Hello gamers. When I left you last I was being simultaneously tag-teamed by male pattern baldness and astigmatism. While neither of those things have changed, I have come to accept them as part of me and I've found peace. Aging is an unavoidable fate and I'd rather embrace my 'old age' than fight it. Next month I'll be 30 years old, which I'm cool with. In reality, I'm about as crabby as a 60 year old so I'm way ahead of the maturity curve in that respect.
Here are some games that have been taking up my time as of late. It's hard to believe that in a 30 day period (between January and February no less) I played three AAA games that all blew me away in vastly different ways. Modern-day classics, people. As I look at what's in store for the rest of 2011, it only gets better and brighter. We live in truly amazing times where companies are willing to battle each other with millions of dollars just for our entertainment. Let's revel in it for a bit, shall we?
Batman: The Brave and the Bold Wii >>
Around the time when Catman showed up, I had to pause for a moment and use my detective skills to carefully retrace the steps that lead me to buy Batman: The Brave and the Bold
. My investigation revealed that I had had my Dark Knight
and Arkham Asylum
blinders on when I saw it on the shelf and therefore had made a slightly ignorant purchase. The Brave and the Bold
, besides sounding like a soap opera, is based on the cartoon series by the same name and mirrors the tone of the original 1960's TV show. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you like your Batman a little on the wacky side. The dialog is totally cringeworthy and the various plot-lines are downright ridiculous. A stolen gem that can turn people into cats, you say? Sure, just let me grab my utility belt.
The B & the B
is a side-scrolling beat 'em up with fairly simple controls and beautifully animated hand drawn sprites. It's also a kids game, I came to find out. That's not a term I like to use much because I think a lot of games are mislabeled as such, but make no mistake, this was most definitely made for children. The difficulty falls somewhere between "cream puff" and "just keep pressing A". Like Kirby's Epic Yarn
, the penalty for dying is not losing a life but rather a miniscule reduction in points. This 'no consequence' style of play is great for kids but leaves the Dark-Knight-loving adult that I am with a serious case of blue balls. There are definitely aspects of this game I enjoy but I may not be motivated to finish it until I have children of my own.
BUY IT if you've got a gaggle of antsy kids in the house and they've already watched all the Power Rangers DVDs. AVOID IT if you thought Batman was a lot cooler before he started hanging out with smart ass 12 year olds.
DJ Hero 2 Xbox 360 >>
I'll be the first to admit that I did a happy dance when Activision announced it was putting an end to the Hero
franchises. I've worked in video game retail long enough to witness both the rise and fall of the music genre and I lay 90% of the blame solely at their feet. While the original DJ Hero
was an interesting twist on the classic beat-matching genre, I still walked away from it soured by the poor music choices and stiff gameplay. It felt like the product of a 30 minute meeting and a dry erase board. Nevertheless, I think killing off the DJ Hero
series may have been premature now that I've played the sequel.
Thankfully, DJ Hero 2
made a number of improvements that helped turn this game completely around - the most significant being the soundtrack. Not only are the songs WAY better than the original game but the mixes smoothly transition into one another, making it feel more like a set than just a bunch of individual tracks. A few duds snuck in there but more often than not you'll be bobbing your head and pursing your lips as you scratch to the beat. While to the untrained eye the gameplay might seem exactly like the original, there are a multitude of tiny tweaks that really give the player a lot of freedom. It's entirely possible that a song played by two different people will end up sounding vastly different, which at its core is the very concept of being a DJ, right?
BUY IT because it's gathering dust in the bargain bin with a giant 'REDUCED PRICE' sticker on it. AVOID IT if you get angry and confused when someone plays two different songs at the same time.
Dead Space 2 Xbox 360 >>
I should probably preface this by saying that I absolutely loved the first Dead Space
. I played through it multiple times and I found it to be a wonderful blend of action and horror. The focus on strategic dismemberment and the organic HUD built into the main character design both went a long way in making it a unique experience. This made me somewhat wary of the sequel especially when I heard that multiplayer was being added. Oftentimes the elements of what made a game classic get diluted by a 'bigger is better' mentality. It gives me great joy to say that Dead Space 2
is exactly the sequel I was hoping for. The things I mentioned above were left alone, backtracking was thrown out completely and the storytelling was told through a much more personal perspective.
The story is one that plays off Isaac Clarke's two realities - the one that he's suffering through physically and the one in his mind. The developer uses these to play off each other, often forcing the player to second guess their decisions, just like Isaac would. Giving him a voice could have blown up in their face but in the end it worked out beautifully. Dead Space 2
has some of the most natural voice acting I've heard in a while, complemented by a great script. Like any decent horror game, lighting is very important and it is used to great effect here. There are many times when a strobing digital advertisement on the wall is the only source of light. When a room is bathed in bright eye-catching colors, it's an unsettling contrast to the extreme violence that is taking place within it. This makes sense seeing as the Sprawl is a far more urban area than the Ishimura was, making places like the Unitology church and the pre-school some of my favorite sections of the game.
BUY IT if you love to watch sci-fi and horror hop into bed with each other and bump uglies. AVOID IT if you're a horror snob who prefers spotty combat and WTF storytelling.
Bionic Commando Rearmed Xbox LIVE Arcade >>
First, a little backstory - Bionic Commando Rearmed
is a remake of an NES game that came out in 1988. I bought the original cartridge from a friend in 1st grade for $5. We discussed the transaction on the previous day and chose a meeting place - the bathroom. Though we were unaware at the time, we nailed the 'shady drug deal' look perfectly. We snuck away from the group, made sure no one was around and quickly made the exchange. It was all pretty exhilarating for me, being an 8 year old and all. When I got home later that day, I found the game I had traded my lunch money for was a brutal confidence-destroying monster. I barely got past the first stage before I cast it aside and moved onto something else. Jump to the year 2010. Adult me noticed a sale on Xbox LIVE and downloaded the remake for a cool $5. Oh no, here we go again.
I'll tell you one thing, they did not mess with the difficulty at all. The major hurdle you have to get over is the lack of a jump. In it's place is a surprisingly versatile bionic arm, though using it to its full effect took time. After many deaths I finally got the 'hang' of it, launching my character to great heights and even blocking bullets with my robotic appendage. The gameplay ended up growing on me and became more fun as I slowly upgraded my character. The team at GRIN did a great job of updating a classic game while keeping its soul intact. The bastards that defiled TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-shelled
should take note. Fuck those guys.
BUY IT if you've often fantasized about what it would be like to never jump again. AVOID IT if you're prone to controller throwing, cat kicking, or spousal abuse.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds Xbox 360 >> [Disclaimer: This is the opinion of a casual fighting game player. Your complaints about character balance and tiers should be saved for the official forums of the game they pertain to. Also, I use Sentinel.]
Who else is surprised this game even exists? With the Marvel license getting tossed around and whored out over the last 10 years, I was beginning to lose hope that it would ever find its way back to Capcom. Luckily it did and the end result is something truly wonderful. I'm a sucker for fighting game mash-ups like Super Smash Bros
so the lean towards simplified controls and unified super moves sings to my button-mashing heart. Plus, watching someone like Arthur from Ghost and Goblins
try to take down a freak like the M.O.D.O.K. is equal parts endearing and ridiculous.
Speaking of characters, there's a startling amount of variety packed into this pared down cast. No two characters play the exact same way which makes it easy to find at least a few that'll tickle your fancy. A few characters that generated an eye-roll from me when announced are now comfortably nestled in my stable of favorites. If you had asked me a few weeks ago if I planned on using She-Hulk, I would have laughed and politely referred to her as a waste of a slot. Now my eyes have been opened to her massive feminine abilities and I rarely put a team together that she isn't the captain of. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.
BUY IT if the idea of Mike Haggar beating Spider-Man over the head with a lead pipe makes you smile. AVOID IT if the frame data you collected proves that [character X] is completely overpowered and should be banned from all subsequent tournaments until a patch is released.
Bulletstorm Xbox 360 >>
It's no secret that I love Bulletstorm
. I've had it perched at the top of my most wanted list since I got a small taste of it last fall. It was a largely unknown game but I really wanted it to do well so I kept reminding all my friends about it. It can best be described as an FPS playground and is a refreshing take on a genre currently overpopulated by Call of Duty
clones. Armed with some familiar weaponry, a handy leash and a boot, you're free to toss enemies to and fro, killing them in the most creative way possible. You're encouraged to use the environment and crazy secondary-fire modes too to maximize your points and get special bonuses. These 'Skillshot' points are used at various checkpoints throughout the game (called Drop Kits) to buy ammo and upgrade your arsenal. The existence of the Drop Kits might have seemed weird if they weren't woven into the story itself.
Yeah, story! If you thought this game would boil down to men yelling various made-up curse words at each other you'd only be half right. The script was penned by Rick Remender, better known for his work on the lovely Fear Agent
comic, and Bulletstorm
shares more than a few similarities with it. You play a bounty hunter named Grayson Hunt who is on a revenge mission aided by his half-cyborg buddy Ishi. You crash land on a destroyed resort planet overrun by cannibals and freaks who serve as the paint for your repeated artistic smiting. If the screenshots haven't made it clear enough, Bulletstorm
is an incredibly beautiful game sporting some really clever level design. If you were turned off by the demo's 'score attack' set-up, I encourage you to play the single-player campaign. It may surprise you.
BUY IT if you feel the current FPS scene could use a collective shot of creativity, right in the ass. AVOID IT if the phrase "Butter-dick Jones and his Wonderful Asshole Machine" makes you physically ill or angry for whatever reason.
That's all folks! Feel free to let me know what you thought about some of these games in the comments. After all, these are just the thoughts of one man. I will have a 3DS in my possession by the time my next issue comes out and I look forward to testing out some of the launch titles. It's been a while since I've gotten my hands on some fresh new hardware and I am pumped! Thanks for reading!
LOOK WHO CAME: