Category Archives: Windows PC

Street Fighter V Review

SF5Street Fighter V (Available on PC and PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Dimps & Capcom
Release Date: February 16th, 2016

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Street Fighter V T for teens because of suggestive themes, violence, and mild language. The series has its own unique art style, and isn’t overly realistic in its depictions of violence and everything is over the top. The suggestive themes are mainly because of the scantily clad female fighters, but that too isn’t as far reaching as some other fighters out there. Honestly if you’re old enough to understand how to play fighting games, you’re old enough for Street Fighter V.

Plays Like: I’d hate to say that if you’ve played one Street Fighter you’ve played them all because that would be a flat out lie, but the core gameplay mechanics and structure have remained largely the same since the original Street Fighter II. Yes the series has greatly evolved since then to introduce advanced combos, parrying, and so many other concepts, but those original gameplay mechanics like best of three rounds, unique joystick motions to pull off special moves, and more are still featured here. Street Fighter V is a wonderfully compelling game that will take hours upon hours of your time to get competent at, and will takes years to master.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review copy to play in advance of the official release date. I played through the entire story mode, I played a bunch of versus matches locally, and got destroyed online.

It has been since the Super Nintendo that a Street Fighter was exclusive to a home console. That sure didn’t last long back then before the series hit the Genesis, and every other platform known to man shortly afterwards, but for a short period of time Street Fighter II was only available on the SNES, and that changed the landscape of the console wars forever considering how big of a success Street Fighter II was in the arcades.

Today Capcom and Sony have partnered up to bring Street Fighter V exclusively to the PlayStation 4. Yes it’s also getting released on PC at the same time, but having console exclusivity is a really big deal. Whether or not it helps further the divide between the PS4 and Xbox One is up for debate, but the fact that the PS4 will now become the de facto fighting game system of choice for fighting game fans the world over speaks volumes.

Having sat out Street Fighter IV for most of its existence means I’m reviewing this game having stepped away from the series after the Street Fighter II, III, and the Alpha series. Those series were incredibly influential in my understanding and enjoyment of fighting games. So does V have enough special to make me want to devote time, effort, and energy into the latest Capcom fighter? Let’s find out together!

SF5_5The Great:

The complete package. That’s the first thing I think of when I think of Street Fighter V. There were four different versions of Street Fighter IV, the original release also known as vanilla Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, and Ultra Street Fighter IV. Each of these games added new characters, costumes, backgrounds, and gameplay tweaks. The problem was, and one of the key reasons why I stayed away from that game for so long, is that if you missed out on the original release, you always felt like you were playing catch up. If you wanted the complete experience, it always felt like it was just out of reach.

With Street Fighter V, it’s clear that Capcom designed the game from the ground up to be upgradable. Capcom has built a game that will allow players to constantly add new characters, new costumes, new gameplay tweaks, and even new gameplay modes, without forcing the player to purchase an entirely new game. New gameplay features will be free to everyone via downloadable patches. Characters, costumes, and stages will be purchasable DLC, however you can use the in-game currency, Fight Money, to purchase these goods. Yes you can purchase the goods via the Season Pass, or real-world money (Zenny), but the fact the option is there to use an in-game currency makes all the difference in the world.

At launch Street Fighter V has 16 playable characters, with a nice roster of new characters and returning favorites from previous games in the series dating back all the way to the original Street Fighter. The line-up includes Ryu, Chun-Li, Nash, M. Bison, Cammy, Birdie, Ken, Necalli, Vega, R. Mika, Rashid, Karin, Zangief, Laura, Dhalsim, and F.A.N.G. First year DLC characters have been confirmed to include Alex, Guile, Balrog, Ibuki, Juri, and Urien. That’s quite a nice roster if I do say so myself, and who knows how this will play out in the years ahead.

The current gameplay modes include a Story Mode, Versus, Survival, Challenges, Training, Ranked Match, and Casual Match, but as I said before, there’s room for additional gameplay modes in the future. Capcom has already confirmed a Cinematic Story expansion will hit in June for free to all players. It’s what’s available right now, plus the promise of future support that ultimately makes this an exceptional fighter. The future looks exceptionally bright for this one.

SF5_4The Good:

  • Interesting story mode. Unlike traditional story modes where you fight through a lengthy roster of characters, here you battle your way through three or four opponents and that’s it. Each character has a very detailed, almost comic-book style infused cutscene-based storyline that details some part of their past leading up to the current events of the game. The overall storyline will be fleshed out in an update coming out this June, but it does act as a nice starter. The artwork is also fantastic, and will tickle the nostalgia bone of long-time fans of the series.
  • Online play is very responsive and the net code is great. Playing this prior to launch I had very little problems connecting to online matches, and there wasn’t any noticeable lag. I played through a bunch of matches and they all went off without a hitch.
  • The Capcom Fighters Network is awesome! It highlights where battles are happening all over the world, you can view player profiles, match statistics, designate rivals which allows you to keep an eye on their performance, register your friends and follow your favorite players. You can even find out about the latest tournament news, watch replays, and best of all, send battle invites out. Overall, this is a phenomenal way to keep everyone connected and up-to-date, which is crucial considering this is supposed to be the only version of Street Fighter V ever released. With this system, Capcom has created a key way of allowing them to update everyone in a nice, clean, and elegant manner. Hardcore fighting game fans are going to absolutely love this.
  • Combat is smooth, with good weight to the various characters, and the fighting feels tight and responsive. Classic Street Fighter moves are present throughout, however the new aspect to this iteration is the Variable or V-system. Each character has a V-Trigger, a V-Skill, and a V-Reversal. The V-Skill is completely different based on the character, some perform an offensive, defensive, or mobility enhancing move. V-Reversals are very similar to Alpha Counters in the Street Fighter Alpha series and allow a player to counter an incoming attack. They take some time to master, but can allow you a chance to start up a wicked combo. The V-Trigger works like Ultras from Street Fighter IV in that they’re designed to allow one player to turn the tide on the other. Once triggered they unlock a character’s true potential. They can make standard moves more powerful, and they can turn a super special move into an ultra-move. Take Ryu for example, if you have full V-stock and EX stock, you can trigger a Denjin Hadouken, by far his most powerful singular move. You may have noticed I said EX stock, and that’s right, you can keep stock of EX as well, which allow for more powerful version of standard special moves. Overall the system is fairly easy to get into, and robust enough that when coupled with the deep combo system, players should be able to spend countless hours seeing what’s possible.
  • The audio visual presentation is excellent. You can really tell they put the Unreal Engine 4.0 to good use here, and yes it’s true there’s a distinct style to the game that doesn’t go for realistic fighters, this is still the prettiest Street Fighter ever made. The backgrounds in particular look great, and the comic book-style cutscenes in the story mode are just great. The most important part, the entire game is running at 60 frames-per-second in wonderful 1080p resolution. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the new renditions of some of the classic tunes sound wonderful. Even the voice acting is pretty good, which really surprised me. Overall, it’s Street Fighter you know and love, but in glorious next-gen HD.
  • PS3 arcade sticks work! That may not be a big deal to some, but considering professional sticks are often around $150 and up, I can tell you many people will be extremely pleased with this aspect of the game.

SF5_3The So-So:

+/- The training mode is your basic training mode, where you can set some features like move displays, frame boxes, command inputs, etc. What it lacks is what made the training mode in Killer Instinct so exceptional on the Xbox One, it fails to teach you how to string combos together, or how to understand the fundamentals of the game. This won’t even be a blip on the radar of series veterans, but it is an important element missing for brand new players to the genre. Understanding the basics before getting online is crucial.

SF5_2The Bad:

  • While the game does offer a lot of options for fighting game fans, it feels a bit barebones at launch. The roster is nice, the backgrounds are great, however the story mode is over in a flash, and there’s not much else here except for online combat, the survival mode, or local versus multiplayer. Sure the future promises to increase the content dramatically, but for now, there’s nothing to unlock, and thus very little else to chew into outside online play. Mortal Kombat X felt much richer in terms of sheer content at launch.

SF5_1The Lowdown:

I have to admit that it was really nice being able to sit down, whip out the old arcade stick, and just lose myself to a fantastic Street Fighter. It feels like I haven’t done that in far too long, and that’s the truth. This is one I want to devote more time, effort, and energy on because it feels like it deserves it. This is an absolutely excellent game that is well worth the price of admission, and with the promise of no new Street Fighter V releases, and loads future content delivered directly through this one game, fans of the series may have just found the ultimate Street Fighter experience. If you like fighting games, honestly, this one’s a no-brainer and is likely already on your pre-order list.

Final Score: 9/10

Batman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC Review

BatgirlBatman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC (Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal
Release Date: July 14th, 2015

ESRB Rating: The DLC itself has not been rated by the ESRB, however Arkham Knight was rated M for mature because of mature themes, violence, and blood. The same is true for this downloadable content.

Plays Like: The core gameplay stays true to Arkham Knight, except this time around you play as Batgirl on her mission to rescue her father from the Joker. There is more emphasis on hacking various objects in order to take down enemies or solve puzzles, but the combat feels exactly the same as when Batman engages enemies. The game doesn’t take place in the same area as Arkham Knight, which is both interesting and refreshing.

Review Basis: I downloaded the DLC as part of the Season Pass on July 14th, and finished it an hour later. I spent another hour locating all of the hidden chattering teeth, jack-in-the-box, and balloons.

For the first time ever players can experience the breathtaking environments and tight combat system of the Arkham series as Batgirl. She’s joined by Robin as they try and rescue Jim Gordon from the Joker. It’s surprisingly fresh to play as Batgirl, even though her move-set and skills mimic those of Batman. The new location is interesting and fits the Joker’s personality perfectly. The ultimate question isn’t whether the DLC pack is fun, but rather is it worth the asking price.

Batgirl1The Great:

Being Batgirl. It might sound cheesy, but Batgirl was and remains one of the more interesting characters in the Batman family. She’s intelligent, powerful, and has a fantastic backstory. Just being able to play as Barbara Gordon is special, and the setup here allows her to shine. You get to see glimpses of the character she’ll become as Oracle after the Joker paralyzes her during the events of The Killing Joke. It’s just a shame we don’t have more time with Babs as there’s a lot more to her character, and an additional hour or two of content could have really bridged the gap between the DLC and the character she would eventually become. Either way, it’s still great being able to play as Batgirl.

Batgirl5The Good:

  • The setting is fantastic. An old abandoned amusement park makes this DLC feel distinctly different than Arkham Knight and is the absolute perfect setting for a Joker tale. It might not be the largest location set piece in the Arkham universe, but it feels self-contained and special, which is what you want from a DLC pack. Once the story progresses to the point where Batgirl has to rescue a series of hostages, it’s left up to the player which of the three locations to tackle first. While not fully open-world, it doesn’t break up the linearity of the DLC pack.
  • The same excellent combat you’ve come to expect from the series is featured here. While Batgirl has all unique animations, which look incredibly bad ass, the core gameplay is exactly the same as what you’ve experienced with Arkham Knight and the previous games in the series.

  • Barbara’s hacking skills are put to the test here, and her remote hacking device can be used from much farther away compared to Batman’s, but ultimately it does the exact same thing. To spice things up, the developers introduce several new elements that can be hacked so Babs can take down several enemies at once via an electrified floor panel, or maybe she can lure several enemies into a trap by hacking a terminal which will make lots of noise.

  • Harley Quinn in her Animated Series costume. That’s all sorts of win!

Batgirl2The So-So:

+/- If there’s one element that kind of disappointed me, more so than the length of the DLC, it’s the fact that there were so many missed opportunities. First off Tim Drake is Robin, I think it would have been really special to have had Jason Todd as Robin in this DLC because it would have allowed us to explore the character a little more. It could have also been interesting to have Dick Grayson as Robin, but alas no. I’m ok with Tim Drake, but they could have fleshed out the story of Babs and his budding romance. Instead we get awkward dialogue that doesn’t come through well at all. The other big missed opportunity is not being able to take the excellent looking Batgirl model out in any other portion of the game. There is no replay value here whatsoever so once you’re done locating the few collectables and max out all the easy-to-acquire trophies, you will never use Batgirl again, and that’s a real shame. If you could at least use her in the AR challenges that would be something, but sadly you can’t.

Batgirl3The Bad:

  • I’ll be honest with you all, seven dollars for 45 minutes to an hour of gameplay is a hefty asking price. Considering the Season Pass is a staggering $40, and only comes with three story packs, some AR challenges and a few skins, and we know that one of the story packs is only 45-minutes, it sure seems to me like the Season Pass will be outrageously overpriced. To make matters worse the Red Hood and Harley Quinn DLC packs which were included as retailer pre-order exclusives are not included in the Season Pass and are about the same length as A Matter of Family. That makes this feel DLC even harder to swallow since the others were free.

Batgirl4The Lowdown:

I’m not a huge fan of DLC packs when they’re done like this. When a free pre-order incentive is as long as a $7 piece of DLC there’s something wrong. It’s a real shame as this could have been so much more if it were twice as long and if Batgirl could have been used elsewhere in the game. As it is now, as much as I enjoyed playing as Batgirl, I cannot in good faith recommend this until the price drops.

Final Score: 5/10  

Batman: Arkham Knight Review

Arkham KnightBatman: Arkham Knight (Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Release Date: June 23, 2015

Parent Talk: Arkham Knight is rated M for mature because of blood, suggestive themes, strong language, and violence. Like the previous games in the series, Batman doesn’t use lethal force, however his enemies do. This isn’t an overlay graphic videogame, however it does indeed deal with mature subject matter and young kids would be advised against playing this.

Plays Like: If you have played Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, or Arkham Origins you have a very good idea of what to expect with Arkham Knight. You take on the role of Batman, and have all of Gotham City to explore. Your mission is to stop Scarecrow and figure out who the Arkham Knight is. You’ll use stealth, some fantastic gadgets, and Batman’s brute force to bring justice back to Gotham City.

Review Basis: I finished the PS4 version of the game with 96% overall completion rating, and if I have the time I plan to go back and collect all of the Riddler trophies so that I can see the game’s true ending.

Batman: Arkham Knight is the final chapter in Rocksteady’s incredible Arkham Trilogy. While I have very little doubt Warner Bros. will continue the series moving forward, this was an incredible way for Rocksteady to say good-bye to the series they popularized. After having completed the game, I sat back for a few moments to take it all in. This really is the end, and what an incredible journey it has been. Comic book videogames aren’t supposed to be this good.

This is MY city!
This is MY city!

The Great:

This is the end. With those words begins one of the most dramatic and best ending sequences I have ever seen in a videogame. What started with Arkham Asylum is now truly over. Arkham Knight takes everything I loved about that game, its incredible combo system, great detective mode, and deep story, and expands upon it in such a way that makes you feel as though Batman couldn’t possibly get any more powerful, and that his tale has finally reached its climax. The open world city from Arkham City is here, but it has been greatly fleshed out, and Batman’s rogue gallery has never been more interesting. Add in a wide assortment of new moves, expanded gadgets, and the Batmobile, and you have yourself the best comic book videogame I have ever had the honor of playing. It all comes together perfectly.

Just look at all the special effects.
Just look at all the special effects.

The Good:

  • The story manages to recognize what came before in both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and expands on the mythos by introducing a new element, the Arkham Knight. A mysterious figure that seems to know an awful lot about Batman. Throw in a masterplan of the Scarecrow, and the return of an old enemy, and you have a tale woven so perfectly that it will be hard for another action game to top this for a long time to come. I wish I could go on and on about the story, but I truly want you all to experience it for yourself.
  • Gadgets galore. While most of the gadgets return from the previous games, you can put them to great use here in new and interesting ways. All gadgets can be upgraded as well making something that was once an ok solution to taking out certain enemies or elements in the battlefield like the Disruptor to a gadget that you will whip out every chance you get because of how powerful and diverse it can become.
  • Detective Mode. Scan bodies for clues, look through walls to see how best to take out certain enemies, everything that makes Batman the world’s greatest detective is at your fingertips. There is one series of missions in particular that really nails the detective in Batman. During story missions Batman will frequently have to put clues together by looking at recorded footage, or and locating key items. I felt Rocksteady did a wonderful job of really making the player feel as though Batman isn’t just all muscle.
Races are challenging, but a blast.
Races are challenging, but a blast.
  • Speaking of muscle, Batman has a wide assortment of new moves, and all of them can be upgraded via the level system. As you complete each side mission or story mission Batman acquires skill points which can be allocated to several key areas, combat being one of them. With enough practice you’ll get good at the counter and attack system and with upgrades, you’ll become an unstoppable Dark Knight. The combo system is just as fresh and fluid as it has ever been.
  • The Batmobile! I was a little afraid it may be overused when I first started learning how to use it, as it appeared every new mission type revealed would make use of the Batmobile, but very soon afterwards the game starts spicing things up and breaks the game down into two sections, Batmobile and combat. The Batmobile has two modes, a standard card mode which allows you to zip around Gotham’s streets with ease, and then the tank mode which you’ll be using a lot during combat sections. Here you face off against unmanned drones and you take them out with your 6MM cannon and machine guns. The Batmobile takes only a few minutes to get the hang of, and after that you’ll be blasting away even the most challenging foes. It too can be upgraded much like the gadgets and your combat skills.

­+ The City. I’ve got to hand it to Rocksteady, they really nailed the city this time. There are three islands you get to explore, but you never feel overwhelmed. Traversing from one area to the next is quick and easy either through the air, via grappling or on-ground with the Batmobile. Each area is distinct with color and flavor, such as Wayne Tower, ACE Chemicals, and more. I also enjoyed that you didn’t have to go to the Batcave in this game, considering we spent so much time there in the previous games.

  • Riddler’s trophies and challenges return, but thanks to the inclusion of the Batmobile, you really have to think outside the box. There are over 240 items to collect in the game, which will take a very long time to complete, and will put your brain to the test as some of these challenges are extremely complicated to figure out.
  • The voice cast is back. One of the biggest disappointments from Origins was some of the key missing voice actors like Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, but they’re here. The entire voice cast is phenomenal and brings these characters to life, but I’ve got to single out John Noble as Scarecrow, wow what a fantastic job he did. This is by far the creepiest Scarecrow we’ve ever received, and I can’t ever go back to someone else voicing him again. The soundtrack is equally as powerful and rich.
  • Graphically Arkham Knight is a gorgeous game and Gotham City has never looked so detailed. The framerate remains constant for the vast majority of the game, only slowing down a bit when too much action is going on, typically during tank battle portions of the game. I was extremely impressed by the sheer size of the city, the amount of enemies on the streets, and the fact that there is always some sort of particle effect going on either rain or something else. It all comes together to make one impressive package.
The combat is just as excellent as in all the other games.
The combat is just as excellent as in all the other games.

The Ugly:

Since I can’t be sure everyone reading this will have the chance to play through the PlayStation 4 version of the game, I need to mention that the PC version was wrought with problems and Warner Bros. did the unthinkable, they pulled it from retail until the game can be fixed. It was riddled with bugs, glitches, and was barely unplayable. I experienced no such problems with the PS4 version.

The excellent detective mode makes you truly feel like the world's best detective.
The excellent detective mode makes you truly feel like the world’s best detective.

The Lowdown:

Sometimes a game will come along that strikes a chord with me, and this is one such game. I absolutely loved it from the first cinematic to the last mission. It may have been a little obvious who the Arkham Knight was, and yes it might seem a little odd that a man who doesn’t kill anyone would even own a tank capable to demolishing an entire city block, but at the end of the day I felt like Batman playing this game. I felt like I was the world’s greatest detective that I had the best and most colorful enemies in comic book history, and that at the end of it all, this is a very special chapter in the life of Batman that has come to a close. This is one you need to experience.

Final Score: 9.8/10

Batman: Arkham Knight Initial Impressions

I haven’t updated the site in quite some time because we’ve been focusing on videos on YouTube, however I think I’m going to post a story or two here from time to time just to keep things interesting.

Last night I got Batman: Arkham Knight and have been enjoying the heck out of it.  It’s one of those games where I put in three hours without even realizing it.  I meant to play for around an hour or so, but before you knew it, bam, three hours had passed.

Thus far I’m rally enjoying the Batmobile and the huge city.  I like how the missions aren’t overwhelming.  You can easily select a mission, get to the objective point and have fun.  I’m not sure why some people said they were overwhelmed or that the Batmobile wasn’t fun to use.  Thus far I’m extremely impressed!

Have you purchased Arkham Knight, and if so, what do you think of it?

Citizens of Earth Review

medium_coverCitizens of Earth (Available on PC, PS4, PS Vita, 3DS, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Eden Industries
Release Date: January 20th, 2015

Parent Talk: Citizens of Earth has been rated E10+ for everyone ten and up. It features animated violence, tobacco references, and simulated gambling. If you’ve ever played Earthbound you know what to expect here. The game’s world is animated with cartoony flare, and the setting is a modern day, over the top city. It’s very goofy, which means that even players who are ten shouldn’t have a problem with any of the material showcased in the game.

Plays Like: At first glance one might be inclined to say this is the next entry in the Earthbound series. Citizens of Earth features many elements inspired by that classic SNES game, however it has a few other elements that separate it. Gameplay is broken down into typical RPG fair, where you move around an overworld, get new quests by talking to people you see, complete quests to get more members on your team, and battles take place via turn-based gameplay.

Review Basis: Finished the PC version of the game, which Atlus sent us.

Earthbound is considered a lost classic. For whatever reason the game bombed upon its original release, however it has developed a massive cult following since then. There was something special about it, the modern setting, the charm and awesome characters were also so unlike everything else on the market. Citizens of Earth tries so desperately to be the unofficial sequel, but never manages to capture the same spirits.

COE1The Great:

If there’s one elements that I absolutely loved with Citizens of Earth it has to be the presentation. I loved how all the characters looked, and the game’s setting. This often felt like a modern day Earthbound. The art style is beautiful and also very humorous. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. The voice acting of the character is also another area that I really enjoyed because each has their own unique charm to them.

The Good:

  • The story can also be quite humorous at times. You take on the role of…you. You’ve just become the Vice President of the World, and after a day on the job you’re tired and decide to go on a much deserved vacation. The game picks up with you waking up at your mother’s house, and as soon as you leave said house you see protestors everywhere. Eventually the plot takes a turn to the bizarre with some strange brewed coffee affecting the citizens, and well, there’s much more going on behind the scenes. Sadly the story does get a little jumbled with the abundant amount of side-quests thrown in.
  • Characters galore. There are over a dozen recruits you can find in the game, and each one has their own unique ability. Your brother can allow you to acquire items from anywhere, a mascot character can change the game’s difficulty on the fly, and so on. These abilities also transfer over into battle, where your mother might be able to heal an ally, and another character might be able to protect other characters. Mixing and matching your team is a powerful strategy to ensure you’re always ready for whatever lies ahead.

COE2The So-So:

+/- Most of the game’s objectives are a little too vague for their own good. I understand this was done to be humorous, but in the end it means you have to play through the game in a few sittings or you might have trouble remembering exactly what it was you were supposed to do. A very simple case from the beginning of the game is you try and recruit the conspiracy guy. He requires three pieces of evidence, but you’re not told what the evidence is. The log simply tells you to ‘Collect the Evidence’. What does that mean? It’s simple enough if you play right away, and explore, but if you put the game down for any lengthy period of time you may wonder what it is you’re supposed to do next. This issue pops up constantly throughout the game.

+/- The battle system starts off quite enjoyable, but after a while it becomes tiresome and repetitive. The concept works like this. Every attack either gains or depletes an energy orb. There are also items you can use to restore energy, as you would imagine. That sounds simple enough right, well good because it is. The thing is that after a while you find yourself always cycling through the exact same attacks. You’ll use two physical attacks to build energy, one powerful attack which depletes said energy, another to heal your party, etc. Repeat this countless times and there you have it. Over time it almost feels like you’re not playing at all. Thankfully the auto-defeat feature from Earthbound is featured here so when you visit older areas with weaker enemies you can easily navigate the area without having to defeat countless enemies.

The Bad:

  • At first you won’t mind all the new characters being added to the game, but in time you start to realize that none of these characters has any soul. There’s just nothing special about them. I really enjoyed the banter from a handful, but the rest felt almost like cut and paste clichés. I would have much rather had a solid group of say six or eight characters, but with more fleshed out and humorous storylines than what we got.

COE3The Lowdown:

I think with some tweaking this could have been something special. It’s not a bad game by any means, it’s just that it needed some more time in the oven and the battle system needed some more diversity. I also would have really loved to have seen less characters, but more of a focused backstory on some of these wacky people. As is right now, Citizens of Earth is a decent game that might tickle your fancy if you’ve enjoyed seeing the footage in the video review.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Far Cry 4 Review

Far Cry 4 ReviewFar Cry 4 (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 10
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: November 18th, 2014

Parent Talk: This is a viscous game, both in its narrative and in the acts of violence depicted. From slicing someone’s throat, to seeing people get tortured at every turn, this isn’t a game for the faint of heart. It features drug use, alcohol, and strong language and is most certainly the type of game that deserves its M rating. Keep the kids away from this one at all costs.

Plays Like: If you were a fan of Far Cry 3, there’s a good chance you’re going to love this one. You take on the role of Ajay Ghale, and are put to the task of essentially taking on open-world missions for the two co-leaders of the Golden Path, a separatist group that is trying to overthrow the current dictator, Pagan Min. The story takes itself very seriously, but once the more traditional open-world side missions open up, things become far sillier. Most open world games these days follow a specific path, you can tackle a wide assortment of crazy and wild side quests, or focus on the main storyline. The same is true in this first-person action romp.

Review Basis: Finished the main storyline, and tried my hand at all the various side quests and activities offered.

Far Cry 4 is wild, it’s crazy, it takes itself too seriously at times, but above all else, it is a really enjoyable game to play, so long as you enjoy open-world games. There’s nothing quite like barging into an enemy camp, on top of an elephant, and throwing grenades all over the place. It’s sheer chaos, and yes it’s often hard to take anything the game throws at you too seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the fictitious Himalayan province of Kyrat.

FC1The Great:

If I had to say what I enjoyed the most with Far Cry 4, it would have to be the co-op mode. This game is crazy enough playing by yourself, but grab a friend, or a complete stranger and prepare to go all out bat shit crazy. You can have one player fly the gyrocopter, while the other swings off it with a grabbling hook picking off enemies. You can purposely rush enemies while both players are riding elephants, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. To say you feel like a total bad ass would be an understatement. It’s completely ridiculous, and that’s most likely why it’s just so much fun to play.

FC2The Good:

  • While the narrative takes itself too serious, I did find the tale to be a solid one. You play as Ajay Ghale, on a quest to scatter your mother’s ashes in some unknown area of Kyrat, a fictitious Himalayan province. Once you arrive things go downhill quickly as you’re forced to watch a madman named Pagan Min do unspeakable things.   As the story progresses Ajay finds himself choosing between two co-leaders of The Golden Path, a separatist group trying to bring balance to Kyrat. Do you go the more technical route and support Amita, or do you always put out fires by supporting Sabal? While these elements were great, sadly the antagonist was severely underused and that’s a crying shame because he had so much potential.
  • Great activities and mission variety. One moment you’re trying to get to the top of a giant radio tower, which acts almost like a platforming puzzle game, and the next you’re taking down wave after wave of enemies trying to liberate an outpost. There are racing activities, you can attempt to escort munitions to The Golden Path, and then there are the actual story missions which vary just as much as the side missions do.
  • Everything about Far Cry 4 is about causing chaos to ensue, and this couldn’t be more evident by the animal luring and elephant riding. If you’re sneaking up on a group of enemies, you can lob what amounts to animal guts at your enemies, which will lure in a vicious bear, tiger, or some other predator to make short work of Pagan’s forces. If that’s not really your style, why not hop on an elephant and ram the outpost to hell, all while spraying enemies with bullets.
  • The player progression system in place is deep and rewarding. As you complete more and more missions and activities you earn experience which will eventually grant you skill points which can be used to upgrade your core abilities. Things like having an extra life bar, being able to reload while running, and standard FPS-fair are all featured here, and act as an excuse to tackle just one more mission before bed.
  • 5v5 competitive multiplayer is a blast to play because it features so many aspects of what makes the open world gameplay in the main campaign so much fun to play. The two opposing factions are quite different, one featuring supernatural elements such as invisibility, and the other using the more traditional guns, explosives, etc. Combining these two groups with the open world elements from the main campaign was surprisingly fresh and exciting, no matter which objective the game throws at you.
  • The audio visual presentation is certainly worthy of the next-gen moniker. The environments are beautiful, and well-populated, and the character animations are great. At times there are a few scenes that are a little rough around the edges, but for the most part this is a great looking first-year title for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Naturally if you have a powerful PC you can really make this game look stunningly beautiful. The audio fits the bill perfectly, although I absolutely detested the radio announcer. I didn’t find he added anything to the narrative, and wasn’t funny at all. The soundtrack matched the setting perfectly, feeling majestic and mysterious at times, and pulse pounding and energetic at others.

FC3The So-So:

+/- Is there such a thing as too many things to do in a game? Picture thing, a giant map with about two dozen radio towers on it. You know that if you liberate those towers you’ll unlock new activities, and new areas to explore. So you start to do that, you manage to liberate one of the towers and purchase several maps which show the locations of treasure troves, posters, and much, much more. Suddenly your map has about 100 different icons on it, and that’s all from just one tower. Now imagine what happens when you start unlocking more towers. Before too long I found myself a little overwhelmed by how much stuff there is to do in the game. This is all on top of the interesting story missions, the hunting missions that you’ll set yourself on in order to craft items of great use such as a much larger bag for holding skins, loot, and ammo. It’s very easy to get distracted, and it feels like Ubisoft was purposely going out of their way to jam as much as they possibly could in the limited real-estate available. Whether or not that’s a good thing will depend on you.

FC4The Bad:

  • Far Cry 4 feels an awful lot like many of Ubisoft’s other big games such as the Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs franchises. It’s all starting to blend together into one big giant ‘been there, done that’ mess. This is still a fun game, but Ubisoft is going to have to be careful not to overdo it. I can very easily see all of their big franchises collapse under the mighty weight of each other if each of these series receives yearly iterations.

FC5The Lowdown:

Far Cry 4 borrows a lot from Far Cry 3, and like I mentioned just above, Ubisoft will have to be careful how to proceed from here. It’s one thing to have three great franchises, but something else entirely when all three start becoming a bit too alike. Right now Far Cry 4 is a ridiculous game that is so much fun to play, however it can also be a bit daunting when you realize just how much stuff there is to do in this massive open world. If you’re looking for a videogame that you can invest dozens of hours into, this will most certainly scratch that particular itch. If you’re hoping for next innovative franchise that breaks the mold, this isn’t going to shock or amaze you. What it does it does well, it just doesn’t do anything particularly new.

Final Score: 8/10

The Evil Within Review

Evil Within ReviewThe Evil Within (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Release Date: October 14th, 2014

Parent Talk: The Evil Within is rated M for mature (ages 17+) because of blood, gore, intense violence, and strong language. Often the game feels like something you’d expect if you went to see the latest Saw movie. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is one gruesome game. You can cut off the heads of your enemies, you can burn bodies, and so much more. If you’re even a little squeamish, this isn’t a game for you.

Plays Like: As any good survival horror game, The Evil Within forces players to use their surroundings intelligently, scavenge for supplies, and conserve ammo wherever possible. Some areas force stealth, while others are all out action segments. There’s a great balance of creepy moments, tense cutscenes, and fantastic combat in this third person extravaganza.

Review Basis: Completed the campaign.

When Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami left Capcom I was really saddened by the news. This was the man who gave us Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, and the much beloved Resident Evil 4 and RE Remake on the GameCube. He was also responsible for many other classic Capcom games, but those four set a certain pedigree that Capcom has yet to surpass in the survival horror genre. I had always hoped that maybe one day he would return to the Resident Evil universe and deliver another masterpiece, but when he left Capcom I knew that was never going to happen. Fast forward a short time later and he announced his new game studio, Tango Gameworks, were developing a brand new survival horror game. While it wasn’t Resident Evil, my expectations were extremely high. This is Shinji Mikami we’re talking about here! So was he able to strike gold, or has he been away from the genre for too long? Let’s find out.

The Great:

If I had to pick one aspect where The Evil Within really shines, it would have to be in its atmosphere and tension. While I never found myself sitting in a corner crying for mommy, that honor goes to Alien: Isolation, I did find the sense of tension to be at an all-time high for many parts of the game. The attention to detail in the environments and the settings are ultimately what do it. You always feel uneasy because while you know something is out there, you never know exactly where. The fact the game is a physiological thriller as much as it is an intense action game, only adds to the stress. This is a game where walls disappear before your eyes, where enemies can materialize out of thin air, and where you’re lost more so than you realize.

There’s one section that sums up The Evil Within perfectly, and it’s from fairly early on in the game. There’s a section where you have to pass through a short hallway where a series of hospital beds are lining both sides of the walls. The lights are mostly broken, except for one off in the distance that is flickering, so barely anything is illuminated. You can see there’s something slowly walking back and forth towards the exit. As you slowly make your way towards the enemy, you realize that all of the beds have bodies on them, there’s blood on the floor and ceiling, and you accidently hit something on a table in front of you. You spin the camera around to see that one enemy rushing towards you, so you pull out your gun, which only has three bullets left in it. You take the shot, killing the enemy, but suddenly you hear grumbling, and notice movement. Those bodies on the beds are all moving, and they’re all heading straight towards you!

The Good:

  • The combat system is rock solid. You can tell this is a Mikami-san game. While using the shotgun, sniper rifle, or handgun, you get a real sense of power. The problem is that ammo is so hard to come by. You want to make every shot count, and thankfully you can do just that because the controls are spot on. There’s also a stealth mechanic, where you can sneak up on unsuspecting enemies for an instant kill. The environments can also be used to your advantage, where you can lure enemies into bear traps, explosives, and more. What happens when all of these elements are thrust upon you, choice! There’s nothing like taking out a group of enemies with a well-placed explosive bolt from your crossbow when you only had one bolt left, or getting that perfect stealth kill when you were surrounded by enemies. It’s moments like these that make you feel like a bad ass, and that’s awesome.
  • Much like the Resident Evil remake on the Nintendo GameCube, The Evil Within features enemies that can resurrect themselves after they’ve been downed by the player. The old ‘burn the corpse’ mechanic from that legendary game returns here, and you’ll want to burn all the bodies you come upon, especially later on in the game. Not only does this give you peace of mind, but you also have the chance to gain additional supplies from the burnt corpses.
  • Simple crafting system. While you scour the environment for ammo and syringes to heal yourself, odds are you’ll also stumble onto several parts. These can be used to craft ammo for the Agony Crossbow. You can freeze, explode, electrocute, blind, or craft standard bolts. Not only can you find the parts, but if you dismantle traps you can gain additional crafting supplies. The catch here is that these environmental traps aren’t just there for you to get caught up on, but as I mentioned before you can lure enemies to them. What ends up happening is you start to balance the desire for more ammo for your crossbow, with an easier way to take down enemies. Again, it’s all about the choices you make.
  • Exploration is rewarded. Players who thoroughly explore the various stages will find green ooze which can be used for upgrading your abilities, from extending your health and stamina, to being able to hold more ammo. The progression system in place here is fantastic, and scales perfectly with the rest of the game so you never feel like you’re overpowered. You can also find small statues which, once broken, will reward a small key. These keys can be used to unlock special lockers which grant a wide assortment of awesome goodies.
  • Even though you’re well-armed, don’t expect for this to be a cake walk. You’re going to die, and often, because a simple miscalculation can cause your head to roll. If you want to use stealth, be extremely careful what you bump into. If you want to use more straightforward action, make sure those headshots hit their mark or you’ll find yourself completely surrounded with no ammo to speak of.
  • Speaking of the difficulty, the boss fights are just crazy. Most of these consist of creatures that can down you in one hit, even if you have full health, so you don’t want to screw up! Most fights require you to either use the environments to your advantage, such as when you fight the spider lady, which forces you to use fire against her. Others are more typical fights where you dodge and shoot. Whatever you do, you can expect to die at least a few times, and have an utter blast doing so.
  • The audio visual package is fantastic. I already touched upon how great the tension and atmosphere are, but the graphics and audio go the extra mile and deserve to be singled out. The environments vary quite significantly from a stunningly detailed forest, to a crumbling church, to well…something else entirely. Lighting is superb, especially with the great fire effects. During the night you can see fog in the distance, there are stars twinkling far off in the sky, and there are so many gruesome and disturbing elements from disfigured faces of clowns just hanging on the wall, to bodies ripped apart everywhere. It’s disgustingly beautiful. Audio is used sparingly so as only to give you hints of the trouble ahead, but therein lies the genius. You’ll always hear enemies mumbling, you’ll hear footsteps and other ambient noises, and when trouble comes, the music picks up to keep your adrenaline rushing.

The So-So:

+/- Sadly what starts off kind of intriguing eventually becomes too convoluted for its own good. I found myself not even caring about the story whatsoever towards the end of the game. I just wanted to ‘make it out alive’ as it were. As for the story itself, players take on the role of Sebastian Castellanos, a detective sent in to investigate a series of gruesome murders at a local mental health hospital. From there things go bat-shit crazy as you experience one nightmarish scene after another. What brings the story down is that Sebastian just isn’t an interesting protagonist, and neither are the characters that surround him. I was intrigued to learn about the past residents of the asylum, but never truly cared, and given the constant jumps and flashback sequences, I didn’t feel any remorse over what happened to any of the supporting cast.

+/- The save system is a bit perplexing at times, and perfect at others. Let’s talk about the good first. There is a manual save system where you go back to the main ‘hub’ as I call it. From here you can upgrade your abilities, unlock lockers with the special tiny keys, and save your game. So that works fine, it’s the auto-save feature that leaves something to be desired. For the most part it works just fine, your progress will be saved after lengthy sections of the level, or after key fight scenes. However, there are times where it won’t save your game for what feels like an eternity and should you die, you’ll realize that it really was awhile, thereby forcing you to redo large sections of the level again. It’s bizarre.

+/- Load times aren’t too bad, until you start dying. Once you begin to have to restart over and over, you’ll notice time starts slowing down and load times get longer and longer. The reason for this is that the save system typically places your save directly before a cutscene. Yes you can skip cutscenes, but the fact that you have to go through the process of the cutscene and startup of the battle is what ultimately makes the load times feel longer than what they truly are.

The Bad:

  • There are some anomalies here and there. Some texture pop-in is present, minor clipping issues, and depending on the angle of the camera, shadows can get pixelated to the point they look like early PS2-rendered shadows. These moments don’t occur often, but they’re noticeable when they do.

The Lowdown:

The Evil Within feels like a direct continuation of Resident Evil 4. It shares a lot in common with that masterpiece. It’s tense, atmospheric, and has a great progression and combat system. While the story is mostly forgettable, and I never felt truly scared, overall the experience was an adrenaline ride of disturbing imagery, great survival horror gameplay, and that classic Shinji Mikami formula. If you enjoy more traditional survival horror games with a focus on surviving, The Evil Within won’t disappoint.

Final Score: 8.5/10

 

Alien: Isolation Review

Alien Isolation ReviewAlien: Isolation (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players:
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Release Date: October 7th, 2014

Parent Talk: Alien: Isolation has been rated M for mature because of blood, strong language, and violence. Have you ever seen the original Alien movie from 1979? If so, you can imagine why this game is rated M for mature. It’s dark, foreboding, and creepy. Children will be extremely frightened should they see, let alone play this game.

Plays Like: Imagine being locked on a massive space station with little to no weapons, and discovering you’re not alone. There’s a menacing alien creature on the loose that’s impervious to your attacks, and can kill you just as easily as you breathe. The only chance you have for survival is to hide in lockers, under desks, and use a motion tracker to be one-hundred percent sure the alien is nowhere near you as you make your way from one objective to the next. That’s Alien: Isolation, it’s just you and the alien, the problem is you’re the one who’s being hunted. Can you make it out alive?

Review Basis: SEGA sent us a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of the game. I completed the main campaign and tried the included DLC.

Let’s get something out in the open right now, Aliens: Colonial Marines was not well received. I’ve yet to meet anyone that thought it did the Alien franchise justice. It had potential, but through misguided direction the game never lived up to the hype…quite literally. Enter The Creative Assembly and their take on the Alien universe. This one is much more grounded, and features some truly memorable scares. It is the closest we’ve ever gotten to playing in the Alien universe as imagined by Ridley Scott in the 1979 classic, Alien. It’s pulse pounding, horrifying, and will leave you on the edge of your seat for the duration of the game. Now that’s what Alien was all about.

Guess who's coming to dinner?
Guess who’s coming to dinner?

The Great:

Alien come to life. The developer absolutely nailed the look and feel of the 1979 film. You take on the role of Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda who is looking for information about her missing mother. If you’ve seen the Ridley Scott directed film, you know exactly what happened to Ripley onboard the USCSS Nostromo. Amanda arrives on the space station Sevastopol, only to discover the place is in ruins. There is no one around, and it looks like a serious battle look place. There are holes in walls, the power is out all over the station, and you can feel in the air that something’s just not right. When you finally do stumble onto a survivor, they’re not exactly the nicest person in the world. What you discover is that everyone who is left on the station is fighting for their own survival and that some nasty monster has been picking them off one at a time. From there a giant game of cat and mouse ensues as you try ever so hopelessly to seek the information you’ve come here for, and get out alive. It’s in these moments where the game truly shines. You’ll peak around corners, use a motion tracker to ensure you’re alone, and use the environment to your advantage as you slowly make your way through each narrow corridor. To say the game feels just like the original Alien movie during these moments is an understatement, you’re living the movie and it’s just incredible.

Creepy access tunnels like this one are littered everywhere in the game.
Creepy access tunnels like this one are littered everywhere in the game.

The Good:

  • Fight or flight. This instinct-based gameplay is one of the best features of the game. Imagine you’re scouring around an office, and you suddenly hear something in the ventilation duct. You only have two choices available to you, do you stand and fight, or do you run away and give up your position? If you fight, you only have access to a few side arms which don’t really do anything to the xenomorph, or you could use your flamethrower and convince the menace to back down for a few seconds. Your other option is to run away. While that might seem like the best option, doing so will allow the Alien to pinpoint exactly where you are, making your chances of survival near zero. So ultimately do you have any choice at all? Maybe you should just stay right where you are and see what happens, as the lights slowly flicker on and off.
  • While you make your way from one save spot to another, which grant you a very brief moment to breathe, you’ll stumble onto crafting supplies. Collect as many of these as you possibly can as they’re your only means of not only healing yourself, but distracting the xenomorph. You can create first-aid items, noise makers, flash bang grenades, and more. You have to locate a blueprint before you’re able to make said supplies, but it’s critical you do so or you’ll never make it out alive!

  • Unscripted Alien patterns ensure you’re always scared. You’ll always know when the xenomorph drops into the room or area you’re in thanks to your trusty motion tracking device, but you’ll never know where it’s going to go. Will it hop into a vent and crawl around in the ceiling or will it make a circular pattern around the room you’re in. Whatever it does, you have to move, you can’t stay in one spot for too long because eventually it will make its way to you. The ideal solution is for you to hide for a bit, let it walk into another area, and slowly get your butt out of dodge.

  • The motion tracker also serves another purpose, it tells you where you need to go. Since you can use the tracker from virtually any position you’re in, you’ll be looking at it quite frequently during your stay onboard the Sevastopol.

  • There’s more to Alien Isolation than just hiding behind furniture and running from a xenomorph. There are areas you can’t access until you find a way to remove large locks from doors, little terminals you can need hack in order to bypass power from security cameras to air purifiers, and evil androids out to get you. There’s a nice balance between the cat and mouse game with the alien, stealth sections with the androids, and surviving against human opponents.

  • The audio is fantastic. From the limited music that plays during adrenaline-pumping moments, to all the ambient noises that constantly linger in the background, it’s all amazing. You’ll want to play with a quality surround sound system to get the most out of the audio, or a really good headset. Whatever you do, prepare to get fully immersed in this fantastic game world.

The most useful item in the game is the motion tracker.  Use it well!
The most useful item in the game is the motion tracker. Use it well!

The So-So:

+/- The graphics can be a bit of a mixed bag at times. On one hand the xenomorph looks fantastic, and the environments are gorgeous. There’s volumetric fog, incredible lighting, and the attention to detail in the space station is amazing. Sadly some of the human character models don’t look quite as good. The finer details in the face, for example, just aren’t there. I also noticed on a few occasions where the game would drop frame rate during cut scenes for whatever reason.

+/- Alien: Isolation is a fantastic game, but after the ten hour mark it starts to run a little thin. The story appears to be wrapping up on several occasions, only to be forcibly prolonged. I found this hurt the pacing towards the end of the game, but it remained fun throughout.

The Bad:

-False instructions. One of my biggest gripes with the game happens early on in the adventure. You’ll get a radio communication telling you to race towards the next area. Doing so will guarantee death, as the Alien is waiting for you just ahead. Why does the game to do this? If you take your time and do what you’ve been doing since the beginning of the game you’ll be just fine, but actually listening to what you’ve been told will cause you to die constantly.

Someone wants to say hello.
Someone wants to say hello.

The Lowdown:

Alien: Isolation is the best Alien game to come along in years, and it might very well be the best Alien game ever made. It captures the essence of the 1979 movie perfectly, and the feeling of dread you get from being locked in an area with the menacing Alien is unmatched in any other videogame I’ve played before. It might not hit all the right notes, but when the pieces all come together Alien: Isolation is one of the creepiest games I’ve ever played, and it also happens to be one of the very best games I’ve played in 2014.

Final Score: 9/10

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Review

Disney Infinity 2.0Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Available on PC, PS4, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Disney
Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

Parent Talk: Imagine a game where you play through a story as one of many Marvel characters, or even better, an interactive toy box where you can create your own games, and use a vast array of characters in silly mini-games, highly competitive races, or pretty much anything else you can think of. That’s Disney Infinity in a nutshell. It’s the perfect family game, and one that features nothing but cartoon violence. I can easily recommend this one to anyone with young kids at home as it’s really simple to learn, and you won’t be bored to tears while they have a blast. There’s real enjoyment to be had here for all.

Plays Like: The one included play set (Avengers) is an open world Grand Theft Auto-like story-driven game where you pick up simple missions and complete them to earn experience and currency, which you use to purchase additional goodies for the Toy Box mode. It’s in this mode where you can create your own games using wonderful assists that do almost all the hard work for you.

Review Basis: Disney sent over the PS4 Start Pack, and I played around with the Toy Box mode and finished the main story campaign that shipped with the Avengers play set. I also plan to cover additional toys that get released for the three current play sets available (Avengers, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy).

Last year I thought Disney Infinity was the perfect games for kids. Yes the Toy Box mode was a little cumbersome because it required you to really know what you were doing, and it was a little sneaky forcing parents to buy a second character in order for their siblings to play together, but hot damn was it a fun game to play. This year Avalanche software has mixed things up a bit, and the end result is a fantastic iteration on what was already a wonderful kid’s game. If you have children at home, this will make for one hell of an amazing Christmas gift.

The Great:

The Toy Box mode has been dramatically improved. While you can still customize and make your own games, now the game tries very hard to help you out by offering up some great templates. You can even let the game build mini-games for you if you’re not feeling overly creative, or if you don’t have the time to devote to the game. I loved this aspect as it allowed me to focus on what I really enjoyed, just playing around with all the different creations other people have built. Giving me the confidence to build my own games just made the experience that much better. It’s now easier than ever to submit your creations to Disney, which once approved, can be downloaded by the entire community. Sadly I lack the skill and time to make something really worthwhile, but I have been enjoying what others have created, just as I did in the first Disney Infinity.

Something else I really appreciated was the fact the Starter Pack includes three Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow. You also get the Avengers play set, plus two Toy Box games, which are basically mini-games. That means two kids can play together straight out of the box, whereas last year you had to buy an additional character from one of the three included play sets in order to play together. If you don’t understand the way the system works, it’s quite simple. Each character is associated with a certain play set. Currently there are three play sets available, the Starter Pack’s included Avengers, and two ‘sold separately’ play sets, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Some characters can be used in different play sets if you located 10 character coins in the current play set. This was done to unlock exclusive stories for that character in a play set they wouldn’t normally be associated with. Each play set is a self-contained story mode. Disney has set up a Disney Infinity website (https://infinity.disney.com/en-ca/characters) that will show you all the toys available, and which play sets they work with. Most Marvel characters will work with all the Marvel play sets, but not necessarily all of them. Be sure to check the site before purchasing additional characters. Classic Disney characters only work in the Toy Box mode, so keep that in mind before expecting to use Donald Duck in the Avengers play set.

Assault on Asgard, and Escape from Kyln discs unlock cute little mini-games that are best played in short bursts. If you’re looking for additional discs, you can purchase what are called Power Disc packs. Each pack sells for $5 and includes two unique discs, either a Toy Box disc (hexagonal shape) which could unlock new textures, features, or items for your Toy Box, or you could get a character power disc (circular shape), which gives your Infinity character a stat boost or some other in-game goodie. Because these packs are completely random though, you could spend hundreds in order to collect them all, and in fact you can purchase the complete set of 40 discs for the low asking price of $200 on eBay. Why this is great is because it helps bring the physical toys and discs you collect in real life to the virtual world, and that addictive nature associated with collecting anything really shines through here. Not only can you collect all the toys, but also all the Power Discs, and some of which are extremely rare.

Thankfully you don’t absolutely need the Power Discs to get the full enjoyment out of the game, and if you bought a bunch of figures from the original Infinity I’m happy to report they all work with the Toy Box mode, and all characters have skill trees now! This means you can level them up while you tackle any number of creations in the Toy Box mode. That was a really great, and much appreciated touch.

Personally it’s the figures I love. They’re expressive, detailed, and sturdy enough to actually be played with. While some of the paint work lacks the quality you’d expect on a $14 action figure, they look good just the same. I kind of which they were articulated, but for $14 you can’t expect too much these days, and the poses are fantastic and fitting. I’ll be honest, I’d love to display these on my desk at work because they look that fun. I would gladly spend some extra money to pick up a few extra figures just to have lying around. Disney already has three different waves of figures planned, with who knows how many planned for the future.

Oh and did I mention the game now features Marvel characters? Yeah, that’s clearly great, and coupled with all the existing toys available, this series has just become an instant classic for children all over the world.

The Good:

  • Each character feels completely unique to the last. While Iron Man and Thor can fly, they both have radically different move sets. Each character has a level cap of 20, but their level trees allow players to evolve them as they see fit. When you reach level 20 you won’t have unlocked all the skills, which gives the game some much needed depth. Level progress is saved to the toys so you can bring them to your friend’s house and be just as strong as you were the last time you played.
  • Local co-op is a blast and fitting for parents with their children. There is online play, but it’s for the Toy Box mode only. That’s not a bad thing as that’s the best mode in the whole game.

  • The audio visual package is fairly impressive. I’m a big fan of the way the toys look, and their in-game personas look exactly like the figures. The voice actors do a great job, and there are a few surprise voice actors you may not expect to be here. The music is fairly standard, but there are some good sound effects thrown in making all the special moves sound powerful.

The So-So:

+/- Your children will get a kick out of the play sets, but odds are you’ll be bored to tears very quickly. While it’s great being able to play as all the different Marvel super heroes, the truth is that the missions within the play sets are extremely repetitive. It’s always escort this bus, take this package, or help these people to reach a certain location, or fire up generations, beat back these baddies, etc.

+/- While playing in co-op the framerate frequently drops, and the open city, while fairly nice to look at is made up of the exact same cars and pedestrians. Sure this is a child’s game, but one would expect it to run a bit better than it does.

+/- I love having different characters to play with, but it’s clear some will be better than others. Black Widow is such an interesting character in the comics and in the movies, and while her sculpt on the figure is great, her in-game persona just isn’t anywhere near as interesting as Iron Man or Thor. She unfortunately has to drive to get to different locations, take elevators to reach rooftops, etc. This doesn’t really make her feel very super, or as powerful as the other Avengers do. I have a feeling the other characters you can purchase would be much the same, so keep that in mind. While they might be awesome to look at, they could be really boring to use in-game.

+/- Having to unlock toys in the Toy Box mode never sat well with me, and it remains the same here. It forces you to go back and play through the play sets over and over again. Children won’t mind, but adults will. It limits your creativity until you can purchase new toys and design elements.

The Bad:

  • Some issues occur when playing Toy Box games, including but not limited to full game crashes.

The Ugly:

I really shouldn’t be this into the figures, but damn I love me some Marvel, and these figures are just too awesome to pass up. Gotta Collect ‘Em All!

The Lowdown:  

Disney Infinity 2.0 is a fantastic way to spur one’s imagination. While the core gameplay still needs some fixing, the addictive nature of the Toy Box mode will keep your children glued to the TV screen. If they get bored of watching Daddy try and make new games, they can always play with the physical toys, or jump back into one of the three available play sets. I can’t recommend the game enough for young children, or parents that are looking for a game to play with their kids. If you’re a fan of Marvel, I highly recommend you take a look at the figures, you might just fall in love with the designs and end up purchasing all of them.

Final Score (General audiences): 8/10
Final Score (Kids): 10/10

Astebreed Review

Astebreed LogoAstebreed (Available exclusively on PC)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Publisher: AGM Playism
Developer: Edelweiss
Release Date: May 30th, 2014

Parent Talk: Astebreed is an easy T-rated game, even though it was never submitted to the ESRB. This indie release has some mature elements in the plot, but features no blood or other adult-themed game content. There is some harsh language, but nothing too dramatic.

Plays Like: Zone of the Enders and Panzer Dragoon meet Gradius. Yup, this is a good old fashioned shmup at its heart, but built around more modern gameplay mechanics. It also happens to be one of the best indie releases I’ve ever played. That says something, as I’ve played a ton of indie games over the past few years.

Review Basis: Finished the game, and damn what a wild ride.

Astebreed is a Japanese-made indie release from the fine folks at Edelweiss. Never heard of them, that’s ok, as neither did I. A YouTube user named ShinGoldenWarrior sent me a message telling me to check the game out and review it, so I did just that, and I’ve got to say, I’m super thankful we have such a strong YouTube community as this game is absolutely incredible. Thanks for the tip Shin, you rock!

The indie community in Japan hasn’t been nearly as prolific as their Western counterparts largely because of the lack of a solid distribution channel. That’s all starting to change now though with Steam pretty much monopolizing the entire PC landscape. There are also publishers like Playism that are trying to bring indie releases from outside North America to the worldwide market, and you should be extremely happy about that. I can’t stress this enough, if you have even a remotely capable PC, go download Astebreed right now, as it is in my top five games of 2014! It’s a must play!

Astebreed1The Great:

The Dynamic camera angles are absolutely amazing. One of the biggest problems that faced games like Zone of the Enders and the Panzer Dragoon series were the camera angles. In one series you had more 3D movement, but there was room for improvements, and in the other series the camera would often swoop too far or too close on the action leaving you vulnerable to attack. Here there are three different camera angles that seamlessly move from one to the next. There’s a horizontal, vertical, and over the shoulder vantage point. All three work flawlessly. One moment you’re in a vertical position playing as you might in Gradius, and then next the camera swoops over your mech’s shoulder and you’re playing more like Sin & Punishment or Panzer Dragoon. What is so incredible is that at no point does the camera prove a problem. You can always see the enemies coming at you, and instead the camera acts as a way to constantly keep things interesting.

Astebreed2The Good:

+ Believe it or not, but there’s even a somewhat deep storyline here too. I know, a shooter with a good storyline, who would have thought? The gist of it is that you’re in a galactic war between humans and an alien race, and you play as an ace pilot of a giant mech out to save the day. It gets far deeper as the story progresses, but I leave that for you to discover.

+ The combat system is fantastic. There are two basic projectile attacks. One is a standard stream attack, and the other is a straight shot. If you hold down the respective buttons you will create a homing attack, which in the case of the stream shot has a large circular reticule appear around your mech. Anything that comes in contact with this reticule is automatically targeted. Release the button, and you unleash hell. For the straight shot a cone appears in whichever direction you happen to be holding the analog stick or d-pad.  This is useful when you want to target enemies that are slightly further ahead of your mech. What’s cool is that both of these work regardless of which angle the camera has your mech facing, so that means you can frequently target ships in the background, foreground, or anywhere else. It comes together in such a way to make you feel like a true bad ass.

+ The other very important ability your mech has is that you have access to a huge sword. This weapon can be used both offensively and defensively. You can actually repel or destroy certain types of enemy shots, while also inflicting tons of damage on close-range enemies. Here’s where things get really cool, you can also combine this attack with a targeted homing attack. So while your guns are firing like crazy, you can get close up on enemies and finish them off with your sword. There’s also a yellow meter that fills as you take out enemies, and this will allow you to perform a devastating sword attack and does omega damage.

+ The pacing is also spot on. Each level gets progressively more challenging, and by the time you reach stage six you’ll be forced to use everything you’ve learned along the way to make it out alive. That said, there are different difficulty settings, and while challenging, because of all the different gameplay mechanics you have available, I never felt like I was going to kick my computer because of the difficulty.

+ The graphics are simply gorgeous for an indie release, and better still is the fact that this game runs on older PCs. Sure you won’t be rocking the 4K resolution, but at 720 or even 1080p resolution I didn’t notice a drop in framerate at all.

+ The audio is also upbeat, and catchy, which is what you’d expect and want from a solid shooter.

Astebreed3The So-So:

+/- While I love that the voice acting is all in Japanese, it can make it a little hard to follow along with the game’s storyline because during missions you’ll frequently have to look at the translated text in order to know what’s going on. You won’t want to do that though as there are billions of bullets coming your way, so it’s a catch twenty two. Do you read the text and potentially die, but understand where the story is heading, or do you simply ignore the story?

Astebreed4The Lowdown:

Astebreed came out of nowhere for me. I had no expectations, and it literally blew me away. This is one of the best shooters I’ve played in a very long time, and it proves this genre still has a lot of life left in it. The genre simply requires more talented people willing to take risks and try something new. I absolutely love the gameplay mechanics, and while it might look like I’m not really doing much in the video, it will all make sense when you play the game, and play it you should because this is a fantastic game! Go out and pick it up from Steam right now!

Final Score: 9.5/10

Watch Dogs Review

Watch DogsWatch Dogs (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: May 27th, 2014

Parent Talk: Watch Dogs is rated M for mature because of blood, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, and the use of drugs and alcohol. If you’ve ever played an open world game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto or Saint’s Row, you know what to expect in terms of sheer violence and brutality. There are also some intense scenes such as people being sold off to the sex trade and much, much more.

Plays Like: While Watch Dogs shares a lot in comment with other open world games in that you drive around a massive city, take on missions to progress the story, and take part in hundreds of short side quests, or mini-games. What makes Watch Dogs unique is that it features a hacking mechanic that feels completely different than virtually any other open world game out there. You can spy on anyone by taking over a security camera, you can cause traffic lights to spontaneously switch colors causing a massive traffic jam, and much more. Aiden is no push-over either, and he’s well-armed with all the usual firearms you’d expect from a game like this.

Review Basis: Ubisoft sent over the PlayStation 4 version for us to review.  I played many online sessions, and completed the single player campaign.

Watch Dogs has been hyped as the next great videogame franchise for the past few years. It has been eagerly anticipated by millions of gamers around the world, and now the time has come to pass judgment. Does Watch Dogs live up to the hype, or is it just another in a long line of open world action games?

Watch Dogs1The Great:

In typical open world fashion, you take on missions in order to progress the story. Interestingly enough, the story is linear, and each act is broken down into one mission after another. You don’t go see either Cousin Vinnie, Bob, or Sue for a mission, and someone else for another. No, instead the core focus is on a very linear storyline, but how you tackle the missions is what makes Watch Dogs stand out. Normally you’d just run into a building, guns blazing and then you’d be challenged with escaping the madness afterwards. While that basic setup is more or less the same here, Aiden, the protagonist, has the ability to hack into a nice assortment of objects. He can hack security cameras, which allow you to see where enemies are, he can overload an enemy’s cellphone which causes it to explode, he can overload circuit breakers, and much more. This changes the way you approach each encounter, because while it’s certainly true you could just run in guns blazing, it’s so much more enjoyable taking your enemies out from the shadows using nothing but your hacking skills and a couple of smart distractions.

Watch Dogs2The Good:

+ Fantastic cast of characters. One of my favorite aspects of Watch Dogs is the great casts of supporting characters. I never really connected on a personal level with Aiden, but the rest of the cast was great. Clara in particular is an extremely important, and interesting character.

+ The side missions, and optional content are all extremely fun to play. If you enjoy open world games, you’re going to enjoy this one. Simple as that. From blasting aliens in augmented reality mini-games, to the wide assortment of side missions like preventing people from being robbed, to delivering cars to specific spots with little or no damage, to anything else you can think of, the action remains fun and enjoyable.

+ I also really loved how the online portion of the game is seamlessly connected to the single player experience. Frequently you’ll be updated about some sort of online event taking place from races to decryption matches and more. There are several online game modes available, and they’re all a blast.

+ I also have to mention the digital trip mini-games. I don’t want to spoil them as there are only four, but these offer some of the most fun you’ll have in the entire game. They’re wacky, but so, so awesome.

+ The simple level system allows Aiden to become a better hacker, driver, and a more proficient killing machine. Everything you do in the game nets you experience and all the various mini-games, and side quests, including online sessions, will reward special cars, weapons, and skills. I love how no matter what you do, you always feel like you’re making progress.

+ Watch Dogs is a very impressive game to look at, and to listen to. From lush environments, great water effects, and a wide assortment of catchy musical tracks, there’s something here for audio visual fans to dig their teeth into. I also really appreciated how destroyable some of the environments are.

Watch Dogs3The So-So:

+/- The story never reaches its full potential. Aiden is seeking revenge for the death of his niece, but when his sister begs him to stop because he’s putting the rest of his family in jeopardy, he essentially ignores her pleas and continues, even though she’s absolutely right. I was never really satisfied with the explanation the game gave for why Aiden was so persistent, and I found it hurt his overall character as a result.

+/- While Aiden does get more interesting later on in the game, I found it a bit too late by that time. Here we have a person who is essentially killing hundreds, if not thousands of people for one little girl. Is that truly revenge?

+/- Being able to use your profiler, or cellphone to see what every single NPC does for a living, how much they make, and more, acts like a moral compass of sorts. Will you shoot an enemy if you know that they’re only doing this job because they need the money for their sick mother? What about the guy who’s expecting a newborn any day now? I loved that the game made me react differently to each new situation, however there was no real consequence for killing one NPC and saving another. I appreciated what Ubisoft tried to do here, but it felt only half fulfilling.

Watch Dogs4The Bad:

– While everything comes together beautifully in Watch Dogs, the game does suffer from a few issues. The first being the shopping system is completely pointless. During my entire time with the game I never once bought anything from the various stores that I wasn’t forced to, because there was simply no need. I never ran out of ammo, never had a need for a sports car, etc. Everything I needed the game gave me, making the shopping experience useless.

– As with virtually all open world games, eventually the world starts to feel a bit repetitive. While I love fast traveling to safe spots, the core breakdown is almost always the same. Drive somewhere, shoot people, hack something, drive somewhere else. There is a ton of mission variety, but that feeling that you’re doing something similar is always present.

Watch Dogs5The Lowdown:

Watch Dogs is a very fun game to play, but it didn’t wow me as much as I thought it would. Perhaps it’s because the hacking system is simply a single button press, maybe it’s because there are so many high quality open world games out there, or perhaps I’m simply tiring of the genre. Whatever the case may be, I enjoyed my time with Watch Dogs and I can easily recommend this one to fans of the genre looking for something a bit different. Ultimately though, I’d say this is a very good game, just not overly great.

Final Score: 8/10

Child of Light Review

Child of Light ReviewChild of Light (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: April 30th, 2014

Parent Talk: Child of Light is a beautiful RPG that features fairytale-like fantasy violence as well as the use of tobacco and alcohol, but again, in a whimsical sense. The entire game is told through the eyes of a young girl, and the backdrop is a painting world come to life. There is very little damaging with this game, however I do recommend parents heed the warning of the ESRB because very young children might be scared by some of the darker elements in the game.

Plays Like: Child of Light was designed from the ground up to be reminiscent of RPGs from the 16-bit console generation, however with modern sensibilities. That means there are no random encounters, but action is entirely turn-based. Everything is streamlined here from the basic inventory system, to the relatively simple battle system, however it all comes together in such a way that it proves there’s still a place for turn-based RPGs in today’s overly action RPG world.

Review Basis: Finished the PS4 version of the game.

If you’re looking for a beautiful game for any of the modern platforms from the PS3 to the Xbox One and Wii U, this is a game you should pay attention to. It features some of the liveliest settings I’ve seen in years, and the gameplay, while nostalgic, is extremely balanced and fun to play. It feels extremely rewarding when you time your attacks correctly and prevent a boss from attacking during the entire encounter.

CoL1The Great:

There are two distinct elements that really stand out in Child of Light, with the first being the incredible battle system. What makes it so unique is that it combines real-time elements and classic turn-based commands. At the bottom of the screen is an action bar which show icons for all the characters on the screen, typically two icons for the two heroes and three for the enemies. On the right side of the action bar is a red portion which is the command entry or cast build-up portion. The second your character’s icon hit the left portion of the red section you’re given your turn to enter your command. From there your character will prepare to attack, only doing so when their icon reaches the very end of the meter. The twist is that should you be attacked before your character gets their attack off, it acts as an interrupt and your icon gets blasted back to the left, therefore causing you to essentially lose a turn. What’s so great about this is that you can do the same to enemies as well, and even bosses. This adds an incredible amount of strategy to a deceivingly simple looking combat system.

Things get even more interesting when you include Igniculus, who is controlled with the right analog stick of a real-life coop partner. Igniculus can fly around the screen healing allies, or slowing down enemies, on top of picking up health and mana orbs from the environment. If that sounds like a lot to manage, keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the fact that you’ll be switching your party members almost every other turn later on in the game because each has unique abilities catered to a specific type of enemy.

The other fantastic element are the beautiful graphics. Imagine a hand painted piece of art come to life, and that’s what you get here. Child of Light was deeply inspired by Studio Ghibli and the spectacular art of Yoshitaka Amano. From the backdrops, to the enemy and level design, everything has been meticulously pieced together in such a way that you always feel like you’re playing within a child’s fairytale book and it’s wonderful. Each new area you explore looks dramatically different than the last, and yet they all fit together perfectly. It’s hard to describe in words just how incredible this game looks, and the feeling it will give you as you first step foot in the magically world of Lemuria.

CoL2The Good:

+ The story is quite unexpected as it features a young girl named Aurora trying to save her father, and not the other way around. Each new cast member you meet strikes off on their own, instead of following archaic archetypes from RPGs of old. As such you automatically feel connected to these characters as they all feel important and unique.

+ Incredible sense of style from not only the lush visual presentation, but also the way in which the dialogue has a deeply Shakespearian feel to it. This further enhances the game’s unique feel.

+ The soundtrack feels much like the visuals, organic. The melodies are bold when you’re in combat, and surreal when you’re running by a waterfall. I haven’t played a game where the soundtrack complemented the visuals like this in a very long time.

+ The simple inventory system allows you to easily get the most out of potions and special gems, which you can augment to your weapon, defense, and overall stats. These gems can even be combined through a very basic alchemy system. If you attach a blue gem to your weapon you’ll gain a water attack bonus on all enemies you attack through melee, and if you attach said gem to your defense you’ll gain a certain percentage of water elemental resistance. For the stat bonuses, they can range from increasing your HP and mana, to grant you a limit-break type attack and so much more.

+ Upon leveling up players can unlock one new skill in the level-up tree. Later on it will take two levels to unlock the most powerful abilities. What’s nice is that you always have at least three different directions you can select from on the tree. Typically one area will be most focused on magic attacks, one for melee attacks, and one for overall bonuses, but each character has a unique tree, and often there are skills from all three sets located within each branch. Another bonus is that your entire party gains experience even if they’re not in combat.

+ Igniculus isn’t just useful in battle situations, but also helps Aurora solve puzzles. He can light the way to secret caves, or helps her activate switches she otherwise would never be able to reach. In the end he feels like a true companion.

+ One of the biggest problems people have when they have a family, or begin their working career is a real lack of time to devote to playing videogames. Thankfully Child of Light is around 12 hours long, which is absolutely perfect because even if you can only devote 30 minutes a day, you’ll always feel like you’re making progress and before long you’ll see the end credits.

CoL3The Lowdown:

Child of Light is one of the year’s freshest and best RPGs. Don’t let it’s download-only moniker fool you, this is an incredible journey that’s well worth taking. The combat is balanced and extremely deep for appearing so simple. The graphics and soundtrack are absolutely fantastic, and the story is deeply personal. I don’t know what else I can say except, go give this one a download right away. It comes extremely highly recommended.

Final Score: 9.8/10  

Daylight Review

DaylightDaylight (Available on PC, and PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Zombie Studios
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Price: $14.99

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Daylight M for mature because of violence and strong language. This is a first-person adventure game where you’re trying to survive not only your own fear, but shadow witches who want nothing more than to see you dead. It’s extremely creepy, and should be kept very far away from children.

Plays Like: Imagine a first-person survival horror game where you have no weapons, are completely alone, and only want to make it out alive, and you’re starting to get the idea. Levels are randomly generated, and outside some shadow witches, your nerves are likely to be your biggest enemy.

Review Basis: Finished the game.

Indie developer Zombie Studios has created one heck of an impressive first-person survival horror game with Daylight. It features a brilliantly simple concept, and if it weren’t for one gameplay element that turns challenge to frustration, this would be an instant classic. So what is it about Daylight that makes it so unique?

The Great:

The concept. The concept is extremely original, and simple. You place as Sarah, a young woman who is trapped inside what appears to be a mental hospital. Armed with only your cellphone for a light, as well as a map displayed on the screen, you set forth looking for a way out. The action is from a first-person perspective, and outside your cellphone all you have are glow sticks to help identify Remnants, and other documents within the environment, and flares, which are used to make the shadow witches disappear. So what does that all means? During the course of the game you need to locate a certain number of documents scattered around the environment called Remnants. Once you have the required Remnants, you make your way to a special room which contains a key, usually in the form of an object like a Bible, teddy bear, scissors, etc. From there you take said key and race towards the exit as fast as possible. The catch is that every time you locate a Remnant your threat meter slowly increases. This meter works very similar to the sanity meter from Eternal Darkness. Once the meter fills up your chances increase of getting scared via increased sounds, floating objects, and the much feared shadow witches. These enemies will pop up right behind you so when you turn around they unleash a scream and not only scare the crap of you, but also causes Sarah to slowly die. If they touch her, it’s game over.

This is where the flares come into play. If you spot a witch early enough you can pop a flare and throw it at the witch, which causes her to disappear, thereby giving you a few more moments to high tail it out of there. Unlike many other survival horror games on the market, Daylight doesn’t feature any weapons whatsoever. That means if you run out of flares, and believe me they’re very scarce, you’re out of luck and will have to run away from witches.

The game is also entirely randomly generated meaning Remnants will appear in different locations every time you play, and the levels themselves are always changing. If you die, it’s not as simple as just going back the same way you came because the environment will no longer be the same. This means the game is never the same twice, which further adds to the suspense. Believe me, you’re going to always be on edge while playing this game.

Daylight2The Good:

+ Fantastic audio visual presentation. Featuring beautiful fog effects, great cloth physics, and wonderful use of lighting, Daylight is constantly eerie. The ambient noise helps keep you on edge with subtle scream noises in the background, maybe a shattered glass in the room above you, and other sounds you can’t quite place. Together the audio visual presentation will certainly get your blood pumping, and then when a witch does jump out at you, prepare to fling your controller in fear. It’s great!

Daylight3The Ugly:

– About the only negative thing I can say about Daylight is that its challenge turns to frustration very quickly, and sadly that brings down the entire experience. As your threat meter increases the chances of being killed also increase thanks to the ever present witches. What happens when you die after having spent 40 minutes running around looking for the required Remnants to unlock the key and exit the stage? That’s right, you have to restart from the very beginning of the stage, once again looking for all the Remnants. It wouldn’t be too bad if you died earlier on, but the thing is you can protect yourself, albeit limited, by using flares. When you’re holding the key though, you can’t protect yourself at all, and by the time you have the key your threat level will be maxed out. This means if you’re going to die, chances are the highest you’ll die right before reaching the exit and there’s nothing more annoying than being just a few feet away from the exit and getting killed, only to realize you now have to redo the entire 40 minutes all over again.

Daylight4The Lowdown:

Daylight is a really interesting game. I love how simple it is, yet terrifying at the same time. It’s such a shame a better system couldn’t have been designed so that when you died right at the end of a level you didn’t have to redo the entire thing. Considering the entire game can be completed in around two to three hours, this has to be the reason why Zombie Studios did this, but after playing for a while I found the challenge turned to frustration almost immediately. That said, if you’re looking for a survival horror experience that isn’t really like most out there, I suggest you give Daylight a chance. It makes for a great adrenalin rush, when it’s not driving you up the wall.

Final Score: 6.5/10  

Strider Review

StriderStrider (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Double Helix Games & Capcom Osaka Studio
Release Date: February 18th, 2014
Price: $14.99

Parent Talk: The ESRB Rates Strider E10+, for all those over ten years old. The content warning is for mild language and blood, and fantasy violence. The violence is much like the 1989 arcade game, fast and frantic, without being realistic. While players are cutting down everything in their way, there is very little in the way of blood. I’d say that almost anyone could play this game given the mild tone.

Plays Like: Players take on the role of Strider Hiryu, a ninja assassin like no other. With his Cypher (wicked looking sword), he chops down absolutely everything in his path. Unlike the previous games in the series, which were primarily level-based, this new reimagining plays like a Metroidvania game, where new items unlock previously inaccessible areas. Thankfully the action remains completely 2D so longtime fans of the series should have a lot to look forward to here.

Review Basis: I played through the PlayStation 4 version of the game, and had a real blast doing so.

GRIN, the developer behind Bionic Commando Rearmed, was set to make a Strider reboot in 2009, but when the company went bankrupt those plans were obviously scrapped. What we didn’t know was that Capcom was very serious about remaking Strider, so much so that they hooked up with Double Helix Games, the developer of the excellent Killer Instinct remakefor the Xbox One. What’s interesting is that Double Helix has gone on record as saying they were heavily inspired by Shadow Complex, which is a fantastic game to take inspiration from. So how has this reboot turned out? Is it worth the $15 asking price?

Strider1The Great:

Above all else what I enjoyed most about Strider was the fact that it’s always fun to play. Did you enjoy the 2D Metroid series? Did you love Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or the other Metroidvania Castlevania games? Were you a fan of Shadow Complex and Guacamelee? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you will absolutely adore Strider. By infusing rich and classic arcade action with Metroidvania-style gameplay, Strider has reached new levels of awesome. Not only do you get more powerful by finding new Cypher enhancements, but if you explore enough you can also find energy tanks, which allow you to use your option attacks more frequently. There are also rejuvenation and health tanks to find as well. Eventually Strider will be the ultimate bad ass, able to reflect enemy projectiles, call forth three option attacks (panther, droid, and hawk), and scale even the largest obstacle.

Strider2The Good:

+ Superb controls. At no point does Strider ever feel loose, which is important as he scales the side of a building or comes sliding through an open grate. He’s always responsive, and pulling off a dazzling array of special attacks is only a few button presses away.

+ The Cypher can now be upgraded. As you progress Strider will learn the ability to freeze his enemies, repel incoming projectiles and so much more. What I thoroughly enjoyed was that Strider’s famous scarf, or in this version his plasma trail, will turn a different color based on which Cypher you have equipped. It’s a nice touch.

+ Color system works great for both combat. Certain enemies will have yellow, red, or purples shields, which tells you which Cypher you need to switch to in order to take them down. Certain enemies are only weak to one Cypher, and switching back and forth is done by a simply tap of the d-pad.

+ Classic Metroid-inspiredmap system. The map is extremely detailed, allowing you to see where upgrades are located, which Cypher is required to open colored doors, etc.

+ Unlockable extra modes are a blast to play through. These might include racing through certain areas as quickly as possible, or sometimes something a little more violent.

+ The perfect download title. Weighing in at around six hours or so, give or take based on how much you explore, Strider is a wonderful reimagining of an arcade classic.

+ Excellent graphics. The game may take place in one giant environment, but the characters, animation, and level of detail is excellent for a digital-only release. Strider himself looks fantastic, and while I would have liked to have seen a little more color, I like how Strider and the bosses contrast so well with the backgrounds.

+ The soundtrack and sound effects are also very impressive. The music can be rip-roaring when the action cranks up, and the Cypher sounds as powerful as it should as you swing it around in front of you. The voice acting is fairly decent, although a few characters are a little cringe-worthy.

Strider3The So-So:

+/- There are some repeated level design elements that can make exploration a little off-putting because you might think you’re in one area, when you’re actually somewhere completely different. A little more variety in the environments would have been appreciated.

Strider4The Lowdown:

If you’ve got $15 and are looking for a great way to spend some time over the weekend, look no further than Strider. It’s an excellent reboot which should appeal to longtime fans and newcomers alike. The nice mix between action and exploration feels like a natural fit for the series, and I can only hope this is only the beginning of a brand new series of Strider games. Go download this one right now!

Final Score: 8.8/10