten years later. If you hate GTA games because you feel like they're too "bland," Vice City is your gateway drug. It oozes more charm than pretty much any game in the series outside of possibly San Andreas (provided you're a fan of hip-hop culture for that entry), and the smaller scale of the city makes it a much more manageable affair. If you're curious about the franchise, this is a great starting point before GTA V hits next year.
GTA: Vice City review photo
Wanna be startin' somethin'
All this Grand Theft Auto anniversary talk makes me feel old. It feels like just yesterday I was listening to Michael Jackson, swerving around as Tommy Vercetti, and taking in the sights of Rockstar's faux-Miami setting. I th...

Apple finally announces the iPhone 5, available Sept 21

Sep 12 // Dale North
The iPhone 5 battery is slightly improved with 8 hours of talk time, even on an LTE connection. You'll get 10 hours on a WiFi connection only. The camera is an eight megapixel, 3,264 x 2,448 backside-illuminated sensor with a f/2.4 aperture, not unlike that of the iPhone 4S. The front-facing camera isn't as good, but it does 720p video now. A brand new dock connector debuts with the iPhone 5, making all of your current accessories useless. Maybe. It features a smaller, reversible plug that they're calling Lightning. There will be an adapter to use older accessories, but it's pretty bulky looking.  [via Engadget]
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[Update: Pricing, date added.] No one on this planet was surprised when Apple announced the iPhone 5 today at their press conference in San Francisco. Still, the world has been waiting on details, and now we have them for you...

Review: Super Hexagon

Sep 10 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Super Hexagon (iOS)Developer: DistractionwarePublisher: DistractionwareRelease: September 5, 2012MSRP: $2.99 What makes Super Hexagon such an addictive experience is its simplicity. You control a little triangle that's stationed within the center of the screen. Touching the right side of your screen will move the triangle clockwise, and the left side of the screen moves you counter-clockwise. Tapping the screen will move the triangle ever so slightly, while holding down on the screen will see the shape moving at top speeds. Controls are very responsive, and they need to be as walls in the shape of geometric patterns are constantly advancing toward the center of the level. Levels are randomly generated, while specific pattern configurations are repeated at different points with each replay. The overall goal is to last as long as possible without getting crushed between two walls while you're zig-zagging your way through the endless maze. And I'm not joking when I say you might feel pain around your forehead. Shapes will be moving in one way, while the entire level could be spinning in another direction, all while you have to be aware of every potential threat coming at you from every direction. [embed]234664:45006[/embed] The premise sounds simple enough but I wouldn't doubt it if you hear "Game Over" at least a dozen times before you finally last longer than five seconds. You will die, a lot. The difficulty here isn't in that the game is abusing you, but more that your own abilities are being put to the test. Super Hexagon is about testing your reflexes, reaction speed, memorization, and your instincts, pushing them beyond your self imposed limitations. Colors are constantly changing in the levels, all while the geometric shapes pulse to the wonderful soundtrack by Chipzel. The music picks up at different parts of the track, so you'll get to hear something different instead of restarting from the beginning every time. A big deal in my book, as hearing the same track restart over and over with the retry of a level does get extremely annoying over time in other games.  Restarting a level will become norm, as Super Hexagon isn't kidding around. The lowest difficulty is Hard, going up to Harder, then Hardest. While levels are indefinite, you can technically pass each stage if you last for a full minute. Passing the minute mark rewards you by unlocking even higher difficulties, such as Hardester. This level of masochism will make sense to those that have experienced VVVVVV, the breakout hit by Terry Cavanagh. Super Hexagon is Terry's latest creation, which started life as a hastily put together project during a 48-hour game jam. Terry has since expanded on the original Hexagon, creating a far more enjoyable experience for the iOS, with PC, Mac and maybe even Android versions to come down the line. Super Hexagon is a simple, engaging game, perfect for the mobile experience. You'll go in thinking you'll play a short game, but soon find yourself repeating the same level at least a couple of dozen times, quickly jabbing at the screen to restart after cursing loudly from the ridiculous mistake you just made. Each play through is worth it though, as just breaking your own personal record by a second will give you a level of satisfaction you wouldn't expect to feel. Simply put, Super Hexagon is one of the best mobile gaming experiences I've had this year.
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Your brain will vomit rainbows
Super Hexagon is a game that makes your eyeballs feel like they're being forcibly twisted against your will while still in their sockets. It is a game that makes your brain feel like it's being torn up and stitched back toget...

Phosphor talks Horn, mobile gaming, and touch controls

Aug 15 // Jim Sterling
Horn tells the tale of a young boy (called Horn, duh) who wakes up in a devastated and barely recognizable dystopian version of his home world. Living creatures have been replaced by the Pygon -- undying mechanical constructs that view their previous fleshy mortality as a curse. Our hero carries a decapitated Pygon's head around with him, and the two share much mean-spiritied banter as Horn attempts to undo whatever happened to the world.  With the apocalyptic imagery and mono-horned protagonist, there are more than a few visual shades of ICO to the whole thing. Audiences have been quick to point this out.  "We are big fans of Team ICO’s work, and like everyone we can’t wait for The Last Guardian," confessed Chip Sineni. "The antlers in Horn’s character design actually came pretty late in development -- originally we had a envisioned a 'wolf mane style' headgear, but he looked too much like a killer of animals, and that idea involved into the antler helmet he has now, which is a traditional headgear of his village.   "All of that was independent of the gameplay design though. The inspiration for Horn's gameplay just came from our love of action adventure games -- Zelda, Uncharted, Tomb Raider, even older stuff like Soul Reaver -- there just aren’t solid games like that on mobile." I've played some Horn already, and the named influences are very prevalent, especially Zelda. While players don't have a huge amount of 1:1 control over the hero, Horn is not on rails. Instead, players navigate the world using a point-and-click interface, while combat is focused on dodging around opponents and slashing at their weak spots.  "Something exciting about touch devices is that there is still room for innovation in controls," shared the director. "Like if you are making an FPS, there isn’t a lot you can do -- there are great standards with controllers or mouse and keyboards so you don’t really think about changing how you input. "As much as everyone here at Phosphor is a big gamer, we all have lots of friends and loved ones that just are excluded from some of the cooler aspects of gaming. While anyone can pick up and play stuff like Angry Birds or Draw with Friends, most people simply can’t participate in AAA games. They not only don’t have the system, they don’t have the finger memory or coordination required to play, and it makes these types of games exclusive to a select group. ICO is a great example -- the story, characters, world, and relationship between the characters is this amazing, poetic thing everyone should experience, but you can’t tell somebody who isn’t a gamer to pick it up because it has some of the most hardcore platforming around -- the last levels in particular are very hard.  They will never be able to experience it because of the requirements to play it. Forum posters clamor for Roger Ebert to acknowledge how great a game like ICO is, but he can’t even play it. "With Dark Meadow we really wanted to make it easy for anyone to navigate around via just click on nodes, and Horn is a big evolution from that," he continued. "Basically you just click anywhere on the ground you want to go, and the character will go there. Swipe anywhere and you will look around. It is about as easy as we can make it and still allow for free movement. Whenever you do a context sensitive interaction, like a ledge grab or sidle, we just automatically change how you interact, similar to Uncharted or Enslaved. Once you get into combat, we do an automatic 'Z targeting' like strafe circle around enemies so your swipes can be used for swords instead of looking around. It took us a lot of prototypes to get down the system to be as seamless and intuitive as possible without a lot of button fumbling." Personally, I've often found touch controls to be no more easy to grasp than buttons, which at least provide tactile feedback. I like touch interfaces, but they can be damn difficult to pull off in all but the simplest and most streamlined of games. Many gamers have similar concerns, and the most vocal have outright slammed the entire idea of touch input.  "I love physical controls, and I love touch controls done right," responded Chip, addressing such concerns. "You don’t have to pick one or the other, and one isn’t going to 'win' -- they both are appropriate for different experiences. Touch controls are a really great way to engage a new audience that might be uncomfortable with physical controllers, and are also really great for playing while laying down on a couch or in bed, which is where many people game. Physical controls are great for precision, manually managing a lot of different potential actions on a character, and rewarding players who are really skilled. "They are both awesome and lead to different kinds of game experiences. I've been playing games non-stop since the 2600, and I'm just excited there are all these options and more people than ever playing games. Games are now this huge thing that everyone gets and participates in -- it is no longer a fringe 'nerd' thing, celebrities Tweet what they are playing, etc. People no longer look at you like they don’t understand what you are talking about when you say you play games. The Wii started that, and touch devices have taken the torch with taking games to the masses." The trouble is, however, that hardcore gamers -- the sort that appreciate storytelling in their games and tend to veer more toward the "games are art" sentiment -- seem yet to largely embrace mobile gaming, and as such I often fear that the work going into games like Dark Meadow or Horn is wasted. Dark Meadow had a fantastic antagonist who deserved to be remembered, but I have a feeling he will disappear into obscurity. Does Phosphor not feel that it's playing to an empty room at times?  "It is hard to say," Sineni admitted. "There is way more overlap in who plays games on mobile and other systems than what forum posters would lead you to believe, and that audience is already looking for deeper experiences. We had over one million downloads for Dark Meadow, so it is really cool to us that so many people got to experience our little creation. If we instead released it on XBLA or something, we'd probably have like under 250k or so downloads, so we are just happy more people have the opportunity to play it. "But there is definitely a lot of room for mobile to be recognized as a true game platform. We submitted Dark Meadow to the AIAS for 'Character Performance' and really, we didn’t think we’d beat stuff like Portal, we just wanted to get nominated. But we instead got nominated for 'Mobile Game of the Year,' which is of course a huge honor, but shows that mobile games are still put in their own little corner. I don’t think a mobile game was nominated for anything except that category, and it might be some time still before the industry just considers them as 'proper games; like PC and console. But we aren't really worried about labels or recognition or whatever, we just want to make cool games that people enjoy playing." For some, mobile gaming will never deserve that recognition, but Chip believes such people have their blinkers on.  "People can be a bit narrow-minded in their view of the future hardware for gaming. There is no reason to think that the eventual future console won’t be a tablet or phone that can be hooked up to your TV and has a standard controller you use. That is exactly what I would do if I was Microsoft or Sony -- make some kick-ass tablet that you can take anywhere in bed or on the road, but hook it up for that full experience.   "You can already see an 'early version' of this with Tegra or Onlive where a controller hooks up to the tablet and the device displays on a TV. I realize it would be hard to get power and battery life in a tablet for a true Next-Gen console, but they could start with it being a bit thicker and heavy and make it slim over time. Also there is no reason for future consoles to be static hardware experiences locked into 7 year cycles. Both Apple and PCs have shown consumers understand their hardware gets outdated and they can upgrade if they want. And actually if cloud gaming takes that over, it doesn’t even matter about power- you could have a crazy supercomputer render graphics no consumer PC could even render, but pipe it to your phone that then goes on your TV." With Dark Meadow already out and Horn due in the near future, it seems Phosphor is quite happy in the mobile space. Does that mean it's abandoned the realm of console and PC? Nope. It has some stuff in the works for the bigger boys.  "We love consoles and PCs. In fact, we are making a non-core Wii U title for a large publisher right now, and PC in particular is a very exciting space," replied the director. "How many times has PC gaming been declared dead, only to rise stronger? The diversity of successful games on PC is awesome. You've got your perennial stuff from Valve and Blizzard, you've got your console AAA games on PC, and then you also have all these oddities that shouldn’t be doing well but are -- stuff like League of Legends on the free side, stuff like Minecraft in this whole other direction. We are still working on a much bigger 'core' project that we have discussed before, we still can’t talk more about it at this time, but all of this is very interesting time to us." That "other" project is undoubtedly Awakened, a game we've extensively spoken to Phosphor about in the past. If anything, the studio's success on iOS can only help to fuel the success of titles like that in the console and PC arena, and I think that's ultimately the key to making everybody happy. In the meantime, I'm enjoying what Phosphor's putting out for phones and tablets, and I think it's pointing to very good things for future, larger projects down the road. 
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While many "hardcore" gamers continue to look down on mobile gaming, there are a number of studios who view it as a legitimate gaming platform, capable of the kind of "AAA" experiences we're used to. Phosphor Games is one of ...

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Microsoft has today announced Xbox Smart Glass, a new bit of tech that will "transform the devices you already own and love." Smart Glass is, essentially, a feature that allows all your entertainment systems to communicate an...

New Alien Confidential & Rocket Fox games, comics coming

Mar 06 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
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As we revealed last month, Namco Bandai is using its new ShiftyLook website to release comics based on "dormant" IPs. It was also hinted at, but some of these dormant IPs are being brought back as games as well! The next comi...

A starter's guide to Robot Entertainment's Hero Academy

Jan 13 // Maurice Tan
The Basics First off, how does Hero Academy work? There is a 9x5 field of squares where the goal is to destroy the opponent's crystal (or crystals) or to destroy all of your foe's available units, while not suffering the same fate yourself. You can perform five actions per turn, which can consist of moving a unit, summoning a unit, upgrading a unit with an item, using an item, or performing an attack. At any time before you submit your actions for the turn, you can press the Action Point circle in the bottom-left to reset all your actions. There's no limit to how often you use this feature, so use it as much as you want. On the game board you'll see special squares called Premium Squares that are indicated by a red sword, a blue shield, and a purple crystal. As long as a unit is standing on top of one of these tiles, it receives a special bonus. The sword (Offense Boost) adds 100 damage to a unit, the shield (Defense Boost) increases the Physical defense by 20%, and the crystal (Assault Boost) adds 300 damage to any attack on an opponent's crystal. You need to stay on these squares to get the bonus, so don't move to one and then move onwards thinking you have gained a buff. If your unit is knocked out during the opponent's turn, it will remain on the ground as a corpse until the end of your own turn. Some of the Dark Elves units can use any incapacitated units, regardless of who owned them, to summon minions from their corpses or to eat them for a buff. If that poses a problem, you can simply wipe an incapacitated unit from the field by moving a unit on top of it or by using a special item that destroys corpses in a 3x3 grid -- just remember it will cost you another precious Action Point to clear these corpses. The main idea behind most basic strategies is to use the Premium Squares to your advantage, maneuver your units in a tactically beneficial way, get rid of enemy units before they become too powerful, and deal damage to your opponent's crystals when you can get away with it. With a turn-based system, no way to look at what your opponent has in store, units with different types of attacks and attack ranges, and only five actions to perform each turn, it can quickly become very challenging to anticipate how the next round will go. After a game or two, however, you'll get the hang of the basics soon enough. Managing your "hand" In the bottom-left of the screen you see a door with a number below it. Consider this to be your "deck" if you were playing a card game. Whenever you summon a unit from your "hand" or use an item, you'll receive new units and items (called "tiles" in this game) from your deck after you submit your turn. You can't see what new tiles you'll receive the next round, so random luck can play a role in how a match progresses. In the unfortunate event you end up with a hand without units when you are in desperate need of them, you can use an Action Point to move a currently useless item onto the door icon and put it back in your deck. After submitting your turn, you might get a better item or unit in return. Or you might not. If you do swap something, your opponent will get a "Swapped a tile!" message to indicate that you did. You have to keep in mind that you have a limited amount of units and items in your deck, though. If the door counter reaches zero near the end of a match, and if your hand contains no more units and is no longer full, there's no point in trading back an item in the hopes of getting a unit in return. You'll just get that same item back from your deck. This also means that your opponent might run out of units at some point. This is where you have to be really careful. Just because you ran out of units and your opponent is no longer summoning units to the field, that doesn't mean he or she has actually run out of units. A good tactic is to keep a unit in reserve to lure your opponent in right at the end, and then summon the unit to destroy his (potentially) last few units in a quick surprise strike. Damage types, equipment, and information Some units will deal Physical damage while others deal Magical damage. When you use the ? button in the top-right corner to get information about a unit, you can check out the unit's health state and resistances. Alternatively, you can take a closer look at the details of some consumable items that deal direct damage, or equipment items that can boost Health Points, Damage output, Physical resistance, and Magical Resistance. As you might expect, 40% Physical resistance does nothing to make a Magical attack hurt any less. Try to keep this in mind when you use Action Points to move a unit back to a Defense Boost tile in order to keep it safe from harm, because if it is likely to be hit by Magical attacks in the next round it won't do you any good. You can also simply tap and hold down a finger on the field to get a direct display of unit health and equipped items on top of all the units. Tapping on your opponent's portrait will show you how many tiles he has left, both in his hand and in his deck combined, indicated by a "reinforcements" counter. If this counter drops below 7, that means that all remaining tiles are now in the opponent's hand. If your foe is no longer summoning units at this point, while you have a clear unit advantage, he or she might be out of units. If the game is still pretty even, however, your opponent might be saving up a last-ditched surprise attack. Chatting, and resigning a game, and doing a rematch The Chat button in the top-right corner is hard to miss and works like texting. So far I've only met friendly and helpful people in games. If you're wondering about anything or if an enemy move made no sense to you in terms of damage, don't hesitate to ask your opponent for information or advice -- they will probably won't mind answering your question. If all is lost, then you can choose to resign instead of dragging the game on for an extra few hopeless turns. The resign option is somewhat hidden away under the gear icon on the top-left of the screen so you don't accidentally tap it. After resigning a game, it can happen that instead of getting the Rematch button to appear you'll only see the Submit Turn button. If that happens and you do want a rematch, just back out to your list of games after resigning, load up the resigned game again, then tap the Rematch button that should now be there in the bottom-right. It's faster than manually inviting the same person to a new game. Teams: The Council The typical human fantasy team, The Council is pretty straightforward to use and it's the one race you get for free. Let's look at the units and items you'll use by playing The Council. Units: Knight  Health: 1200 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 1 Damage: 200 Physical Physical resistance: 20% Magical resistance: 0% The Knight is your tank. Unless you have to, you're better off putting him on a purple crystal square to support the attack of other units on the enemy crystal than to use him as an attacker. With 1200 HP and 20% Physical resistance, he'll easily survive an entire round of standard physical attacks. Because his attacks also knock back an enemy unit by one tile, he is a waste of Action Points when using him on the offensive unless you target an enemy unit that can't be knocked back any further. When beefed up with a Helmet and a Shield item, the Knight is a pain in the ass to get rid of a crystal Assault Boost square, so by all means put him there. Archer Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 3 Damage: 300 Physical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% The Archer's 300 damage and 3-tile attack range make her a very strong and mobile unit to kill enemy units or do hit & run attacks on the enemy crystal -- especially when she's beefed up with a Sword item and you have another unit on a crystal Assault Boost square. It also makes her an easy target if any of your opponents has ever lost a game to a pesky Archer. Her weakness comes from melee, where she only deals 50% damage. Keeping her in proximity to a sword square can help you dish out a large amount of damage to an opponent who is gradually moving his offensive line forwards, although most people seem to know they shouldn't end a turn 3 tiles away from your nearest sword square if there is an Archer nearby. If you can lure a stronger unit in range by sacrificing a weaker unit of your own, though, it can be worth doing so. Wizard Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 2 Damage: 200 Magical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% The Wizard might look like a secondary target if you're facing him due to his 2-tile attack range and relative weakness -- and sometimes he should be -- but his chain lightning attack can become devastating if you aren't careful with your unit placement. The lightning attack jumps to two other targets and the targets it jumps to is random, but it appears to consistently go to the same targets within one turn. Resetting your Action Points to try and reach other targets from the same spot has no effect. The second target will receive 75% damage while the tertiary target only receives 50% damage. One of the worst scenarios to be in is when you face a Wizard who has been beefed up, and who is supported by a unit holding the ground of a purple crystal square. This allows the Wizard to deal easy damage to your crystal(s) whenever you have units surrounding it. It also forces you to fan out and either kill the wizard, or kill the unit holding the purple Assault Boost square. Being forced to choose isn't the best position to be in, especially if you have to use one or two Action Points to reach either target and can't kill any of them in one turn. If there happens to be a beefed up Knight on a crystal square and killing the Wizard doesn't allow you to wipe him from the field in the same turn, you're in for a world of pain if your opponent can resurrect the Wizard again the next turn. Cleric Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 2 Damage: 200 Magical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% The Cleric is your trusty healer who heals damage and resurrected incapacitated units. Her heals and revives are a bit stronger than the Dark Elf equivalent -- the Priestess -- but she can't heal from 3 tiles away like her counterpart. Like any unit, you can use her as an attacker if you have to, but she's better off behind the front line as a support character you can move in quickly to resurrect a unit. If you can, keep her within healing range of a unit who is likely to die the next round. That way you can, for instance, resurrect a powerful unit who wasn't wiped from the field entirely and give it four Action Points to deal four attacks, or you can heal it for one extra Action Point while leaving three points available to deal damage. Ninja (Super Unit) Health: 800 Movement range: 3 Attack range: 2 Damage: 200 Physical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% The Ninja is The Council's super unit, meaning you won't see him appear in your hand very often. He acts like a more mobile Knight who also has a ranged attack, but he also has a special ability that lets him trade places with any unit on the field. This doesn't only allow him to move to other side of the field almost instantly, but also lets you trade a low-health unit to the back so it can heal up in safety. Another special ability is that he does twice his regular damage when doing a melee attack. At the moment this isn't in the unit's description because of a text bug, so if you've been playing Hero Academy and wondering why he does so much damage, there is your answer. The Ninja starts out with one sword and gains another one if you give him a Runemetal Sword item. Although the Sword does add 100 Power to his base attacks (and thus +200 damage if you do a melee attack), the Ninja's dual-wielding on the field is purely an aesthetic effect. He will do double melee damage regardless of the amount of swords he is holding. This is a unit that you'll have to try out a couple of times for yourself to get the hang of him, but he makes for an imposing figure on the field and is insanely powerful up close, so expect your opponent to try and take him out as soon as possible. Items: Runemetal (Sword) The Sword item increases a unit's Power by 50%. That means it increases the unit's damage output regardless of whether it does Physical or Magical damage. How best to use this can depend on a couple of factors. If you have 3 Action Points left to deal damage, it doesn't matter if you give a unit a Sword and let it attack twice or if you just let it attack three times in a row. If you do give the unit a Sword in one round that means you don't have to use an Action Point to equip the unit in the next round. Of course, your opponent will see your unit become more of a threat, and prioritize it for demolition. Dragonscale (Shield) The Shield adds 20% Physical resistance to any unit. Stacks well with the Knight if you are facing Physical attackers. Shining Helm The Helm adds 20% Magical resistance and 10% max hitpoints to any unit. Easy, isn't it? The Shield, Sword, and Helm items stack on top of each other, but you can't give a unit two items of the same type. The individual items don't stack. Revive Potion Heal any unit for 1000 hitpoints, or revives a unit. Save this for when you really need to heal or revive a beefed-up frontline attacker. Supercharge (scroll) Using the Supercharge on a unit will triple its damage output for one attack, acting as a temporary item that disappears after an attack -- so you can't stack them. The Supercharged unit will also attack with a flashy animation to rub it in some more. This can be a killer surprise move against an opponent's unit or super unit that had been gradually beefed up over a number of rounds, or to deal some heavy damage on a crystal. Try to combine it with a unit like the Ninja who can quickly get to an Offense Boost square to do even more damage, but be careful not to leave your attacking unit defenseless at the end of the turn. You should always be wary of an incoming Supercharge attack if your opponent is moving units in a way that doesn't make much sense when they can't kill your unit without a Supercharge. Inferno Deals 350 Magical damage in a 3x3 area and wipes any incapacitated units from the field that are caught in the blast. Inferno is a good way to get rid of strong units who would otherwise be resurrected during your opponent's turn, if you can't or don't want to risk moving on top of their corpses with a unit. Teams: Dark Elves The Dark Elves are an in-app purchase ($0.99 at the time of writing) and have a very different play style than The Council. First and foremost, it's because of their life leech ability that lets them heal by doing damage, reducing the need to spend Action Points on healing actions. Besides that, their units all have abilities that distinguish them from their human counterparts. Void Monk Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 1 Damage: 200 Physical Physical resistance: 20% Magical resistance: 20% The Void Monk is basically a weaker Knight with some good default resistance out of the box. He's not beefy enough to use as a tank, and not strong enough to use as a primary attacker without some upgrades. However, his attacks will also hit units and crystals in the squares next to and behind your target, which makes him a bit of a close range area-of-attack unit. There tends to be a unit next to an enemy crystal most of the time, so the Void Monk can be useful to deal bonus damage to a crystal when you're on the offensive. Impaler Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 2 Damage: 300 Physical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% A bit of a weird unit, the Impaler pulls an enemy one tile closer -- a bit like a reverse Knight knockback. With 300 Physical damage, she is one of the major damage dealers for the Dark Elves. She's also good at pulling an enemy from a Premium Square if you need to. For example, if an enemy is trying to hold a Defense Boost square, you can pull it off it and then pummel it with melee hits. Alternatively, you can pull an enemy from an Offense Boost square, move onto it yourself, and use the damage bonus to both kill the enemy unit and heal yourself in the process. Necromancer Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 3 Damage: 200 Magical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% The Necromancer's range can become very annoying when he has a sword item power up, because he'll be able to knock out many units with just three Action Points. Because of his long range, it's easy to try and stay away from him when you are facing a Necromancer. Doing so also means you'll have a hard time to kill him in one turn, so you have to wage the pros and cons when trying to deal with him before he gets upgraded too much. What's worse, he can summon a Phantom minion out of a corpse to keep the other person from resurrecting that unit. These Phantoms only have 200 hitpoints and deal 100 damage so they aren't a major threat, but they will always tempt you to waste Action Points on killing them. Sometimes you can get a free kill on one of these Phantoms if you are on the defensive; otherwise they are most often best ignored in favor of more dangerous targets. Phantom (Summoned minion) Health: 200 Movement range: 3 Attack range: 1 Damage: 100 Magical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 10% Like described above, the Phantom is not much of an attacker but more of a distraction support unit. Worth pointing out is that you can't give him any equipment items, so don't expect to do any surprise attacks with a Sword-wielding Phantom. What you can do, however, is put him on the crystal Assault Boost squares. It will take a typical Magical damage dealer two Action Points to kill him, thanks to his 10% Magical resistance, and the wastefulness of the act might keep an opponent from actually getting rid of your Phantom. You can use that to your advantage to deal some extra damage to the enemy crystal if your opponent is indecisive. Priestess Health: 800 Movement range: 2 Attack range: 2 Damage: 200 Magical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 0% The Dark Elves healer can heal and resurrect from 3 tiles away so you can keep her a bit further to the back if you want to. When the Priestess attacks, she also weakens the target's damage output but only for one action. So if one of your units is weakened, only its first attack will do less damage and after that it will clear the effect on your unit. Some players will try to avoid using a weakened unit because they think it is permanently weakened and therefore useless, so try to use that to your advantage until they figure out how to get rid of the effect. Wraith (Super Unit) Health: 650 Movement range: 3 Attack range: 1 Damage: 250 Magical Physical resistance: 0% Magical resistance: 10% The Wraith is another really weird unit, but a very powerful one if used correctly (or if you are lucky with circumstances). He starts off weak, but his movement range makes him very mobile for hit and run attacks. The key to using the Wraith is to make him eat corpses which increases his maximum hit points and damage output, and his Magical attacks make him a good Knight and Archer killer. After eating 3 corpses, the Wraith will no longer get benefits from eating corpses but you can still consume them to clear them from the field. If you are unlucky and the enemy keeps a close formation well away from your Wraith, it can be hard for him to eat corpses. When you keep him away from the enemy, it takes too many Action Points to eat a corpse and get back to safety. You can try to lure the enemy in, but in many cases it's as much a matter of luck as it is a matter of facing an inexperienced opponent. Another tactic is to summon him on top of any corpse on the field, which is also not listed in the unit's description. Once you do beef him up with corpses and some equipment, he can become a fearsome powerhouse. Try to kill him while he is weak. Items: Soul Harvest This deals 100 Magical damage of damage to enemies and crystals in a 3x3 grid, but more importantly it increases the maximum health of all your own units and revives your units even if they are outside of the 3x3 area of effect. Basically, it drains health to give it to your own units. Soul Harvest is very useful when you are out of Priestesses and when your opponent thinks you won't have any way to resurrect your most powerful unit that just got killed. Resurrecting a powerful unit this way allows it to go on a damage rampage for another turn, and heal itself in the process through the Dark Elves life leech effect. I couldn't figure out the exact formula for the amount of hitpoints it adds to your units in return for the damage it deals, because I haven't been able to test out all the variations yet. However, 80 damage gives you 10 extra hitpoints and 780 damage gives you 45 hitpoints. You're not likely to deal a lot more damage than 800 (400 on a crystal if you have a unit on an Assault Square and 4x100 to 4 units in the area), so don't expect this item to give you a huge amount of extra hitpoints. The extra bit does help a lot, as it may now cost an opponent one extra Action Point to kill one of your units. Soulstone Adds 10% max health and double the life leech effect, making a strong unit more self-reliant as long as it keeps doing damage. It also makes your opponent's life a little more difficult when he or she has to do the math for the possible amount of life leech health restoration in a next round or two. Mana Vial Heals a unit for 1000 hitpoints, like The Council's Revive Potion, but instead of reviving a unit it adds 50 hitpoints to a unit's maximum health. That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but it can add up as you beef up units and it makes a 800 hitpoint unit survive four 200 damage attacks. It's easy to forget about the Mana Vial because it shows up to the left of a unit when you tap and hold the screen. Try to use that to your advantage if your opponent is doing a lot of attacks that never actually wipe your units from the field. He or she might not be using the ? button to check on the actual health of units. Runemetal (Sword) The sword item increases a unit's Power by 50%. It's the same item The Council has access to. Shining Helm The helm adds 20% Magical resistance and 10% max hitpoints to any unit. The same one as The Council's item. The Dark Elves don't have a Dragonscale shield for Physical resistance, but instead they use the Soulstone and Mana Vial for extra hitpoints, plus the life leech effect to keep their health up. A Dark Elf unit can have all four of these items as equipment at the same time. Supercharge (scroll) Using the Supercharge on a unit will triple its damage output for one attack, and is once again the same item The Council has access to. Try it out with a Wraith to free up an Action Point to eat a corpse in one turn, or pull an enemy off an Offense Boost square with your Impaler and move on top of it yourself before using the Supercharge and moving to safety again. It hurts. General strategies I wish I could give you some advanced strategies, but the truth is I'm not very good at Hero Academy. In fact I'm pretty awful. The best advice I can give you at the moment is to check the above details for a better idea on how to use any one unit, and then use that knowledge when combining units in a tactical encounter. There are still some general things to keep in mind that might help you get started, though. If you end up with a field that only has one crystal, it is worth sacrificing a unit to deal as much damage to that crystal as you can. In these maps, it can become a fight for the Assault Squares (the purple crystal tiles) while long-range damage dealers harass the enemy crystal. When you are nearing a counter of 10 or below in your "deck," start thinking ahead towards the last couple of turns. You might run out of units to summon pretty soon, so don't sacrifice them unless you can trade a weaker unit for a stronger enemy unit in one turn. If you only have one unit on the field and five items in your hand, just keep that unit to the back, beef it up, and trade useless items in the hope you'll get some more units. When both players have seemingly run out of units, it can also be very helpful to have a surprise Ninja to pull out of your hat. Because the Ninja is also a very powerful melee damage dealer, you might instead want to use him in the mid-game to tip the balance in your favor and clear the field of enemy units. Alternatively, use him to deal heavy damage to a crystal and then teleport the hell out of there. After a couple of rounds -- especially if you lose them -- you will have had a lot of "if only I had done this" moments. Remember those moments and learn from them. It sounds like the most basic of advice, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to be tempted to try something else when you know you shouldn't. One of the main reasons why I'm still terrible at the game is that I keep trying out different tactics instead of learning from my mistakes. Sometimes you learn something new from it. Sometimes you don't. Try to stick with the lessons you learned when you were beaten in the harshest possible way. You also have to get a feel for the early, mid, and end-game sections of a match. In the early game, you and your opponent are still trying to set up and position their forces. If you are lucky, your opponent will get only a few units in his hand at first, and tries to attack you. In that case you might be able to get a few easy kills and use the momentum in the mid-game. The mid-game is more about beefed up units that can singlehandedly win the game if you aren't careful. It can be hard to anticipate which unit is going to be your downfall, and even harder to know how much distance you should keep. Distance means safety, but it also means it becomes hard to knock out one unit and remove its corpse. The mid-game almost always features some healers, so removing those corpses becomes important. If you don't, you might spend 5 Action Points on a knock-out only to have your opponent resurrect and heal that unit in the next round. What's worse, it leaves you with 5 wasted Action Points and a unit in a potentially more vulnerable position. This is also the stage in the game where you can use your Ninja to teleport and clear out a lot of enemy units, as both players will likely each have 3-4 units on the field. The end-game is all about planning ahead and positioning. You'll want to kill as many units as possible while incurring as little damage as possible, even if that means doing one attack and backing off to a Defense Boost tile. Another tactic is to go straight for the crystals throughout the entire game, but the investment of Action Points in crystal damage means you can't use those points to deal damage to units. In the end it all depends on the type of player you are facing, and a good amount of luck. Luck doesn't make or break the game, however, so if you think the enemy is having a few turns of bad luck in his hand then go for the kill before he pulls out the big guns. Finally, always keep the Action Points in mind at all time. Calculate if an enemy can kill you, while accounting for possible damage boosts from items, in the amount of Action Points available. You can't anticipate every possible move, but simply doing the math for the most likely moves can save you from losing a unit that would've survived it if it was just one tile further to the back.
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Hero Academy is my new digital crack but it currently only has a tutorial consisting of screenshots and text, and no way to try out a game against an AI opponent. This might make some players a bit wary of trying it out for t...

Review: Infinity Blade II

Dec 02 // Jim Sterling
Infinity Blade II (iOS)Developer: ChAIR EntertainmentPublisher: Epic GamesReleased: November 01, 2011MSRP: $6.99 The first Infinity Blade had a story that was merely hinted at, shrouded in mystery and vague allusions. This time, there is a lot more meat to the plot, but despite fully voiced cutscenes and a cast of actual characters, much is still left to the player's imagination. Infinity Blade II picks up where the first game left off, with the God King defeated and the hero in possession of his titular sword. To go literally any further than that would be to spoil things, but rest assured that things get very shadowy, very quickly.  Cutscenes are now voiced in English, rather than the invented language of ChAIR's fantasy/sci-fi universe. In some ways, this leads to a disappointing loss of mystery, as familiar voices lead to a less exotic and alien world. Nevertheless, the acting is impressively strong, and one particular character (who shall remain nameless) is performed with such delicious pompousness that it makes up for any letdown that might be felt. In any case, there's still plenty of oddness to go around, fake languages or not.  ChAIR has evolved the gameplay to provide a very recognizable base, but expanded in every single way. Infinity Blade II presents another series of one-on-one duels against increasingly challenging monsters, with players blocking, parrying and dodging until breaking the enemy and fighting back with elegant touch-based swipes. This time around, however, the minions of the Deathless have taken off their gloves and put up some real resistance, with punishing new attacks and varied patterns that make them far harder to predict.  [embed]217089:41944[/embed] The player's defense tactics have been given a bit more balance to ensure that players that safe, familiar routines cannot be depended on. If players dodge too much, the hero can become exhausted and grow far less effective. Opponents will also frequently attack with fists and shields so parrying is no longer completely trustworthy, and many attacks can also break through shields to stop anybody planning to "turtle" their way to victory. The penalty for sticking to one tactic is ever-present, and an impressive job has been done of ensuring that each battle feels less formulaic and more dynamic. Tougher creatures are not afraid to feint at times, perhaps raising a sword and tricking the player into parrying, only to surprise with a sneaky boot to the face. These moments test the player's ability to break free of instinct and muscle memory, yet again keeping would-be heroes on their toes.  The more intense combat is appreciated, but it doesn't come without its share of fresh grievances. For one, the difficulty spikes can become quite a surprise once the first "real" boss has been defeated, and the need to grind increases exponentially as a result. Enemies do far greater damage than usual, even with decent armor, and it's not long before they get access to powerful elemental weapons that sap one's life swiftly. Not to mention, the shield becomes practically useless in the latter stages of the game, as almost every single enemy will attack through it and do major damage. This wouldn't be problem if it didn't happen so quickly, encouraging players early on to start a whole new game while retaining their character progress, just so they can be strong enough the second time around.  Fortunately, players do still keep all their equipment, levels, and boosted skills upon death, respawning into a new "Bloodline" to begin each quest anew. After all, nobody is expected to beat Infinity Blade's bosses on the first encounter, with a potentially infinite cycle of death keeping players going until they're strong enough to conquer the latest challenge. Instead of simply going through a palace and defeating the God King, players must this time go through a castle with multiple paths, taking down over four major Deathless before rescuing a "man" known as the Worker of Secrets. As it was with everybody's favorite God King, the defeat of any one of these Deathless is accompanied by a sense of jubilant satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment, especially if it's one that's put you in the ground several times running.  Outside of combat, there is now a ridiculous amount of new equipment to find, alongside old favorites like the Holiday Helm and Ladyfinger. As before, each piece of equipment collects experience points which are drained into the player characters' XP pool, allowing him to level up until the equipped item is "Mastered" and can gather no more. The balance between collecting powerful gear while collecting experience points remains, and with so much more stuff to grab, dedicated gamers will take a damn long time before having a hero at maximum capacity.  Weapons are now split into three types, with the familiar sword and shield being joined by dual blades and heavy weapons. Dual blades attack more swiftly, allowing for greater combos, and allow the player to duck incoming attacks rather than block them. Heavy weapons include axes and maces, and deal huge amounts of damage. Players won't be able to dodge with heavy weaponry, but can block attacks in multiple directions to better stagger the opponent. Gear now comes with various shaped slots that can be fitted with gems, because we need even more loot to gather. Gems possess extra perks, such as improved item drops, elemental damage, or greater defense bonuses, and can fit into any slot of the corresponding shape. They can also be removed from discarded weapons at the cost of gold.  The inventory has been given a slight overhaul, with items now split into better category menus for easier browsing. More powerful items are bought with in-game gold, which can be purchased for real-world money or earned honestly throughout the course of battle. New "supply" items, such as health regen potions and prize wheels, provide a little more aid and can -- if bought for a very high price -- make the boss fights far less difficult. As if that wasn't enough, there are new locked chests that can be opened by finding keys in the game world. It's a small addition, but the fact it was tossed in just to make things interesting speaks volumes about how serious ChAIR took this sequel.  At first glance, those unfamiliar with the game will think Infinity Blade II is more of the same, but the sheer level of improvements made to every facet of the game is quite staggering. ChAIR could have likely released little more than a glorified Infinity Blade with a few cosmetic changes and gotten away with it, but Infinity Blade II has expanded and deepened to a laudable degree. Battles are tougher, exploration feels less linear, and new items to discover make a game that feels much more like a role-playing adventure then ever before. Few console sequels could claim such consistent and thorough improvement, let alone an iOS one.  Of course, no Infinity Blade II review could be complete without a mention of the graphics, which are more gorgeous than ever. When not played on an iPhone 4-S, it has to be said that the animation can get a little choppy, but rarely does it take away from just how beautiful everything looks. The only time the framerate truly aggravates is when the obnoxious Game Center pop-up welcomes you back to the game in the middle of a fight and completely throws the timing off, otherwise I had few issues on a humble iPod Touch 3G. Infinity Blade's delightfully bleak artistic style has returned in full force, with a series of wonderfully decrepit environments and a selection of monsters that range from intimidating to utterly bizarre. Weapons and armor are a sight to behold as well, coming in a variety of weird and often ridiculous fashions. It takes a real man to roll up to an immortal demi-god wearing only a metal Santa mask and a loincloth, but players can do it if they so desire.  Gamers who were not sold on the original's "Punch Out!!! with swords" gameplay will likely remain unimpressed with Infinity Blade II, but fans are sure to be completely thrilled by the amount of upgrades and improvements on offer, not to mention the developments of its increasingly enigmatic story. The sudden upshot in difficulty can take one by surprise, but the flexibility allowed when restarting Bloodlines means that it's never a real issue. Otherwise, this is the same kind of great combat found in last year's title, but with absolutely everything ramped up to magnificent degrees. If Infinity Blade was proof that mobile games could be taken seriously, then Infinity Blade II is that very same proof biting any and all detractors on the genitals.
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When our future selves look back on the time mobile gaming truly earned its place in this industry, there is no doubt that Infinity Blade will be seen as the first major turning point. Its critical acclaim and commercial succ...

Talking to Women about Videogames: Going mainstream

Oct 25 // Jonathan Holmes
Probably the most common reason why people want tech and gaming to gain acceptance is the desire to be accepted. Most people want to be normal, to be one of the gang/herd/team, to avoid stigmatization and ostracization, and to gain a breezy, criticism-free, friction-less life. When gaming rubs up against the mainstream media and culture, there tends to be a lot of friction, which leaves fans of videogames feeling burned. That friction often comes in the form of shaming fans of videogames by calling them immature or "stunted." That's part of why it's so easy to sell the Xbox 360 to teenagers as something more "grown up" than the Wii console. Teenagers hate being thought of as kids anyway, so the last thing they want is "kid-friendly" game console. Move up a few years and the pattern continues. I know quite a few people in their mid-20s who bought a PS3 because it was more "adult" than their "teen-bait" Xbox 360. I know even more people traded in their PS3s for Wiis once they hit their 30s. They've decided to "move on from bachelorhood, spending hours gaming alone in their basements," and to start families where they still game but only a couple of times a week and only as a brood.  Come to think of it, a few of those people have kids who are just turning 10 and 11, and naturally, those kids are now begging to "upgrade" their Wii to Xbox 360 or a PS3 this Christmas. With that, the cycle starts again. Though all their choices are different, all these people are running from the same thing: the idea that there is something "age inappropriate" about the games they're playing. Generally speaking, you don't see that kind of age-connected stigma to Apple products, or any stigma at all for that matter. Apple products (and the games people play on them) are more or less considered to be universally appealing and "appropriate" regardless of your age, gender, or cultural background. The crafting of that brand was no small feat, but once you have that brand reputation, it's very easy to start a "blockbuster" chain reaction. When everyone thinks that everyone is supposed to like something, then everybody suddenly wants one. That's why so many ads brag that their film is the "#1 movie in America." Once people hear that something is #1, they feel that it must be the best. Otherwise, why would everyone go and see it, right? The more people believe that the movie is #1, the more people will see it, which will lead to more people's thinking it's worth seeing, and so forth. That's just as true for phones and computers and videogame consoles as it is for movies. That's why companies like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft fight so hard for mainstream acceptance. They want that built-in mind share because that's where the money is. If they can convince people that they can become better human beings by associating with their products, then they can pretty much write their own checks. It's especially interesting to me when this plan backfires, when people strongly do not want tech and videogames to go mass market. There are people who hate how Apple, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all had their moments where they were beloved by the mainstream. Isn't that weird? Why do they care? My guess is that they have fallen into the trap of counter-conformity and have come to believe that the stigma carried by their respective interests is actually a badge of honor. It makes sense that if you're mocked by the majority for your interests on a regular basis, then you'll eventually come to hate the majority. If you've come to hate the majority, then of course you're going to want hate what the majority loves and further embrace the things that caused you to be shunned in the first place. Is that how hipsters are born? I'm not sure, but I can tell you what I've observed.  With videogame hipsters, there seems to be a solid progression. At first, budding hipsters looks to separate themselves from the mainstream by shunning games with mass market appeal like Mario and Angry Birds. From there, they often develop a hatred of Halo, Call of Duty, and Resident Evil, and they instead choose to embrace only small indie titles or obscure classics. From there, I've seen gaming hipsters go full circle into loving Mario again or reject all conventional games for text adventures or games that are made on a strictly non-profit basis. One thing I have never seen is a gaming hipster who wasn't missing out on some great games due to his obsession with keeping up his image. As for me, I'll admit that I have an agenda of my own. I hate it whenever anyone says that something worthwhile is only appropriate for people of a certain age, gender, or other demographic. It's not because of how I think their opinion may reflect on me but rather how their opinion limits them from appreciating something that deserves respect. When you say something is a chick flick, a kiddie game, or butt-rock, it implies that the thing in question is not truly worthwhile.  That's why I am quick to point out to people who say that videogames are just for "boys" or "nerds" that they too enjoy videogames. I'll remind them that, at the very least, they must have enjoyed a game of PC Solitaire and then work from there. Again, I'm not here to establish that it's OK to be a "gamer." In fact, there is nothing I'd like more than to show both "gamers" and "non-gamers" that those brands shouldn't exist. Your level of interest in videogames should rightfully have nothing to do with how you define yourself. Once it does, you'll inevitably fall into the trap of either being a blockbuster chaser or a first-class hipster. What matters is tossing out your preconceived notions and biases and honestly looking at the world around you. To do otherwise is to shortchange yourself out of really... living. I don't mean to sound judgmental or to have overly high expectations. I know that videogame culture as a whole is currently dominated by products made to sell death, darkness, and war (with some occasional bouts of nostalgia and dancing). Based on that that, I understand why so many people assume that games aren't for them, which in turn leads to game publishers and developers to not even bother trying to make games for people who don't already like what gaming has to offer.. It's an ugly pattern that keeps gaming and society as a whole from reaching its full potential. That's why I'm happy that Steve Jobs worked so hard to show the world that technology (and the videogame industry that's associated with it) is potentially for everybody. It's not because he helped me to feel like less of a nerd. It's because it's just... true. Technology is for everyone! Everything is potential for everyone, as long as we are willing to keep an open mind and to not limit our options. Apple may have used some trendy tricks and slick marketing to show the world that truth, but if that's what it takes for our current model of human evolution to get with the program, then so be it.  OK, enough out of me. What do you think? Does it matter to you what the mainstream thinks of technology and videogames? When was the last time you said, "You dun be a gamer now gurl"? Please tell me it was today. If not, it's not too late. Turn to the person closest to you, let the words out, and make that change. Past Episodes: Talking to Women about Videogames: 3DS 2nd nub panic Talking to Women about Videogames: Gears 3 isn't perfect? Talking to Women about Videogames: Sexy vs. sexist? Talking to Women about Videogames: What makes you want? TtWaV teaser: Sony's online sucks now? Talking to Women about Videogames: I'm not a real gamer? Talking to Women about Videogames: Fear for the future
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[Talking to Women about Videogames is a series where Jonathan Holmes talks to different people who are women about the biggest videogame news of the week for some reason.] Steve Jobs spent countless hours working t...


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