Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

“Outland” is punishing, and not in the way you think.

Friday, November 11th, 2011

I beat Outland, and overall I really liked it (I’m a huge fan of Ikaruga). I almost gave up a few times, however, because some of the boss fights are frustrating. The main reason? No halfway checkpoints! Actually, that’s not even accurate, it’s that the checkpoints come before a long stretch of nothing for some inexplicable reason. It’s like putting a checkpoint before a cutscene. Let me show you.

There’s a spider boss, but when you start the section you have to run down a hallway, then complete a quick “hit two switches” section. It might be a little tricky the first time, but it’s no big deal.  After that the spider drops down, and you have to run through a bunch more stuff to get to the real fight. It takes a minute and a half to get there in this video, and he’s fast:

1:30 may not sound like a lot of time, but chances are it’s going to take you multiple tries to beat this boss.  You’re going to spend 1:30 just to get to the part where you die trying to figure out the patterns. It took me four or five tries, I don’t remember. It’s frustrating, more than it is actual wasted time, and it’s needless. Just add a checkpoint there!

Example two is the final boss in the game, so don’t watch the whole video if you don’t want to spoil it (watch the first 45 seconds).

Thirty seconds of climbing up a ladder, every time you restart! Then another 15 seconds for the fight to begin. Again, not a ton of actual time, but imagine climbing that ladder ten times. If they wanted that for dramatic effect, fine, show that the first time you load the game, but if you die or restart, have a temporary checkpoint at the top of the ladder!

I don’t mind if the game is hard. Hell, you can even make the game harder, just stop punishing me by making me replay these boring sections!

Some quick XBLA/Indie Game reviews (LIMBO, Costume Quest, etc.)

Friday, December 31st, 2010

I haven’t written any reviews in a while, so here are some quick ones:


Really fantastic game, the art style is great. It’s funny how disturbing some parts of it are even though you can’t really see what’s happening. Ripping off a spider’s leg makes you squeamish, though it’s largely in your imagination. I haven’t gotten the “Complete the game in one sitting with five or less deaths” achievement, and don’t know that I’ll try. I wish they had made it “complete all chapters without dying” — that way you could do it in chunks, and replay any chapter you messed up.

Costume Quest: Psychonauts is one of my favorite games, and I was really looking forward to this. I loved it. Yes, it was easy, and yes, the battles were a bit repetitive, but I didn’t really mind. The game was adorable, and that rainbow unicorn? Amazing. And I’ll never get tired of seeing the Statue of Liberty’s special attack animation. I think they should have required the use of certain costumes in some boss battles, and also required certain battle stamps to win. I don’t mean they’d tell you which to use, I mean you’d have to figure out that a certain special attack was the key to winning. That would have changed up the battles enough I think, and added more strategy to it.

Costume Quest: Grubbins on Ice DLC I also got the DLC pack. I had hoped that they would have improved some things and changed up the combat a bit, but they didn’t. It came out so quickly that they probably had it almost ready to go right when CQ first launched. I don’t mind supporting Double Fine, but it was really just more of the same, so I’m not sure it was worth $5 (I completed it in one sitting).

Trials HD: Really fun but holy shit hard later on. I was able to get most of the achievements, which I’m pretty proud of, especially “Unyielding” where you must complete it using only gas/brake, no “leaning.”

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom: Love it. Got all the achievements, wish there were more levels. Really great concept, and it would be perfect for user-created levels. (Also, I just bought it again on Steam for 49 cents! BUY IT if it’s still on sale! Crazy!)

Zeno Clash Ultimate Edition: Weird game, love the style, had fun playing it, but no achievements in the main game? Really? Come onnnnn.

‘Splosion Man: Great game, love the co-op.

Just bought Hydro Thunder Hurricane (fun so far!), and am looking forward to Ilomilo and Stacking.

Kodu Game Lab is out! Remember Kodu? Anyone?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


Kodu, you may remember, is the game programming tool shown at CES by “actual 12-year-old girl,” Sparrow. It was cartoony and cute and bright, and many people wrote it off instantly: “LBP rip-off!”, “Stupid rock-carrying game?!”, and so on. I really wanted to try it out, and now, apparently, it’s out. I say apparently because it’s gotten almost no press, and the only way I found out was by randomly browsing the Community Games channel and seeing it there. (Okay, Joystiq and other sites did post about it, but I had relatives over for the past two weeks so maybe I just missed it.) Still, after the CES demo I thought its release would be a much bigger event, and it would show up somewhere on the Xbox dashboard (Spotlight). It’s too bad it wasn’t released on XBLA rather than the CG channel, the place where no one dares tread.

Anyway, I’ve been playing around with it for the past few days, and it’s great! You really can create all sorts of games, from FPSs, to side-scrollers, to racing games. The interface is very well designed, for the most part, using nested pie menus for all of the actions/objects. There are lots of different lighting options and ground materials to help change the look of your games, so don’t think everything created has to be blue-skies-and-rainbows. The programming is easy, but surprisingly deep if you learn how everything works. Because it was initially designed for kids, it’s also very fast. You can go from editing your level to playing it in under a second.

I was programming a dual-stick shooter for a video I hope to put up, and my roommate started watching. “What happens when you run into the UFOs?” he asked.
“They blow up and damage your ship.”
“Is that what always happens?”
“Well no, that’s what I made them do. I can program it to do whatever. I can make them…turn into apples, if I wanted to.”
“Do it!” Literally twenty seconds later I had it working that way, just for fun. The Kode (yes, I just called it that):
WHEN bump puck DO vanish me
WHEN bump puck DO create apple

Crazy how simple it can be, isn’t it?

There are definitely limitations though. One of my biggest complaints is that not every object has every option available to it — you can create a tree that shoots missiles, but a soccer ball can’t follow a path the way lights and bots can. I was hoping each object would simply look different, and have sliders set differently (bounciness, speed, etc.), but could be programmed however you want. If you like how one vehicle controls, but wished you could use a different 3D model, you’re out of luck. But this is where extreme creativity shines. With these limitations, how far can you take it? Some game types seem impossible, but someone will figure out how to make it work. Kodu comes with a bunch of samples and prebuilt games, so you can learn how the more advanced games are programmed (they’re all editable). Be sure to check out “gawlf” to see how they brilliantly used the health bar to act as your swing power meter.

Did I mention it’s only five dollars, which is a steal? I easily would have paid $20, and with a more robust system it could have been a retail game. I should mention that Kodu does a pretty poor job at introducing you to the game. They desperately need a “play tutorials” button on the main menu, with a list of tutorials that get checked off as you go along, each one with a hint system (where’s Clippy when you need him?*). There are just three tutorials that come with Kodu, mixed in with the other games, and they don’t actually explain anything. I guess they thought it was so well designed it didn’t need any explanation. So I recommend watching some video tutorials (online — none are included) first to get an idea of it before you jump in (I hope to have some tutorials up in the near future).

You won’t be able to make the next Gears of War, and you won’t even be able to make exactly the arcade game you had in mind, but new ideas will appear, and you’ll have fun doing it. If you have kids, buy Kodu. Even if they can’t use it on their own, you can create things with them. If you’ve ever had a game idea of your own, buy Kodu. It’s designed to get you thinking like a programmer, and it succeeds.

Other Notes:
Right now game sharing sucks — you have to be friends with the person, and both be running Kodu at the same time. They are working on a patch though, which will add three dedicated servers! There’s also a bug where levels seem to get deleted — if it happens, restart Kodu and it might fix it (more info here). The patch will also fix this and other issues.
The patch is out! Delete Kodu and re-download if you don’t have it (there’s no “update” function).

Kodu fan forum
Audio interview with Matt MacLaurin — back when it was called Boku.
The Kodu Blog

* Please don’t include Clippy. In anything. Ever.

Totally addicted to Ninjatown (DS)

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

ninjatown-dsNinjatown is a tower defense game for the Nintendo DS, starring a whole bunch of Shawnimals characters. The whole game is absolutely adorable, with great animations, and lots of strategy. I was expecting to be able to play this while listening to music or podcasts, but it’s surprisingly involved. If even one enemy gets through, you won’t get an A. In stages where you’re protecting an object, just one strike from an enemy will take you down to a B rank. The enemies are fast, so you need to constantly be scrolling around the map watching for anyone who breaks through your defense, and be ready with your special powers (you can use wind to blow enemies back, or fry them, etc.). Here’s a quick summary of the game by the developer:

You step into the shoes of Ol’ Master Ninja, tasked with defending Ninjatown from waves of enemies trying to make their way through the town. To stop them, you construct Ninja Huts along their path, from which Ninjas will emerge to engage the enemy. Building each hut costs you Ninja Star Cookies, the currency of Ninjatown, and as you defeat enemies, you earn more cookies. You then re-invest these cookies into building and upgrading huts to deal with the ever increasing waves of enemies. You can also build something we call Modifier Buildings, that will endow any adjacent huts with a special ability. These include buildings like the Training Dojo, which can increase your attack power, or the Tea Shop, which makes your units move faster.

That’s only the basics though, among the new gameplay elements we introduce are Ol’ Master Ninja (OMN) Powers, which are unlocked throughout the game and help to supplement your defensive abilities. These give you powers like Get Off My Lawn, where the player blows into the microphone to push enemies around on the map, or Magnifryer, which lets you direct a beam of scorching hot light on your enemies.

The ninja huts you build are what you’d expect — slow powerful ninjas, fast weak ones, snipers, ice/fire ninjas, and so on. There are also building modifiers, which raise the attack power of the surrounding ninjas, increase their range, or get you more cookies (money). You can upgrade the huts, but that takes time, so you need to do it between waves, or hope you have enough ninjas out there while upgrading.

I just beat the game, getting A ranks on every stage (with the help of strategies on a couple stages). It’s an incredibly fun game, and its biggest fault is its length! It’s not that it’s so short, but it’s so much fun it leaves you wanting more, and there were so many obvious, easy ways to extend it!

Review: Guitar Hero World Tour

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

guitar-hero-world-tour-8Why has it taken me this long to post a review for GHWT? Is it because:

  1. I didn’t buy it until just now, because I’ve been broke
  2. the blistering speed of the new songs melded my hands to the guitar, leaving me unable to use a computer keyboard
  3. I’ve been so addicted to GHtunes that I’ve spent every moment creating and playing new songs
  4. although we bought it on day one, it’s not very good so we haven’t beaten it yet, and instead simply unlocked all the songs with a cheatcode and played the ones we liked in quickplay, then went back to RB2

Yes, it’s the last one (though I’ve played it more than that). How can a game that seems almost identical to RB be so much worse? It’s the little things…

Quick “Rock Band 2” Review

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Rock BandYesterday, I got up and played Rock Band 2 from around 8am until 10pm, with a few breaks to eat. I still have a lot to unlock. My roommates were gone, so I played the whole thing Solo — which is a great new feature. World Tour can be played alone, and since I’m pretty good, I was able to amass stars and fans very quickly, which meant new venues kept unlocking and I didn’t have to replay many songs.

There are a lot of features I have yet to try, but let me run down some of the biggest improvements (and worst removals) Harmonix has made, and suggest some more changes. I haven’t played online at all, so I can’t comment on that, nor do I have any of the new instruments. I’m calling this a “quick” review only because I’m focusing on specific things that matter to us RB-obsessed players, not reviewing every part of the game.

Dark Sector, and Poor Game Design

Monday, May 19th, 2008

darksector_1.jpgMy roommate just signed up for GameFly, and got Dark Sector. I was never really all that interested in the game, but I figured I might as well play it since he’s only renting it. I’m not going to write a full review since I haven’t finished it (and probably never will), but I want to talk about a few things. For the record, I got to chapter 7 (out of 10) before I stopped playing.

Quick Thoughts

Dark Sector isn’t a terrible game if you’re a fan of the genre, but there are a lot of weaknesses. Enemies respawn far too often, which amounts to you ducking behind a wall for ten minutes shooting the same enemies. It copies Gears of War too much, including things that don’t make sense: as GiantBomb pointed out, your running and sprinting speed is the same as GoW — which makes no sense here as Hayden (your character) is a skinny guy, not a giant man in armor.

The “glaive” is great, and is one of the only things that sets this game apart. It’s a blade that acts as a boomerang; throw it to slice enemies in half, and it’ll come back to you. You’ll gain an “aftertouch” ability which lets you slow down time and actually direct the glaive mid-flight, which is what I spent most of the game doing.

Aside from that it’s a pretty standard shooter.


Podcast #1 – Space Invaders Extreme, Nanostray 2

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

We finally got on the bandwagon! I’ve been really busy lately, so I haven’t had time to make videos or write reviews, but I really wanted to talk about these two DS games. I got my friend Neofletcher to do a podcast with me, since he’s also obsessed with the DS.

Both of these podcasts are very in-depth (i.e., LONG), and we really just did them for fun. We’ll try to make future podcasts shorter. Originally it was going to be a single podcast, but I decided to split it in two because of the length.

See videos for both games at the bottom of this post.

Part 1: Space Invaders Extreme (Tommy Gun + Neofletcher)

This is an update to Space Invaders, similar to what they did with Pac-Man CE on Live Arcade. New enemies, new weapons, and best of all, the whole game thumps to the music (think Rez, Lumines)! As of this recording it’s an import, but it’s coming to the US on June 17th.

20 minutes, 8MB:

Download Podcast

Corrections and Additional Info:
It’s called “Fever Time” not “Frenzy.”

I found out that the bosses in the PSP version are not shrunk down, it actually is a differently shaped field than on the DS, although they remove the borders on the PSP to give it slightly more height than the main PSP levels.

Part 2: Nanostray 2 (Tommy Gun + Neofletcher)

A sequel, this is a very traditional shmup (more so than Nanostray 1). Has D-pad control or touch-screen control.

43 minutes, 17MB:

Download Podcast


Review: “Project: Snowblind” (Xbox, PS2, PC)

Thursday, February 7th, 2008


Quick Summary:
Project: Snowblind is an FPS that’s essentially Deus Ex 3, but they changed the name and focused more on standard FPS action. It’s a mostly linear game with lots of weapons, and a few “powers” you can use.

I loved Deus Ex, but halfway through my save file got corrupted, and I couldn’t finish it. I really love cyberpunk, so this game really interested me. After I beat it, I made some videos of it, and decided I might as well review it while I was at it. This was about a year ago, and all this content has been sitting on my hard drive since then. So, while this review was mostly done, keep in mind that I may have left some things out. Links to both videos are in the review below.


Review: “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”

Friday, January 4th, 2008

pop-sot125.jpgWith the writer’s strike still on, I’ve had more time to play games, and I just beat this game a few minutes ago. It got such great reviews that I’ve wanted to play it for a while. After finishing it, do I now wish I had a magic dagger that would let me rewind time to avoid ever playing it?

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is the first of the Sands trilogy. You play as the Prince, with the ability to rewind time. It contains 3rd person platforming and puzzle solving, as well as sword-based combat.