Category Archives: Vita Reviews

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

Freedom Wars Review

Freedom WarsFreedom Wars (Available exclusively for the PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Shift, and Dimps
Release Date: October 28th, 2014

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Freedom Wars T for teen because of blood, mild suggestive themes, and violence. It’s not overly gory, but you’re challenged with taking down giant robot-like enemies with all manner of weapons.   The story also touches on some mature themes so the teen rating is just about spot on.

Plays Like: Freedom Wars is an interesting game, it plays similarly to Monster Hunter in that you have a wide array of weapons at your disposal, there are tons of resource gathering, and how you complete each mission is entirely up to you. You can charge in using nothing but projectile weapons, or you can get up close and personal and deliver striking melee attacks. The freedom offered is extremely impressive, and over time you will develop your own play style. Missions take typical shooter fair and mix things up just enough to give the game its own distinct flare. You typically have to rescue captives from giant Abductors (mech-like robots), but sometimes you’re pitted against another team which plays out more like a team deathmatch. There’s a ton of mission variety, but we’ll discuss that in further below.

Review Basis: Finished the campaign using both the AI and real-life cooperative teammates.

Freedom Wars is one of the best PlayStation Vita games to come along in a while. The fact it’s an original game makes it even more impressive. It’s a perfect pick-up and play game, but also has the chops to keep you glued to your Vita for hours on end. If you’re a fan of Monster Hunter or Soul Sacrifice, you’ll love this game. From the incredible game world that pulls you in with each and every aspect of the game, to the great weapon and combat system, Freedom Wars absolutely shocked me with how much fun it is to play. If you haven’t played a Vita game in a while, this is one to look into.

The Great:

I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but very few have pulled me into their game world like Freedom Wars did. Everything about the game makes you want to know more about this unique world. First off, you play as a Sinner, basically someone that has been imprisoned for being a worthless drain on society. Because you’re so useless, you’re sentence is a small one, a million years of forced voluntary military service. I love the way the game continuously reminds you of just how useless you really are, and how you’re ‘volunteering’ for everything, even though you have absolutely no choice. Completing missions will slowly decrease your sentence, but until you’ve earned enough money the restrictions placed upon you are hilarious. You’re not allowed to pace more than five steps in your cell or else you’ll be charged with another decade of imprisonment. Want to go to sleep, no problem, but you can’t lie down. These seemingly ridiculous restrictions play into this insane world perfectly, and help flesh out the Entitlement system which eventually allows you to fast-travel, change your characters clothes, and more. You will eventually your stay more habitual, but it’ll take a while before you’re truly free.

The core gameplay also plays into this unique theme perfectly. Each Panopticon, which is essentially a city, is represented by a group of Sinners. I selected Los Angeles because Montreal wasn’t an option. For shame! The more missions you complete, you not only reduce your imprisonment, but you gain notoriety for your Panopticon. There are 50 in the game, and these act almost like leaderboards. The higher your placement, the better rewards you get for in-game events. It gives a true sense of belonging to this messed up world. One important way to improve your Panopticon is to steal citizens and resources from rival cities. There are giant mech-like machines all over the place called Abductors, and you’re constantly charged with bringing these giants down in order to snatch the civilian inside. Once you have the person, you make a break for the closest transport tube. Securing these people will raise your Panopticon’s rating, lower your rivals, and again, lower your sentence.

The Good:

  • Weapons are a joy to use and you’re gameplay style will directly alter the way you play the game. Let’s say you want to focus on melee combat, well that’s an option, select all the weapons that fit your fighting style and you’re all set. The same is true for projectile attacks. Each weapon feels genuinely unique, and no two players will play the game exactly the same.
  • The Thorn, is a grabbling beam of sorts, which you can use to propel yourself to high up platforms, but can also be used as a weapon. You can latch on to the Abductors to slash away at their armor, you can pull them to the group for a team attack, and more. What’s interesting with the Thorn is that there are three distinct types, one for healing, one for traps and barricades, and one for grabbles. Yet again your play style will determine which variation you use most often. The Thorn also gives the game an incredibly fast-paced feel because at any moment you can zip along the side of a building, you can pull enemies off platforms, propel yourself to a specific target, and so much more.
  • There’s also a great variety of missions. While the bulk are about you rescuing captured civilians, you will also experience unique takes on capture the flag, king of the hill, and more, but all wrapped around the citizen rescue theme. For example there might be a mission where you and an Abductor are racing towards a runaway civilian. Your goal is to grab the person, and race towards the rescue tube before the Abductor can stop you, therein lies your capture the flag game. I adored the way the game played on this classic gaming conventions.
  • Team-based gameplay rocks whether or not you have real friends in your party. Every mission you go on is a group affair. Your teammates will typically follow your lead, so if you bring down an Abductor, they’ll do all in their power to finish it off. You’ll have a great time if you decide to bring some friends into the mix because only by working together can you effectively take down three or four Abductors at once. Doing so is a huge reward too.
  • Full PlayStation TV support. Being the very first Vita game I’ve played from beginning to end on my new PS TV was a delight. Using a DualShock 4 proved a perfect way to play the game. It controlled flawlessly, and looked beautiful upscaled to 720p.
  • While on the subject of graphics, the game looks extremely detailed. It’s amazing how much juice the Vita actually has under the hood. There’s great use of color, the environments look wonderful, and the action is always rock-solid, with the frame-rate being constant throughout.
  • The soundtrack is fast-paced to match the action, and die-hards will be happy to hear that the original Japanese voice acting remains in-tact. Some serious production values went into the development of this game.

The So-So:

+/- The story is alright. It’s a shame too because the game world is so perfectly tied to the gameplay and overall theme that you would think the story would fit just as well, but it doesn’t. It ends up slowing things down, forcing you to walk around and listen to dialogue. There’s a ton of lore here too, but I found myself constantly skipping the dialogue sequences just to get on to the next mission because the gameplay is so much more entertaining.

+/- The camera lock-on mechanic takes a little getting used to. You can tap it on or off, but that’s not the issue, the issue comes in when you’re locked on a target and move too close to said enemy. Suddenly the camera is turning and spinning out of control all over the place.

+/- There’s an overly complex crafting system here that yields random results. Over the course of the game you’ll acquire massive amounts of supplies, however you’re only ever going to use a handful of weapons so there’s very little need for all the resources at your disposal. I think a reworked crafting system would have added even more to an already impressive package.

The Lowdown:

Being Japan’s number one selling new IP on the Vita, and a Monster Hunter clone Vita owners can be proud to call their own, it’s a sure bet Freedom Wars will get a sequel sometime next year. With any luck the developers can fix some of the minor complaints I raised here and deliver the Vita’s true killer app. I also hope that game reaches Western shores as well because this is a game that truly surprised me by how deep and genuinely enjoyable it is. If you own a PlayStation Vita, do yourself a huge favor and check out Freedom Wars.

Final Score: 8.8/10

TearAway Review

TearAwayTearAway (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: TearAway is rated E for everyone and is the perfect game to give your children because there’s virtually nothing damaging in here at all.  There is some extremely minor violence when you’re forced to take out paper enemies, but that’s it.  I’d call it comic mischief myself.  Some young kids may have a hard time holding the Vita and making full use of the rear track pad and front touch screen though, so that’s a call you’ll have to make.  The Vita is also an expensive piece of hardware to let little kids use, but this is certainly a game they’d enjoy.

Plays Like: At its core TearAway is a 3D action platformer.  It features many interactive areas where players use the Vita’s various features in order to blur the lines between the real world and the digital one.  In total the game can be completed relatively quickly, in only a few hours, but there are plenty of collectables to keep you coming back afterwards.

Review Basis: Finished the game in around four and a half hours.

Every once and a while a game comes along that defines a platform.  Sometimes it’s because the game was so good it defied expectations, other times it changed the future of a particular genre forever, and then there are those games that define a platform because they highlight all the best features of the console they’re released on.  The latter is the case with TearAway, it defines the Vita because it makes perfect use of all the unique features the Vita has to offer without ever coming off as gimmicky or forced.  It’s the Vita’s first true killer app, and is easy the best game on the system.

TearAway1The Great:

Conceptually TearAway is brilliant.  Players take on the role of either a male envelope named Iota, or a female one called Atoi.  Both characters have the same goal, make it to the sun.  What’s unique is that you, as in the real you, are located in the sun.  This is thanks to the front facing camera frequently showing video of your face as you play the game.  Iota is on a mission to tell an exciting story about how he managed to reach you.  He’s not in this alone though, being an outsider partaking in his journey you have the ability to constantly alter Iota’s world by using the back track pad to pop your fingers through the paper and help him make his way through various obstacles.  It’s a genius way of seamlessly brining the real world and the game world together.  There will be times where you have to record snippets of your voice, other times where you’ll have to take pictures of your surroundings and so much more.  Each time you do this, the lines between the two “worlds” blur just a little bit more.  It’s incredibly good fun that justifies each and every feature on the Vita.

TearAway3The Good:

+ The link between the real world and the digital one is further enhanced by the stunning graphics.  Instead of going for the ultra-realistic, Media Molecule went for something that could actually take part in the real world.  This is because the digital world is entirely made up of paper.  With a stick of glue, some crayons and a good imagination, you could actually build TearAway’s entire universe out in the real world.  As you move Iota from one location to the next, levels peel back, or tear open to reveal something new and exciting.  It’s often breathtaking because of how charming the visuals look, and also how much detail was put into them.

+ If that weren’t enough, virtually everything in the game can be customized.  If you don’t like the way Iota looks at any given time, just touch him for a second or two and you can enter a customization menu that allows you to draw on his face, add objects to his body, and more.  Often you can even add different elements to the stages and other characters you meet.  There’s even a paper crafting mechanic built right into the game, whereby you can select from a wide variety of color paper, and draw whatever you want, cut it out, add unique items to it, and bring it to life within the game.  It’s pretty amazing.

+ Another area that is sensational is the interactivity of the game.  Most Vita games force touch screen inputs or the rear track pad in often bizarre ways that a button press could easily have emulated.  In this case though, each and every use of the Vita’s unique functions couldn’t be replicated with a button press.  From extending paper paths using the touch screen, to the already mentioned popping your fingers through the screen using the rear track pad, each feature proves useful, fun and highly creative.  This is how you make a Vita game!

+ The platforming is also top notch.  While all of these other features are great, they wouldn’t really do much if the core gameplay was lacking, but it isn’t.  Each of these interactive areas only enhance what was already there to begin with, a rock solid action platformer.  The first half of the game blends simple platforming and action, but later on the difficulty ramps up and your jumps have to be extremely precise.

+ One area that a lot of Vita games suffer from is their lack of portability.  Most games on the Vita are simply watered down console games, and it shows.  Their levels or missions are far too long to be of any use while gaming on the go.  That can’t be said for TearAway.  Here levels take maybe 15 to 20 minutes, however the game auto-saves every 15 to 20 seconds or so, meaning you can close the game at a moment’s notice.  Load times aren’t very long at all either, in essence there’s one load time upon boot up and that’s the only one you’re ever going to notice.  The entire game can be completed in only a few hours, but if you want to locate all the enemies, all the gift boxes, and all the confetti, it’ll take at least a dozen hours or so.

+ Finally, the lines between the digital world and real world come full circle with the inclusion of printable origami templates you can find in-game.  As you traverse the 3D world Iota will locate white-shaped objects that when he takes a picture of will come to life.  Doing this rewards Iota with an origami template of whatever it was he just snapped a photo of.  It’s the perfect way to wrap up the link between both worlds.

TearAway2The Lowdown:

TearAway is hands down the very best game on the PlayStation Vita right now.  I absolutely adored it.  The way it blends the lines between real world and digital world was spectacular.  I also loved all the different ways the Vita’s features were put to good use.  It never felt like a gimmick, and almost always brought a smile to my face.  The printable origami templates is another great touch.  Media Molecule is quickly becoming one of my favorite exclusive developers in Sony’s arsenal.  I love how they’re willing to think outside the box and take chances.  While this is a super easy recommend for anyone with a Vita, it’s hard to say whether players should race out and pick the system up for just this game.  While it’s fantastic, it is only a few hours long and I’d recommend players check out the rest of the system library to see if there are a few other games that tickle your fancy before taking the plunge.  That said, this is certainly a game everyone should at least experience.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Review

Batman BlackgateBatman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Available on Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Platformer: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Armature Studio
Release Date: October 25th, 2013

Review Basis: We received a copy of the 3DS version from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  I finished the game in around ten hours or so, and tried a little of the New Game+ mode.

Blackgate was a surprise announcement last year. There hasn’t been a non-LEGO Batman game on a portable in a very long while. The fact that it was going to be a Metroidvania-style adventure automatically got my attention. The first screens looked fantastic, and it’s one of those genres that was perfectly suited to the duel screen setup of the DS. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was the first game to utilize the second screen, and I actually imported it when it came out because I couldn’t wait to see how well it played. If you’re interested, you can check out my old import play test in the archives. Not to get off topic here, but I really wanted to emphasize that I really enjoy these types of games. Just to show how platform neutral I am, the PlayStation Vita got an incredible Metroidvania-style game in Guacamelee, which is actually one of the very best videogames released this year. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate will not end up winning any awards, but it still warrants a play-through for fans of the genre.

The Great:

The tried and true gameplay of Metroidvania games still makes for one heck of a good time. Exploring every nook and cranny to find all the collectibles and power-ups is as addicting as ever. Batman’s detective mode lets you see objects that can be interacted with, which helps, but you’ll still have to come back to certain areas after collecting various upgrades. The satisfaction of finally solving puzzles you’ve been trying too since the beginning just feels awesome.

Batman Blackgate1The Good:

+ Sublime art style. Cutscenes take the form of slightly animated digital graphic novels. They look extremely similar to digital comic you might read on your PC or tablet. They certainly stay true to Batman’s roots.

+ Challenging gameplay. The boss battles in particular will really make you scratch your head. Black Mask is rather simple once you know what to do, but it took me dozens and dozens of Game Over screens before I was able to best him. The same can be said of the Penguin too.

+ Most puzzles won’t take you long to figure out, but they’re fun none-the-less. There are some larger puzzles towards the end of the game that are very satisfying to solve.

+ Classic power-ups from the Arkham series. Expect to find the grapple hook, the Bat-a-rang and a few more weapons we’ve all grown accustomed to with the console versions. The game could have used one or two more however, just to spice things up a little bit.

+ Perfect Length. Blackgate took me a little over ten hours to complete. That’s the right amount of time for a portable adventure like this one.

+ Makes great use of each portables’ strengths. Touch screen commands don’t get in the way and feel natural. On the 3DS, the 3D effects are well handled and help bring you into the journey. Vita owners also get to go trophy hunting.

+ Feels fresh to play a 2.5D Batman game. It’s always fun to experience something new and the more Batman the better.

+ New Game + changes the order of the bosses and adds new cutscenes. What’s not to love about that?

Batman Blackgate2The So-So:

-/+ Lackluster storyline. It’s supposed to compliment the Arkham Origins, but it really doesn’t tell much of a tale. If you play your videogames to be entertained by a blockbuster plot, you’ll be disappointed.

The Bad:

– Some battles are nothing more than glorified quick-time-events.

– Extremely confusing map system. The game takes place in a 3D environment, however your character can only move left or right. Sometimes, moving left on the screen will make you go right on the map, talk about confusing. For the most part, you have to rely on trial and error when backtracking to previous areas as the maps are often a nuisance.

– There’s no platforming whatsoever, not even a jump button. You don’t even aim your projectiles. Everything is done for you. It feels like the game plays itself, with you only moving the character around. It feels like a PC point and click game. It’s 99% exploration, and then a few fights here and there. It’s also kind of weird playing a Metroidvania-style game without a double jump.

The Ugly:

Blackgate introduces a painful fetch-quest right before the final boss that sends you all over previously explored areas to rescue five hostages. This is clearly a shameful attempt to add an extra hour of game time to your play-through. It’s completely unnecessary.

Batman Blackgate3The Lowdown:

While not as memorable as recent games like Guacamelee!, Shadow Complex or even Cave Story 3D, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is still well worth your while. It’s a fun little adventure game that will fit your Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita like a glove. However, I’d recommend this only to the biggest Metroidvania fans out there or those that simply cannot pass a Batman game by. It’s definitely a solid title, just one that comes with a few big flaws.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Rayman Legends Review

Rayman LegendsRayman Legends (Available for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4 (5 on Wii U)
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013

Rayman Legends was originally planned as a Wii U exclusive, but due to poor sales of the system Ubisoft opted to go with a much safer strategy and released the game on the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and naturally the Wii U. I’ll tell you right from the get go that you should absolutely buy this game for whatever system you want. The version I’ll be reviewing today is the Wii U one, simply because that’s the game Ubisoft sent us and also since it’s the definitive version as it was originally developed for the platform. That being said, if you do not own a Wii U, make sure you buy the PS3, or 360 version as this is a serious contender for 2013′s Game of the Year award. From what we’ve played of the Vita version, it looks like a solid portable port and something Vita owners should be proud of. You do miss the chaos of multiplayer gaming (Vita Legends only supports 2 players), but it is the only way to play Rayman Legends online.

Rayman Origins was released in 2011 and floored everyone with its fantastic visuals and chaotic multiplayer. I had never played a platformer before that actually worked with cooperative gameplay. Origins was a solid single player game, but was delightful when played with friends. Legends is a rare example of a direct sequel that improves upon everything the original did. Although I enjoyed Origins tremendously on the PlayStation 3, nothing could prepare me for the amount of fun I was about to experience with Legends. It is chock full of content for every gamer out there, and also demonstrates that asymmetric gameplay on the Wii U can enhance multiplayer gaming.

The Great:

The multiplayer is without a doubt the very best feature of Rayman Legends. The single player game can stand on its own, but when you add a friend (or more) to the mix, Legends becomes something else. It’s pure chaos. Since there is friendly fire, you end up hitting your buddies just as often as enemies and you wouldn’t want it any other way. It makes some sections more challenging, but it balances things out by letting you revive your pal. However, doing so is not always an easy task, especially in fast-paced levels where you’ll often end up dying when trying a rescue. I invited a friend for a few beers and some laughs a few nights ago and we ended up playing for six hours straight without even noticing. Even after all that we were hungry for more.

The touch screen levels are fun but somewhat tiresome when played alone. With a friend its a whole different story. The guy playing on the GamePad basically becomes the protector of all the other characters. If you screw up, your friends will let you know. You need to use the touch screen to do a variety of actions like tickling foes, opening gates and blocking fire balls with a giant shield. My favorite parts are when the games plays like a shmup, Here, one player needs to jump on your shield while you move it across the screen. The other player must also shoot enemies so this plays just like a co-op shooter, but with only one “jet”. There are also levels that require you to move the GamePad to let your buddy navigate a maze. These GamePad levels spice things up, and add variety to a game that was already excellent to begin with.

Rayman Legends3The Good:

+ Worth every penny! While you can reach the credits in around six hours, doing so will only show you about half the game. Trying to collect every last Teensie will easily double that time if not triple it. There’s also an unlockable world, and some daily and weekly challenges. Those are fantastic as they compare you with the best from all over the world, as well as people from your friends list. Remember how I praised Origins above, well the full version of Rayman Origins is also included in Legends as unlockable levels, not DLC. For Nintendo fans, this is your first chance to experience the original in HD.

+ Perfect difficulty. Although Legends can be brutally hard (trust me, some of the later levels can take around 30 minutes to complete) the checkpoints are often and lives are unlimited.

+ Every world contains a music rhythm level that’s playable after beating the boss. These quickly become a highlight as they’re a blast to play! You won’t stop playing just so you can experience them.

+ Plenty of unlockable characters that all offer slight variations in gameplay. There are also speed-runs that get unlocked the farther you progress. While brutal, these are some of the best levels in Legends.

+ Absolutely gorgeous visuals. This is 2D gaming at its finest. The music and sound effects are also excellent making this an extremely polished package.

+ The soccer mini-game is freaking awesome! Try it with a few friends and time will fly by. It’s unreal how they were able to create such an addicting mode with such a simple idea.

+ Controls cannot be any more tighter.

Rayman Legends4The So-So:

+/- The lack of an online mode will turn some people away. I personally think that this is one example where it’s better to play with people in the same room, but you should always have the option to play online as well.

Rayman Legends1The Lowdown:

Rayman Legends is the pinnacle of 2D platforming. I cannot think of one single reason why you shouldn’t purchase it. It’s the best game on Wii U right now, and I have a feeling it will stay that way for quite some time. There’s just nothing more to add. If you had no intentions of playing Legends, change your plans, free up some money and make this your priority. It’s a one of a kind experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Final Score: 9.9/10

Dragon’s Crown Review

dragonscrown02Dragon’s Crown (Available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1-4
Genre: Action/RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Vanillaware, Atlus
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
PS3 Price: $49.99
PS Vita Price: $39.99

PS3 vs. Vita: There aren’t many differences between the two versions. The Vita version has all of the content found in the home console version. It’s easier to gather around friends and play together with the home console version, though the handheld version is $10 cheaper and the pointer controls feel much more natural on the Vita. The Vita version seems to slow down more frequently during gameplay though, especially in the fights with the Kraken and the Goblin Gate. You can transfer save data between the two versions, though unfortunately cross-buy and cross-play features are not available.

Parent Talk: Dragon’s Crown doesn’t have any blood or gore, but it does have highly sexualized character designs. The character designs are meant to reference Dungeons and Dragons and Weird Tales/Conan the Barbarian, which had very scantily clad characters, but it may make some people feel uncomfortable, especially parents with young children.

Plays like: Classic arcade brawlers with a twist like Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom (and the recently re-released Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara), as well as the Golden Axe series. Dragon’s Crown is a beat ‘em up game at its core, throwing you against hordes of enemies in a semi-2D field, but it has adventure and role-playing elements as well. Also, if you enjoyed Code of Princess, you’ll really love this game.

Review Basis: Completed the Elf campaign, played locally and online, currently on Hard mode, started campaigns with the Fighter, Wizard, and Sorceress.

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Vanillaware deserves a lot of love, whether or not many gamers know it already. They’ve been keeping 2D gaming alive with excellent titles like Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade (my personal favorite of the bunch). Dragon’s Crown fits squarely in with its forebears, because it thoroughly embraces its 2D heritage and manages to be fresh and interesting at the same time. While Odin Sphere was more of a single-player RPG and Muramasa was more of a Metroidvania-style adventure game, Dragon’s Crown is more of a Golden Axe-like arcade brawler. Yet also like its kin, Dragon’s Crown manages to make itself distinct, thanks to an interesting array of characters and a surprising amount of depth.

The Great:

Wonderful, nostalgic, 2D brawling. Dragon’s Crown is a throwback to classic arcade-style games, but given a modern twist. Part of the game’s charm is that it seems like a mindless, fun, hack-and-slash game at first glance, but hides a layer of depth beneath the surface. Destructoid probably put it best, calling the game a “technical brawler.” It doesn’t have the insane move-set of a typical fighting game, but each character has a unique move-set, a character-specific skill tree, and a wide variety of equipment at his or her disposal. Deciding who to go with and how to spec characters can make your adventure that much more successful.

The Good:

+ Absolutely stunning artwork. Though the character designs drew some ire from people, I’ll go out and defend it: George Kamitani’s artwork is absolutely wonderful and he has a true sense of style. The designs are meant to pay homage to the stylized look of Weird Tales/Conan the Barbarian, Dungeons and Dragons, Golden Axe, and perhaps Record of Lodoss War. I do agree that it’s highly exaggerated, but that’s the point of the characters. I personally prefer the aesthetic of Muramasa more, but that’s because I’m more interested in the Japanese mythology background and characters from that game. No matter which you prefer, it’s impossible to deny that the highly detailed characters and the amazing monsters really show that 2D artwork can still impress in the HD era. The dilapidated ruins, sprawling ruins, ornate castles, and dank waterways feel nostalgic rather than cliché. The characters have a sense of personality and life. The game looks especially beautiful on the Vita’s OLED widescreen. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful game on that system.

+ A diverse cast. There are six playable character types: Elf, Fighter, Amazon, Sorceress, Wizard, and Dwarf. While you cannot customize your character like in some fantasy role-playing games, each character has unique gimmicks. The Fighter has a wide array of sword attacks, can block with his shield, charge through enemies, and perform powerful combination attacks. However, the Wizard can create familiars out of wood and rain down fiery destruction. Each character gets access to a common skill tree as well as a character-specific skill tree. The Elf character, for example, can get access to a larger quiver, a better charged-shot skill, and more. You can build your character differently by focusing on different skills and changing your equipment list. I’ve spent most of my time playing as the Elf character, which is nimble and graceful. She can quickly unload a volley of arrows, but also unleash quick kick attack combos, which makes her a fun character to play.

+ Variety of equipment options. Most beat ‘em up games just set you own your way with a basic weapon and an occasional power-up. That is not the case here. Over the course of the game, you can open chests and get new gear, including weapons, armor, belts, necklaces, greaves, etc. Each piece of gear is ranked between E through S. E ranked gear tends to not offer any perks, while S ranked gear tends to have more passive bonuses. You can even purchase multiple equipment bags so that you can swap out different item sets between levels. You can spec one item list for finding items and increasing your chances of getting great loot. You can have up to 500 pieces of loot in your main equipment list, so you’re never pressured to start selling off your gear. Your equipment actually has a durability gauge as well. If you use your equipment too often, it may break, so you have to go to the shop and repair it. Though you may find that appraising a weapon you found may be the better option.

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 + Items and power-ups. In addition to the equipment system mentioned above, you can also find limited-use weapons and items, such as crossbows, daggers, and torches. You need torches to ward off ghosts and bombs are needed to blow up secret passages. You can even mount certain monsters and ride them around!

+ Partner system. Even if you’re playing alone, you still have options. You can play locally or online of course, but if you prefer, you can resurrect other characters to help you. If you find bones in a level, you can take them to the local priest and revive them. These partner characters can’t level up or change equipment, so you’re encouraged to manage these partners carefully. Bury the bones if you don’t need to revive them and then part ways with them after you’ve adventured for some time.  If you bury the bones, you may be rewarded with a bonus item as well.

+ Magic system. Of course, the Sorceress and the Wizard have spells at their disposal, but there’s also a rune system as well. You can purchase several runes from the wizard Lucain, who looks suspiciously like Lord of the Ring’s Gandalf.  When you enter a level, you may find inscriptions strewn about the landscape. You can select the runes via a point-and-click style control system and then combine them with your own to cast a variety of spells. By combining specific runes, you can heal your characters, open hidden passages, petrify enemies, and more. After you uncover a rune combination, it will be recorded in Lucain’s rune guide. Sometimes it’s too hectic to select the runes while fighting enemies and renders some of the attack-based rune spells somewhat ineffective, but it’s an interesting mechanic.

+ Multiple pathways, multiple difficulties. When you first play the game, everything is very straightforward. You go through a basic tutorial, undertake a basic quest, and then gradually reach new areas. Once you get far enough, you can get a “second quest” in each area. Once you finally clear each level and get all of the talismans, you can challenge the dragon in the hopes of defeating it and restoring the land. However, that’s just part of your quest. Beating the dragon once clears the game on “Normal” and revives on the goddesses, represented as a statute in the church. You can then play the game again on Hard, and then again on Nightmare, in the hopes of reviving the other goddesses. Your level cap increases on each mode, going from level 35 on Normal, to 65 on Hard, to 99 on Nightmare. I completed the Normal mode in about 15 hours after completing all of the quests, and going through the remaining modes is not a breeze either. The bosses become more challenging and you also gain access to a new labyrinth level, which is basically like a remixed tower consisting of various sections of other levels. Most levels only take about 10 minutes or less to beat, making the game ideal for short bursts of play.

+ Both English and Japanese audio is available.

+ There are multiple color schemes for each character.

+ Continuous play option. Levels don’t take much time to complete, but there’s an interesting hook that comes after beating a stage—you can choose to keep going in the hopes of getting added rewards, but risk becoming worn out. After each stage, you may get a bonus incentive, whether it’s added gold or score bonuses. However, if you use your equipment too long, it might break, making it less effective in combat. You also have to worry about how many life points your characters have, because after a certain amount of revives, you have to start shelling out money to revive your comrades. It’s a careful balancing act. Do you risk braving the next level? Or do you go home and rest, repair your equipment, and prepare for the next adventure? However, you may occasionally get the option to heal between adventures by feasting over the campfire.

+ Quests. Each level already has a secondary path to discover and alternate boss to fight, but you can also revisit levels to satisfy quest objectives. Some quests ask you to defeat a number of enemies, for example. After completing a quest, you get a piece of art with a short story. It’s simple, but rewarding, and may remind many gamers of Lost Odyssey. I became more interested in finishing the quests just to see the various art pieces and stories, rather than getting the quest bonuses and items.

+ Multiplayer. One of the big draws of Dragon’s Crown is the multiplayer. You can easily drop in and out of online plays, making play seamless and quick. I joined a game in a few seconds and experienced no lag whatsoever.  I also played with a friend locally and everything was seamless. You can drop in and drop out in the middle of levels, making joining games less cumbersome.

+ Music. The music is just excellent. Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, Dragon’s Crown score perfectly fits the fantasy aesthetic. Some of Sakimoto’s work includes Tactics Ogre, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics, which should give you an idea of its epic scope.

+ The fantasy landscape. Playing Dragon’s Crown is like reliving a session of Dungeons and Dragon’s mixed with a game of Golden Axe at the same time. The narrator perfectly complements the adventure with lines that make you feel as though you’re experiencing a tabletop adventure. The game play is reminiscent of classic arcade beat ‘em up, but the sparse story segments still manage to have personality and charm thanks to the dungeon master-like proclamations from the narrator. You can even access other narrator voices as well. The adventure is remarkably simple in scope, but that’s what makes it endearing—you have to defeat the dragon and save the land. It’s not bogged down with brooding characters or meandering plot threads.

+ Cross Save option easily lets you transfer your save data between the PS3 and Vita versions. You can upload your save data on one platform and then download the data on the other, so you can pick up where you left off.

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The Bad:

-The pointer controls on PS3. Controlling Rannie the Thief and activating runes is interesting, but the pointer controls on the PS3 are a bit awkward. It’s not necessarily that bad, and considering that it would otherwise be impossible to control Rannie at the same time, it’s a somewhat necessary evil. Many times, I wouldn’t activate runes or move Rannie until I cleared out enemies because it was difficult to do both, but the runes had attack-focused abilities, thus completely useless by the time I cleared out the enemies. This is a very minor complaint. The Vita version avoids it completely, because the touch controls are significantly quicker and easier.

-Stiffness. Dragon’s Crown is a 2D brawler, but it has a pseudo-3D plane like other arcade brawlers. And like those games, it also can be a bit awkward at first. This was especially problematic when playing as the Elf, when precision is required. Sometimes I would barely miss my arrow strikes because I misjudged the enemy’s hit box. Using the analog stick makes movement a bit easier, but then running became more awkward, because you have to hold the attack button down to run. The d-pad makes running easier (with a simple double tap), but then lining up to attack enemies is a bit trickier. This issue goes away in time and to be fair, it’s just a matter of getting used to the game’s controls and quirks. After some time, I was able to easily land hits.

-Even with the option to replay levels, do quests, and explore hidden routes, the action can get a bit repetitive. You’ll be fighting the same bosses several times, you’ll see the same levels several times, and you’ll have to run through the same challenges. If you play the game with other characters, you’ll have to redo the same challenges and stages. Playing on multiplayer alleviates the tedium and the game does remain fun to play for quite some time, but if you’re on your own, it does drone on a bit.

-Unfortunately, you cannot customize your character’s appearance and equipment doesn’t seem to change the look of the character. Also, there aren’t variations of the characters—if you select the Elf, there’s only the female Elf character, for example. The six characters are very well developed and designed, and the character art is incredibly intricate, so I can understand why they don’t have the added customization options. Still, it would have been nice to have other options for these characters.

-Sadly no Cross Play feature.

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The Ugly:

Occasional slowdown. This issue was more prevalent on the Vita version, especially during more hectic boss fights like the Kraken. I rarely had this issue with the PS3 version.

The Lowdown:

If you like classic arcade games and are a fan of 2D action, you’ll find a lot to love in Dragon’s Crown. It’s one of the best games of its kind, as a brawler with depth and heart. For a game in this genre to last more than a few hours is a feat in itself, so one that lasts a dozen is a godsend.

Score: 9/10

Persona 4 Golden Review

Persona 4 Golden BoxPersona 4 Golden (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: November 20th, 2012

Persona 4 is easily one of my favorite games on the PlayStation 2, and one of my favorite role-playing games of all time, so when I finally got the chance to play an enhanced director’s cut on the Vita, I was ecstatic. For that reason, this is a difficult game for me to review—I became so attached to the original I wasn’t sure if I could view it through a critical lens. After finally getting time to play the game, I’ve been hooked all over again. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 was already a near-perfect masterpiece, but Golden improves upon it in every way, making it a must-own for the Vita.

Parent Talk: Persona 4 Golden is rated M because of some suggestive dialog, alcohol references, and the dark nature of the story. There are only a few instances of profanity, there’s no sexual content, and there is hardly any blood or gore whatsoever. The game could have easily gotten away with a T for Teen rating.

Plays Like: A turn-based role-playing game mixed together with a dating-simulation game.

Review Basis: Completed everything the game has to offer, received a Platinum Trophy, and played approximately 140 hours.

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The Great:

A flawless director’s cut. There are a lot of things I could put here—the endearing cast of characters, the excellent story, the innovative gameplay, but ultimately, I’m most impressed by how well the game stays fresh and how the changes, both the minor touches and the more major additions, mesh so well and result in a more polished, finished, and dare I say perfect product. Not only has the game received a visual upgrade, but there are additional dungeons, new story elements, new characters, new Social Links, more activities to do, and well…more of everything. It’s like an entirely new game. While it unfortunately lacks the ability to play as a female lead character, which Atlus implemented in the PlayStation Portable port of Persona 3, it offers enough to convince both existing fans and newbies alike to put down the cash.

The addition of Marie is unarguably the game’s biggest draw, serving as both an interesting new character and a vehicle for more compelling story content. The developers managed to insert her story so seamlessly into the adventure that people may think it was always there to begin with. The minor changes, such as the upgrades to the fishing mini-game, are welcome and help improve the parts of the game that felt less polished. That’s not to say there was much wrong with the original release. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find someone critical of the original, making these additions all the more amazing. The game scenario even continues for a longer period of time than in the original—in this game, you play until February, whereas in the original, you stopped in December.

Persona 4 Golden_izanagi

The Good:

+ An excellent cast of lovable characters. What makes the newer Persona games so great is that they are more about your interactions with the characters, as opposed to your interactions with a blank, expressionless world. Many RPGs send the player out into a world to explore, and the NPCs only act as a means to an end—a way to get a quest item or bit of the story. In the Persona games, the main character does act as somewhat of a blank slate for the player, but the rest of the cast are well-written and interesting. They grapple with problems that make them believable and human. Chie is jealous of her friend Yukiko, but she is upset with herself for feeling that way, leading to a cycle of self-loathing and depression. Yosuke is deeply hurt that he wasn’t able to get closer to a girl he liked, because she was killed before he really had the chance to open up. The characters feelings are actually an integral part of the plot, because each character needs to face his or her “True Self.” It’s a clever way of tying in the game mechanics, characters, and story into one cohesive theme—friendship and bonds. This game is all about the bonds you make when you meet someone, whether it’s by hanging out at school, working at a job, or spending time at home. By the end of the game, I was genuinely attached to the entire cast and was sad that it ended. The game eschews the “save the world” theme, in favor of getting you more attached to your fans and the little country town of Inaba.

+ Fantastic music. The music in the original was already incredible and the new tracks don’t disappoint either. The song “Memory,” which plays in one of the new dungeons, is probably my new favorite song in the game.

+ Refined combat. The game is still a menu-driven, turn-based role-playing game. That may make many newer gamers cringe, but it really shouldn’t. The mechanics are so polished and perfected here that it makes you believe it shouldn’t be any other way. Like the original, you have a party of four members, including the protagonist. The protagonist has access to a wide variety of personas and thus can be a jack-of-all-trades, while each other character has a specific specialty. Yukiko has fire-based attacks and high magic stats, while Kanji has electric-based moves and high physical attack, for example. Knowing how to best use your party for any situation and adapt your main character’s persona list accordingly can make a huge difference in battle. Each persona is kind of like a Pokémon—it’s a creature that can do your fighting for you. Though your character can perform physical attacks, personas can have up to eight attacks, spells, or abilities. If you use a spell or ability that exploits an enemy’s weakness, you can get another turn to attack. If you knock all of the enemies down, you can get an “All Out Attack” and have your entire party rush the field for added damage. This much should be a given for anyone who has played the original game.

In this version, however, not only are there more personas to use, but there are other subtle changes. For one, Rise is far more useful in combat than before. In the original, Rise acted only as a navigator, providing advice for the player. In this version, Rise can heal characters after battle, add damage to an All Out Attack, come into the battle to raise your party’s stats, and completely scan enemy weaknesses at the start of battle. How well she helps you is dependent on her level and her Social Link ranking with the protagonist. The other characters can also use team attacks, and characters outside the party can randomly join in for a support attack, as well. Also, it’s now far easier to refine your cast and your move-set. You can find cards in dungeons that will teach a move to your persona. After registering found cards, you can go and purchase more of them later, and you can even get cards by going to the café in town. You can teach your teammates moves they’ve forgotten by traveling to the hot spring and talking about your memories or you can teach them new moves by talking about your future. Characters can also get access to a third-tier persona in this version, with new attacks! The gameplay and battles are still carefully balanced, fun, and occasionally challenging even with these new additions.

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+ Social Link system. Persona 3 gained notoriety for its innovative hybrid of dating sim and role-playing game styles. Persona 4 improved on it in every way, offering more balanced content. Golden does the same. Basically, part of the game is a life simulator. You have to attend class and experience the major story events, but aside from that, you’re free to determine your own schedule. You can play basketball or soccer, join the drama club or band, hang out with friends after school (or even ditch class), go around town on your scooter, go fishing, watch movies, read books, get a part-time job, and more. Each of these events, seemingly insignificant at first, actually are incredibly important to building your character and learning more about the cast. Pursuing these events will build on your “Social Links,” which represent different Arcana. Arcana correlate with a certain class of persona. Thus, advancing your Social Link will allow you to create more powerful persona of that respective Arcana. Only by advancing the Social Link, learning more about that character’s likes and dislikes, and meeting them on their schedule will you be able to succeed.

It’s a careful balancing act, because you want to create a powerful persona to beat a boss, but to do that, you have to spend enough time with the person who represents that link. In this version, there are more characters to spend time with, more events to participate in (like the New Year’s Festival), and more ways to advance your social link. For example, you can know hang out with your friends at night and chat, which will raise their affection and speed up the time for increasing your Social Link.

+ Trophy support.

+ New scenes to watch, which give more insight to the characters. Many of them are quite fun and the Valentine’s Day scenes are actually really sweet. (By the way, Chie is the best choice).

+ Bonus extras, like a music player, cutscene viewer, a compilation of promotional videos and concert videos, and a quiz game.

+ Adjustable difficulty. You can set the game on Easy if you don’t want to concern yourself much with fighting, but the truly dedicated can try the game on higher modes. You can even fine tune individual settings, such as the rate of experience points awarded after battle, the amount of money you receive, the amount of damage dealt, and so on.

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The So-So:

The graphics have received a face-lift, but the character models are about the same as before. The game wasn’t designed for the Vita originally, so it won’t compete with the likes of Gravity Rush and Soul Sacrifice in terms of visuals, but it still has enough flair and style to make it look great. It’s definitely a game that will look good no matter how old it gets.

The Bad:

Unlike Persona 3 Portable, there is no option to play as a female lead character. It’s difficult to complain about this given how much content this version has and just how good the game is, but considering it was an addition to the previous game and this is a director’s cut, it would have been nice to have this in the game. Even if not much was changed, it would have been a neat option.

The Lowdown:

I consider Persona 4 Golden a near-perfect game. It improved upon an already excellent game in nearly every way and I had to struggle to find a complaint. The only major issue I had was the lack of an option that was featured in the previous game, but the adventure was just so fun and gameplay so addicting that I really didn’t care. I sunk in approximately 140 hours into the game and didn’t stop until I got the Platinum Trophy—and I still want to play it again and again. It’s a role-playing game that shows that JRPGs can still hang with the best of them, and if you have even a remote interest in role-playing games, this is simply a must-own for the PlayStation Vita. I consider it the best game in the system’s library. This game comes highly recommended.

Score: 10/10

Soul Sacrifice Review

Soul SacrificeSoul Sacrifice (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Comcept
Release Date: April 30th, 2013
PSN: Online co-op

Parent Talk: Soul Sacrifice is rated M for mature because of blood and gore, suggestive themes, and violence. This isn’t a game for kids. After you defeat each enemy you have to decide if you will sacrifice their soul or save them. The game also features many grotesque images.

Plays Like: It’s easy to say it plays like any other dungeon crawler/action RPG, but that would be doing an injustice to the game. In truth it plays unlike most other games in the genre. Full details are contained within the review itself.

Review Basis: Finished the single player campaign.

Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune has created what many were hoping would be the PlayStation Vita’s killer app. While that’s not exactly the case here, he has put together a fun, albeit highly repetitive, action RPG that fans of the genre will surely enjoy. Featuring a very unique decision-making mechanic that allows players to customize their character as they see fit, Soul Sacrifice is far more advance than I originally though, and it just might surprise you.

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The Great:

You literally have the choice to change your character anyway you want. During a mission’s onset players must decide which six abilities to bring with them. Abilities include everything from magical spells to melee attacks. As players progress more and more abilities are fused together or discovered. The tricky, and fun part is in balancing which abilities you bring with you and how you handle yourself during combat. You can only use these six abilities a handful of times during any given quest, and in order to replenish them you have to sacrifice the souls of your enemies. If you decide to spare your enemy’s soul, you gain an HP boost, but sometimes at the cost of your abilities. Boss characters go one step further, by saving one you can then ask that person to join your party later on. By carefully planning out your attack strategy you can create the character you’re most interested in playing. If you simply go in and mindlessly sacrifice or save everyone you encounter, your character will be vastly underpowered in no time.

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The Good:

+ Clever use of a hub instead of an over-world make the game very portable friendly, and ties directly into the storyline. A magical book, called Libron is able to transport players from their cell to relive key moments in the past. The book also has a ton of lore for players to get into if they care to learn more about the lore.

+ Play how you want. If you prefer to get up close and personal with enemies, morph your character into a melee fighter, if you would rather be a caster, by all means go for it. It’s great being able to play how you want, although players that create well rounded characters will likely have an easier time towards the end of the adventure.

+ Excellent use of the Vita hardware. The controls are spot on, with only minimal use of the touch screen during combat. Flipping through Libron is also highly rewarding.

+ Online play allows players to join forces to take on special Avalon Pact missions, which are surprisingly fun and fresh. Would have been awesome to bring a co-op buddy with me for the entire campaign though.

+ Impressive audio visuals, make full use of the Vita hardware. Some moments will have you shocked you’re playing on a portable. The voice acting, especially Libron is top tier.

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The Bad:

– The lock-on targeting mechanic can sometimes force you to attack an enemy you don’t want to, and camera problems also pop up from time to time which can lead to an untimely death.

– Repetitive in nature. While there are a variety of quests, from killing X number of enemies, locating specific items, or hunting down powerful bosses, you often have to take part in a large number of side-quests in order to build your character up enough so the main campaign quests are manageable. After a while it becomes apparent you’re in for a major grind if you really want to finish the game.

The Ugly:

Reaching over twenty hours of play time only to discover you’re nowhere near strong enough to take on the boss, and realizing you have to go back and grind previous missions to better tune your character.

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The Lowdown:

Soul Sacrifice is a fun game that has some really great ideas behind it. The balancing and decision making alone are things I’d like to see revisited sometime in the future. Sadly the repetitive nature of the genre is ultimately what brings the experience down. If you enjoy these types of games, by all means give this one a download, but if they’re not your cup of tea you may want to hold off until something else peaks your interest. Sadly this isn’t the killer app Vita fans were hoping for, but it is a fun game just the same.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Guacamelee! Review

Guacamelee!Guacamelee! (Available on PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 on Vita, 1 to 2 on PS3.
Genre: Action
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Release Date: April 9th, 2013

Guacamelee! is the latest title from Drinkbox studios, the guys responsible for the incredible Tales from Space: Mutant Blob Attacks!which launched alongside the PlayStation Vita.  Their follow-up release, Guacamelee!, plays just like Super Metroid, but with its own special flavor. I don’t really need to tell you, but this is one game you can’t afford to miss out on.  It doesn’t matter which version you pick up, you need to play this sensational game.

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The Great:

The combat! Throw a fighting game into a Metroidvania-style game and you’ve got yourself a winner! There are so many combos and moves possible it’s sick. They’re such a blast to execute too. You start the game knowing only your basics kicks and punches, but quickly start earning new moves. While Samus Aran typically receives upgrades to her suit, Juan here gets to learn uppercuts and pile drivers. With these, you can also reach new areas previously blocked by different colored blocks, each representing a different ability. There’s also this giant chicken who teaches you these super long combos a few hours into the game. That’s where you realize that the fighting system is way deeper than you originally thought. You need to use all the moves in your arsenal in you want to survive some of Guacamelee’s hardest bouts. Quite unique to play a game like this without a weapon.

Guacamelee!1

The Good:

+ Awesome platforming sections made even better thanks to the living/dead world mechanic. By pressing a button, you can make boulders or ledges disappear and reappear while you navigate your way through. While doing so, you also need to worry about double jumping, and using your special abilities to get through. Some of these sections require surgical precision and are some of the most epic jumps I’ve ever taken part of.

+ Story and atmosphere are laugh-out-loud funny. The game references tons of popular pop culture elements from Super Mario Bros. to the original Star Wars trilogy, with some dialogue taken directly from famous films or games. Guacamelee! doesn’t try to hide from its Metroid style either, even showcasing a few Metroid statues along the way. You gain your powers by knocking down Chozo look-alikes. The Mexican flare also fits the game like a glove.

+ Perfect difficulty. Some of the boss fights, battle sequences, and platforming sections will take all you got to complete, but death doesn’t penalize you. Checkpoints are often, making this game perfect for portable play on the PlayStation Vita.

+Superb cross-play features. Buy the game once, get it on two systems. Start a game on the PS3, finish it later on your Vita at work. Well done.

+Tons of secrets and unlockables to find once the final boss is defeated. Just like Metroid, you can expect to spend hours and hours looking for those last few upgrades.

+ Leaderboards. Some of the posted speed-run times are nothing short of incredible.  One would think it would take months or years to achieve ratings this high,but apparently not.

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The Bad:

– Short and sweet. Guacamelee took me exactly four hours and fifty-six minutes to complete. I’d assume en extra two hours or so would allow me to find every last secret.  Some might feel that a bit short.

Guacamelee!3

The Lowdown:

Guacamelee may be short, but you’ll be hooked to the screen from start to finish. Time simply flies by when you’re playing this game. Drinkbox studios have quickly become one of my favorite developers out there. This is hands-down one of the best titles of the year.  Guacamelee! should be experienced by everyone.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Review (PS3/Vita)

Sly Cooper - Thieves in TimeSly Cooper: Thieves in Time (Available on PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Sanzaru Games Inc.
Release Date: February 5th, 2013

Parent Talk: Sly’s latest has been rated E10+ for everyone over the age of 10. As with any action platformer of this kind parents can expect cartoon violence, but the ESRB also notes Thieves in Time features alcohol reference, suggestive themes and the use of tobacco. Honestly given the exaggerated situations, and the cartoon nature of the game there isn’t very much damaging to children, and as a matter of fact I would have loved to play through a game like this when I was younger.

Plays Like: Much like the Sly Cooper Collection, Thieves in Time has a heavy emphasis on action, while also challenging players with unique platforming elements and exciting puzzles.

Review Basis: Finished the game on the PS3, and then compared it to the Vita version. Both are virtually identical.

It’s hard to believe we’re so far into this generation and the action platformer has almost died out completely. Sure we’ve had a couple of Ratchet and Clank games, but that series has seemed to have lost its direction. As a matter of fact if it weren’t for the excellent collections Sony’s released over the past few years, action platformer fans would be up in arms by now. Thankfully Sanzaru has come to the rescue with an all new Sly Cooper and not a moment to soon. The ultimate question is whether or not they’ve succeeded in making a game worthy of the name, or if this genre truly is on its way out.

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The Great:

A Sly Cooper you can be proud of. If there’s one element that stands out above the rest, it has to be the way Sanzaru has taken everything that’s worked for the series and added a fresh new layer to call their own. This time around the spin is that players take on the roll of several new characters, play through different stages in time and also have access to unique gameplay elements never seen before.

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The Good:

+ Cute storyline has Sly and company travel through time to determine exactly what is causing Sly’s family history from being erased. All the characters from the previous games make an appearance and are voiced by their legendary actors. There are more than a few laugh out loud moments, so be prepared for a very good time.

+ Exploration is both rewarding and a delight to partake in. Sure there are your usual collectibles to seek out, but players will want to see what’s around the next corner, or venture just a little further than the last time because of how intricate and well-designed the hub areas are for the five unique stages in time.

+ Progression is player controlled. By finding new goodies players can unlock new moves for Sly allowing him to become more nimble than ever before, which plays directly into the exploration element.

+ Controls are tight and responsive. Players won’t have any issues whatsoever sneaking around enemies and snatching loot from unsuspecting prey.

+ Each new time travel episode puts players in the roll of a new character and the gameplay changes based on which character you happen to be playing as. The good news is that no matter which character you assume the role of, you’re in for a good time. Pacing and variety will keep you glued to the screen for hours.

+ Both the PS3 and the Vita version look stunning, and feature excellent audio. From a sweeping musical soundtrack to the fantastic dialogue, this is how you make a modern action platformer.

+ Buy the PS3 version and you get the Vita version for free. What’s not to love about that?

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The So-So:

+/- Difficulty is scaled to a much younger audience, and while that will please your children, it doesn’t leave you with a deep feeling of satisfaction when you evade a guard. Taken as a whole, you never feel as though you’re threatened in any way, shape or form.

The Bad:

– Combat is lackluster no matter which character you happen to be playing as. The main culprit is the simple and easy nature of the fights. Just mash on a few buttons, collect healing items and repeat until you’re all that remains. Simple as that. Thankfully the boss fights are much more interesting, and can pack a punch.

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The Lowdown:

It is so nice to have a new Sly Cooper. While it may have taken almost an entire generation for it to arrive, it’s here and it’s a blast. Sure some of the combat systems aren’t as good as they could be, but the tight controls, excellent variety of gameplay, and brilliant dialogue help make this one game you don’t want to miss out on. If you were ever a fan of the series, pick Thieves in Time up as soon as you can. If you’ve never played the series before, it’s about time you start. Either the PS3 or the Vita version come highly recommended.

Final Score: 8/10

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault Review

Ratchet and Clank FFARatchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (Available on PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Tower Defense
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Insomniac
Release Date: November 27th, 2012

Parent Talk: Comic mischief and fantasy violence are the only warnings the ESRB give parents and for very good reason, the franchise has always been aimed at the T crowd and under, and this game is no exception. Full Frontal Assault is about as damaging as a Pixar movie.

Plays Like: In a bizarre turn of events this latest entry in the venerable R&C series plays very little like its predecessors and much more like a tower defense game you’d find on tablets and smartphones. All of the action takes place third-person, but instead of exploring, collecting unique weapons and taking on other-worldly bosses, you’re trying to keep your base secure while defeating the enemy base as waves of enemies rain down on you. It’s confined, linear and likely not what you expect.

Review Basis: Played through what little content was there.

Let’s get something out of the way right now. I want another disc-based fully featured Ratchet & Clank. I adore the series, but am starting to get annoyed by all these “experimental” games Insomniac has released over the past few years. Last year’s All 4 One wasn’t too bad, but I still found it annoying that it wasn’t a real R&C. Whatever happened to spending countless hours looking for that last gold bolt, or being floored by entering a new planet and being amazed by it’s sheer visual fluidity. The charm and magic of the core series is slowly disappearing thanks to what amounts to quick cash-ins on the popular IP. Full Frontal Assault is the worst culprit yet.

Ratchet and Clank FFA1

The Great:

The online multiplayer is clearly where it’s at. Available in either co-op or competitive, players attempt to destroy the opposing teams generator nodes, while doing everything in their power to ensure at least one of their nodes survives. Players begin by taking control of as many nodes as possible, which grants weapons, and bolts over time. The objective is to use these bolts to enhance your defenses before the assault phase begins. It’s at this point where players have to determine whether they have enough defenses to leave their base and assault their opponent, or stay and guard it as waves of enemies attack. This was clearly how the game was envisioned and works relatively well if you’re playing with other players, sadly things fall apart if you aren’t as the gameplay structure changes.

Ratchet and Clank FFA2

The Good:

+ Some of the best weapons in the series make a return, including Mr. Zurkon, and the Groovitron. The new weapons aren’t quite as memorable, although they’re never really put to the proper test.

+ Nice animations and improved visuals over All 4 One. The same witty voice actors also return to help make this feel like a true Ratchet and Clank.

+ The PS3 Blu-ray disc version includes the PS Vita version. Two for the price of one is always a plus in my book.

Ratchet and Clank FFA3

The Bad:

– Single-player is repetitive and short-lived, featuring only three distinct maps.

– While more bolts are generated over time, you never have enough to make proper defenses while in single-player. You spend the assault phase constantly babysitting your base, while your defenses should be doing the work for you. It becomes tiresome after a short period of time.

– Enemy waves are sporadic and seem to happen at the most inconvenient times, forcing you to race back to your base in order to protect it because of the shameful defenses.

– Ammo is scare, and weapon upgrades don’t help very much.

The Ugly:

The franchise just celebrated its tenth year, and it deserved much better. Hopefully a true installment in the series isn’t too far off, because we all miss spending 20+ hours with these characters, not half an hour of frustration.

Ratchet and Clank FFA4

The Lowdown:

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault isn’t a bad game if you play it with others, it’s just not the game players have been asking for. At only $20 it’s worth checking out if you know you have other players who can help you out. If you’re only going to be playing it alone, skip it.

Final Score: 5/10

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review (PS3 & Vita)

PS All-Stars Battle RoyalePlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (Available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SuperBot Entertainment
Release Date: November 20th, 2012

Parent Talk: Crude humor, mild language, mild suggestive themes, and violence are the main elements the ESRB warns parents about. While the fighting isn’t overly realistic like Mortal Kombat, the characters themselves come from T or M-rated games and therefore skew towards a somewhat older audience.

Plays Like: Despite what most may think, there’s a lot more to All-Stars than being a Super Smash Bros. clone. Make no mistake about it, this game was heavily influenced by that classic Nintendo series, but it mixes up the fighting elements enough that it feels like a completely different beast. Up to four players go head to head in order to build up a devastating super move, which is the only way to defeat your opponent. No being thrown off the stages here.

Review Basis: Played a ton of both the PS3 and Vita version, enough that one review will cover both games.

PS All-Stars had a lot to prove when it first was announced. The early video footage and screenshots made it look identical to Nintendo’s popular brawler. It featured the same cartoony look, same four-player battles, and for all intents and purposes, it looked like the exact same game. Fast forward to when I finally got my hands on it, and I can tell you now, this is an entirely different game. The ultimate question is whether or not it’s any good.

PS All-Stars Battle Royale1

The Great:

Complex fighting system takes a long time to master. It features a very steep learning curve, which could easily throw players off. Punches, kicks, throws, taunts, rolls, dodges, etc. are all available. While there are only three attack buttons, using them in combination with the d-pad or analog stick completely changes their output. Each of the game’s 20 playable characters feel completely unique. If you’re an inexperienced fighter, odds are you’re going to spend a lot of time just trying to learn the ropes of a single combatant. In this regard, PS All-Stars is a much more serious fighter than anyone expected, and also not the best game to just pick up and play for a few minutes. It requires devotion if you’re planning on actually winning matches.

PS All-Stars Battle Royale2

The Good:

+ Interesting win mechanic. By using combos and other skill-based moves, you build up a special power meter. Once it reaches max level, you can one-shot multiple opponents. Rack up enough kills within a certain time limit and you’re declared the winner.

+ Wonderful assortment of characters. You’ve got Nathan Drake, Sly Cooper and countless other famous PlayStation faces. There are also some nice third party additions like the Big Daddy from Bioshock and Raiden from the Metal Gear Solid universe.

+ Some of the best stage designs I’ve seen from a fighter in years. Each arena has a mash-up of at least two different universes. I don’t want to spoil them for anyone, but they’re typically games you’d never imagine would work together, but really do.

+ The audio visual presentation on both the PS3 and Vita versions are impressive. Characters animate well, are fluid and highly responsive. From an audio perspective, the music is exactly what you’d expect and all the famous voice actors return to their respective characters.

+ Online and local multiplayer is extremely fun. Coupled with wonderful cross-play features that allow PS3 and Vita users to play one another, and you have yourself a fighter you can literally play whenever the mood hits you.

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The So-So:

+/- Where are all the funky PS characters from days gone by? It would have been excellent to get Crash in here, or maybe the rabbit from Jumping Flash. While I enjoyed the characters that managed to make the cut, I felt a little more effort could have gone into highlighting some of the more obscure PlayStation characters from the early days of the platform.

+/- Arena challenges, such as moving platforms, butt heads with the technical fighting. It’s extremely hard to think three moves ahead when you’re trying to stay on a platform so you don’t get stunned for a couple of seconds. Thankfully you can turn these challenges off for versus play. For more casual matches they do a good job of allowing newbies to mess around.

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The Bad:

All-Stars biggest problem is one of an identity crisis. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has all the technical prowess you’d expect in a hardcore fighting game, but also features tons of casual-friendly options. At the end of the day the mash-up might throw off more people than it encourages to try the game.

The Ugly:

For whatever reason the menus look downright ugly. They go directly against the rest of the game and look completely uninspired.

PS All-Stars Battle Royale5

The Lowdown:

PlayStation All-Stars, which is what the game should have been called, is a really fun fighting game. It’s technical and requires tons of time and devotion to get the most out of. That’s also its biggest hurdle. There are already countless hardcore fighters out there, and this one happens to look like a casual-friendly game. Don’t be mistaken by the game’s look, this is a hardcore fighter wrapped up in casual clothing. For all those naysayers that said it was nothing more than a simple SSB clone, go take a closer look as I think you’ll be surprised. I know I sure was.

Final Score: 8/10

Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review

Zone of the Enders HD Collection (Available on PlayStation 3, Vita and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: High Voltage Software
Release Date: October 30th, 2012

Parent Talk: The ZOE HD Collection has been rated M for mature, ages 17 and up by the Entertainment Software Rating Board because the two games feature blood and gore, intense violence and partial nudity. Some of this is depicted in the anime cutscenes, while others are featured directly in the games themselves. Either way, this isn’t a game for very young children, but mature teens shouldn’t really have any issues.

Plays Like: Imagine if a mech game didn’t feature clunky controls, or boring and confusing gameplay. Z.O.E. was that game. It featured breakneck action, easy to control mechs or Orbital Frames as they’re called here, and a really awesome anime storyline to boot. Sure it’s a little campy now, but back then this was the coolest mech game ever created. The 2nd Runner took the same formula and ran wild with it, improving upon the original in every way imaginable.

Review Basis: Compared both games with the originals and took note of all the changes made. I played through the PS3 version for this review.

Confession time, I’m a HUGE Kojima fan. I like pretty much everything the guy has ever touched. When he originally announced he was going to be involved, but not direct Zone of the Enders for the PS2, I knew it would be awesome and sure enough, it was. The sequel, The 2nd Runner was even better because it had more environments, a better overall storyline and tighter, more responsive action. Bottom line, these were two excellent games, one of which is considered one of the very best released last generation. So the ultimate question is, how did the HD remaster turn out?

The Great:

As a game, The 2nd Runner is outstanding. It features a richer storyline, vastly improved environments and far better gameplay than the original ZOE. It also includes the extra bonus missions released exclusively in the Collector’s Edition, which was never released in North America.

The Good:

+ New animation sequences have been added to tie both games together, and they’re fantastic.

+ The art direction is just as superb today as it was the day the original ZOE was released. The HD upgrade only enhances what was already beautiful. The new widescreen resolution is fantastic.

The So-So:

+/- The original ZOE simply hasn’t aged as well as its sequel. It can be completed in under five hours, features very repetitive environments, uninspired voice acting and cheesy dialogue. The gameplay remains fun, but most of your time will be spent with The 2nd Runner.

The Bad:

– Comparing these new remastered versions to their PS2 counterparts was a blessing and a curse. The 2nd Runner featured a rock solid framerate on the PlayStation 2, and yet this version features anything but. Dips and drops in framerate happen whenever too much action is happening on-screen, which is frequent, and there are graphical glitches that pop up all over the place.

The Ugly:

Virtually no bonus features have been added whatsoever. New cutscenes are appreciated and excellent, but no online multiplayer, no leaderboards, or anything else to keep players coming back means there’s very little reason to do so after you complete both games, which doesn’t take very long to do.

The Lowdown:

I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with this collection if only because of the severe framerate issues with The 2nd Runner. Don’t get me wrong, both games are still perfectly playable and extremely fun, but they could have been so much more with a locked framerate of 60 fps. I’ve been told an update is coming, or may already be out at the time of this review, but I reviewed the game pre-update. These are two excellent games that have been given a fresh coat of pain, but sadly the one you’re going to spend all your time on doesn’t live up to its full potential because of technical issues.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation Review

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 64
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Release Date: October 30th, 2012

Parent Talk: Liberation is rated M for mature by the ESRB because of blood, suggestive themes, and violence. Like all the games in the series you take on the roll of an assassin, this time Aveline, and go around killing all kinds of people in some truly brutal ways. Children need not apply.

Plays Like: If you’ve played any of the other entries in the series you know what to expect. Seek out intelligence on your target, locate and eliminate them. Simple as that. This one throws in several new gameplay innovations, but the core remains the same.

Review Basis: Finished the single-player story and tried the “multiplayer” mode.

Let’s get this out of the way right now folks, the PlayStation Vita is still struggling to find its audience. There have been some wickedly fun games released for the handheld this year including the excellent LittleBigPlanet, but for whatever reason sales continue to disappoint. What this bad-boy needs is a killer app, and fast. So does Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation deliver?

The Great:

True console-like gameplay on the go. It’s games like this which really show why Sony wanted to create the Vita in the first place. When you first boot up the game you’re going to see a real-life console Assassin’s Creed and it’s quite the sight.

The Good:

+ Hardware is no longer a limitation. The twin analog sticks allow for precise AC controls. Long-time fans will feel right at home.

+ The same refined gameplay you’ve come to expect from the series is prominently featured here. You scale buildings with ease, hide in the shadows and perform death defying feats of strength all to take out your next target.

+ Much like AC III, Liberation features open world gameplay, allowing players to do much more than just push the narrative forward. There are countless goodies to locate, and New Orleans beckons players to explore each and every inch of it.

+ The soundtrack is excellent and voice acting is much like the rest of the series, inspired and professional.

The So-So:

+/- Liberation doesn’t do as good a job of showing you how Aveline became this stone-cold killer, compared to how Assassin’s Creed III highlighted Conner’s journey. It’s a shortcoming that’s really noticeable when you play the two side-by-side.

+/- Aveline has three active personas she can use, Lady, Slave, and Assassin. Each has its own unique set of abilities. The lady persona will allow her to distract guards, slave will allow her to blend in without anyone noticing, and the assassin persona is where you do your killing. Problem is, you don’t allows have the option of switching back and forth and that leads to a whole lot of hand holding during certain portions of the game.

+/- Vita-specific features can be awesome and downright bizarre. It’s great being able to pinch the map to zoom, but really bizarre to use the gyroscope and both the touch screen and rear track-pad to do other actions. Not every feature on the Vita needs to be used for each and every game just to prove they were worthy additions to the hardware.

+/- Graphically Liberation can often be the most spectacular looking game on the Vita, but it also features heavy framerate drops throughout. The attention to detail never lets up though.

The Bad:

– Missed opportunity to highlight the slave trade and the true meaning behind the American Revolution. Virtually all these interesting issues are glossed over for convenience and that’s unfortunate because it could have been the most thought-provoking game in the series.

– I didn’t feel the multiplayer mode whatsoever. Essentially players tag nodes around the globe for a giant game of tug of war. That’s it, that’s all. There’s no real, traditional multiplayer of any kind.

The Ugly:

Being forced to use the lady persona is lame, period. Basically you flirt with guards so they turn into brain-dead buffoons. Have you ever experienced an Assassin’s Creed where hearts are popping out of the heads of the enemies you’re trying to take out? Yeah, me neither.

The Lowdown:

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation isn’t a bad game, in fact it’s a very good game, but it certainly doesn’t live up to my expectations and that’s mainly because too many features feel as though they were forced. Much like how I used to say all DS games didn’t need to have stylus gameplay, I now find myself saying that not every feature on the Vita needs to be used in order for games to be exceptional on it. The persona idea was an excellent one, but it needed a little more time in the oven to get just right. As it stands now Liberation is a game Vita owners should check out, but anyone thinking it’s worth picking up a Vita solely for this game might want to hold off for the next hopeful killer app.

Final Score: 7/10

Smart As… Review

Smart As… (Available exclusively on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: XDev Studios
Release Date: October 30th, 2012

Parent Talk: This is a perfectly rated game. Like Nintendo’s Brain Age series, the sole purpose of this game is to test your brain’s power through observation, language, logic and arithmetic puzzles. You won’t find a single offensive sprite anywhere.

Plays Like: If you’ve played the Brain Age series from the Big N you know what to expect here. There are daily challenges, individual puzzles and more ways to test your brain than you could possibly imagine.

Review Basis: Played for several days trying to do as much as I possibly could.

Haven’t had an excuse to play with your Vita lately? Waiting for the Assassin’s Creed: Liberation as your next big Vita purchase? If you’re in this category, Smart As… might just be the perfect compliment to whatever you’re waiting for or currently playing. It offers players a reason to keep coming back to your Vita.

The Great:

Testing yourself has always been fun, and the same can be said here. Each day you can try to best your scores from the previous day’s puzzles. This one addictive gameplay element is hands-down the best reason to pick this game up.

The Good:

+ Each puzzle category features a series of interesting and unique challenges. They never become bothersome or frustrating, and each mini-game is genuinely fun. As players progress new free-play and practice mini-games unlock, allowing you ample time and opportunity to better your scores.

+ Interesting Near and GPS leaderboard functionality. Challenge boards show how you stack up to the people in your city. Street Smart Challenges are updated all the time so you’ll always have something to do.

+ Presentation values are sharp and consistent. They aren’t breakthrough, but make you feel as though you’re playing a mature puzzle game. John Cleese does the narration and it’s superb, as expected.

The Bad:

+/- $30 might not seem like a lot of money, but this is a game you’re likely to spend no more than 15 minutes a day playing. I think it would have been better suited as a digital download app for $10, but hey that’s just me.

The Ugly:

Seeing my brain score after a game of Roller Blocks. Ouch!

The Lowdown:

Smart As… is an interesting and quirky little game. While I think it might have been better as a downloaded app, the fact remains that this is the perfect game to pick up and play for a few minutes each day before your next gaming marathon begin. All those complaining the Vita doesn’t get unique games should certainly check this out.

Final Score: 8/10