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's worth it!
April was notable in that most of what we covered was smaller-scale and released through digital channels rather than at retail. We had Dead Island Riptide, sure, but there was also the likes of Don't Starveand Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Speaking of which, did you notice that video reviews are back? There's going to be plenty more of those on the way.
Which games released in April, if any, decimated your free time?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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