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R-Type Dimensions Review

RT1R-Type Dimensions (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em up
Publisher: Tozai, IREM
Developer: Southend Interactive
Release Date: May 20th, 2014

Parent Talk: R-Type Dimensions is rated E for everyone by the ESRB, and it’s a fitting rating. Neither R-Type nor R-Type II are overly violent by today’s standards. The games are entirely sprite-based, and colorful. There’s virtually nothing children should find frightening about an old arcade shmup, except for the difficulty.

Plays Like: Both games in this compilation play as you’d expect from the legendary series. You pilot the infamous Arrowhead and try to take out and alien life form. You have control over a force pod which can be thrown out in front of the ship to offer extra protection or firepower. It can also be attached to the rear of the ship. There are a wide assortment of power-ups and weapons, and the famous charge-shot. There’s one thing everyone needs to know about ­R-Type, it remains one of the most difficult videogames ever created, usually only offering one way to complete each stage.

Review Basis: Played through the Xbox Live Arcade version, and the PSN version.

If you don’t know what R-Type is, chances are high you don’t play many shmups, or are simply not a fan of the genre. The series remains legendary because of its extreme hardcore difficulty, and has become synonymous with quality gameplay. This compilation is a testament to both of those facts. Originally being released on Xbox Live Arcade back in 2009, Southend Interactive has just released this bad boy on the PlayStation Network so let’s dig a little deeper and find out what makes R-Type Dimensions tick.

RT1 The Great:

This reworking of the first two R-Type games is an incredible value. For only $10 you get the two original arcade ports, plus a complete reworking of the two games. This includes an entirely new 3D overhaul and an entirely new audio soundtrack, based on the original tracks of course. To make things even more interesting you can switch back and forth from the originals to the remastered version whenever you want with a simple press of a button. There’s even a ‘slow mo’ button for when the action really heats up and you want to take a little breather. This makes the two legendary arcade games much more approachable to newcomers who would otherwise be put off by the immense difficulty.

RT2The Good:

+ Accessibility is important, and Southend Interactive, the developer behind this compilation title realized that. Not only can you select to play through the original games in ‘Classic Mode’ with only a handful of lives and having to restart a level upon death, or a new mode which grants infinite lives and the ability to restart exactly where you perished from. If you actually want to complete both games, this is pretty much the only mode you’re likely going to succeed at doing that.

+ Core gameplay has aged perfectly. You have a charge shot, which is extremely powerful, but takes time to charge up, a wide assortment of power-ups such as missiles and different laser cannons and more. The biggest innovation upon its original release was the force pod. This orb-like pod can be attached to either the front or back of your ship, and can be shot out to attack enemies further away from your ship. It also acts as a very important shield.

+ Insanely high difficulty remains in check. The infinite lives mode is likely how most will play through the game, but if you really want a challenge, play through the Classic Mode. It forces you to figure out the one way through each of the levels, and believe me, it’ll take years of practice.

+ The very best way to experience R-Type is with a buddy, and thankfully online and offline modes are supported. If you really have a pair of brass balls, you can actually activate hit detection between the two ships. It makes an already impossible shmup that much harder.

RT3The Bad:

– The only negative comment I can say about Dimensions is that if you only play through the infinite lives mode you can play through both games in about 45 minutes. $10 for 45 might be asking for a lot.

RT4The Lowdown:

The awesome ability to switch between the original arcade versions and the redux versions are absolutely superb. I can’t tell you how often I found myself flipping back and forth. While I love shooters myself, this one is extremely challenging unless you play on the infinite lives mode, but then there’s no challenge at all. Whether you purchase this one on Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network, it’s certainly a legendary shooter that’s worth checking out.

Final Score: 8/10  

SoulCalibur II HD Online Review

SCIIHDOSoulCalibur II HD Online (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Project Soul
Release Date: November 19th, 2013

Parent Talk: SoulCalibur II HD Online is rated T for teen because of violence, suggestive themes, and mild language.  One look at Taki and you’ll understand why the game’s rated T.  She’s wearing a skin tight spandex outfit with no bra.  Yup, 13-year old men made this game.  Seriously though, it’s rated T because of some of the skimpy outfits, and also because it’s a weapon-based fighter, but there’s no blood or anything like that.

Plays Like: This complex weapon-based fighter is the follow-up to the Dreamcast launch title, SoulCalibur.  Prior to this naming convention the series was known as Soul Edge, and wasn’t anywhere near as popular.  The game features a killer single-player story mode, as well as the usual assortment of arcade and versus modes.  New to this HD remastered version is a competitive online multiplayer mode, but the game retains the same excellent gameplay from the 2003 version.

Review Basis: Namco Bandai sent us a PSN review code, and having played the living hell out of this game upon its initial release in 2003, I simply went through the motions of testing the single player portion, and then headed online and proceeded to get my butt handed to me several times over.

While only a handful of people actually remember Soul Edge, which was released on the original PlayStation way back in 1997, everyone remembers the 1999 follow-up, SoulCalibur, as it was the most polished fighter of all time, upon its release.  It was the first time a home console port actually exceeded the arcade original.  It also happened to be a fantastic fighting game that was extremely well balanced…well except for Kilik with his far reach, but that’s beside the point.  Everyone loved SoulCalibur and it singlehandedly pushed this franchise into the mainstream, so naturally a sequel was inevitable.  When said sequel was finally released in 2003 it featured the same refined gameplay from the original, with an expanded roster, and a sweet little extra.  Each console version, one on the PS2, the original Xbox, and GameCube each had one exclusive character.  Remember this was during a time before DLC, so these characters remained exclusive for the duration of the console’s lifespan.  Everyone I knew picked up the GameCube version because of Link’s inclusion, but naturally he’s not in this version of the game as a Wii U port wasn’t made.  Instead both Spawn (Xbox version) and Heihachi Mishima (PS2 version) join the roster regardless of which version you pick up.  While they’re nice additions, they’re not Link.  That said, how has the rest of the remaster turned out, and has the core gameplay aged well or is this one better off left in the past?

SCIIHDO1The Great:

An all-around fantastic remaster.  Textures are crisper than ever before, character models look extremely detailed, and to be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for hair physics being improved so much during the PS3/360 era I’m sure a lot of people would have assumed the game was made for those consoles.  That’s how much care and attention went into this port.  Level design and overall graphic quality has always been one of the strong points of the series, and it’s amazing how well the overall look of the game holds up some ten years after its original release.  It’s pretty damn impressive, and when you see it in motion it makes you wonder why more companies don’t invest in HD remakes like this.  The audio is equally impressive as the soundtrack and audio effects have all been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sound wonderful.


+ All the superb gameplay modes you remember from the original make their way back.  Arcade, versus, training, team battle, time attack, and the phenomenal Weapon Master mode all return.  Weapon Master Mode is where you spend the majority of your time in single player and features what would equate to a deep story mode in a modern fighter.  You select your character and tackle various objective-based missions.  Sometimes it’s beat three characters, sometimes it’s complete a round without blocking, and so on.  As you progress you earn points which can then be used to unlock a wide assortment of goodies from additional characters and weapons to costume colors.

+ Gameplay remains as tight as ever.  Not much else to say about it.

+ Great touch adding Spawn and Heihachi to the mix, but it would have been great to see Link make an appearance.  Obviously that was never going to happen, and no one should have expected it, but it would have made a killer Wii U exclusive had they made a version of the game for that platform.


+/- I appreciate the inclusion of an online mode for die-hard fighting fans, but it’s about as barebones as you can imagine.  Featuring only a Ranked and Player match mode, there’s really not much to see.  Player match is far too basic to be useful, as if you create a private match, or even a public one, as soon as the fight is over with you are kicked out and placed back on the menu screen.  You can’t create a fight list and slowly work your way through it facing multiple friends, one after another.  There’s also no spectator mode allowing you to watch other fights.  As I said, it’s extremely basic, but at least there’s a way to play online.

+/- Speaking of online play, fighters live and die based on their net code and it’s kind of lukewarm in SC II HD Online.  All the online matches I played featured input lag, making parrying impossible, and blocking a real pain.  If you’re a casual fan the input lag won’t likely be bothersome, but to the hardcore it could be a deal-breaker.

SCIIHDO4The Lowdown:

SoulCalibur II HD Online is a fantastic game for those who loved the original, or are just looking into getting into the series.  While I wish the online mode was improved, the core gameplay and overall package remains highly impressive.  If you’re into fighting games, this is certainly one to check out for $20.

Final Score: 8/10 

Resogun Review

ResogunResogun (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em up
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Housemarque
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: I’ve got no idea how this game scored an E10+ rating as it’s a spaceship shooter based on Defender.  Children have been playing 2D arcade shooters since the creation of the genre way back in the early 70s.  I would easily allow my children to play this game.

Plays Like: Resogun takes its inspiration from the classic Williams Electronics hit from 1980, Defender.  You fly left or right around a cylindrical world, trying to rescue the last humans while taking out all the aliens around you.  Simple as that…if only it were simple.

Review Basis: Finished all levels, and played through the game a second time in co-op mode.

When Sony announced the PlayStation 4 they went to great lengths to talk about how they’re going back to basics and focusing on the games.  They spent a lot of time talking about indie developer because that’s where all the innovation will come from.  It’s true too, as AAA titles have a budget in the tens of millions, whereas indie developers often make their games for a fraction of the cost, and are willing to take chances.  Housemarque might not be an indie developer anymore, but they surely aren’t in the same league as the big boys with operating budgets in the millions, but that doesn’t mean their games can’t stand on their own.  Incredibly, Resogun is my favorite PlayStation 4 game on the market right now, including all the big AAA releases from third parties and Sony itself.  That speaks volumes to the talent at the studio, and how much of a sucker I am for arcade classics.

Resogun1The Great:

Ridiculously simple gameplay that’s insanely challenging to master.  Based on the arcade hit Defender, players move their craft around a large cylinder trying to take out the alien armada.  Once keepers drop, destroying them will free a human.  Your goal is to “save the last humans,” while trying to stay alive yourself.  Each stage is broken up into three phases, ending with a boss fight.  Rescuing the humans is essential if you want a high score, or if you plan to make it to the end of the stage.  When you defeat the keepers a human is released from their cell and you only have a limited amount of time to pick them up before an enemy will take them out.  Returning a human to the base nets you either points or an upgrade, such as an extra life, a shield bonus, etc.

Chasing high scores is a large part of the fun and the risk and reward system is always on your mind.  If you activate a bomb, which clears the entire screen of enemies you take a good chance at losing your score multiplier since you need to continuously shoot down enemy ships in order to keep the multiplier going.  So often bombs are only used as a last resort.

Overdrive is a special blast attack that consumes a tiny green meter located around your ship.  As you defeat enemies they explode into hundreds of tiny cubes, and if you collect enough of them you’ll fill your Overdrive meter.  The trade-off is that you can’t control the length of the overdrive, in other words once you activate it it’s gone until you fill the meter back up.  Another move, the boost is far more important to master as it uses a similar meter, although you can control how long you wish to boost for.  While technically a defensive move used for when you’re about to get overrun, the boost actually releases a small explosion once you stop.  A good technique is to boost right into oncoming enemies, and watch as they all explode.

Add extremely powerful bosses into the mix, especially in the later levels, and you have one of the very best arcade shooters released in a long time.  There’s always a constant risk and reward factor to each element of the gameplay.  Do you sacrifice a human so you don’t lose an extra life, or do you take the chance and perhaps get a weapon upgrade in the process?

Things only get more intense when you add a co-op partner to the mix, which I highly recommend you do.

Resogun2The Good:

+ By using voxel (also known as 3D cubes) graphics gives the game its own unique look.  When you destroy an enemy ship it explodes into millions of tiny cubes.  On top of that the particle effects are spectacular whenever enemy ships fire at you, which is all the time.  When you combine everything together, from the enemy ships exploding, to bombs being set off, to the particular effects, you’re left with the nicest looking arcade game I’ve ever played.

+ The soundtrack is techno-infused, and fits the setting perfectly.  All voice samples play out through the DualShock 4’s internal microphone for a little extra flare.  Ship explosions also sound great and there’s lots of bass for those with a good surround sound system.

+ Fun trophy list.  Can you rescue two humans within a second of one another?  Can you kill 50 enemies using only one boost?  I love when developers put time and effort into their trophies because it gives you an incentive to actually try and collect them.

The So-So:

+/- Having only five levels, and three different ships might grate on some people’s nerves.  The three ships play quite differently from one another in terms of the weapons they have available, but the limited levels will eventually start to feel similar to one another after a while.

Resogun3The Lowdown:

Resogun is my favorite PlayStation 4 game right now.  When I purchased my PS4 at launch Resogun, like Contrast was free for PlayStation Plus members.  This is an outstanding game for free, and a great game for the asking price of $10.  If you own a PS4, this is one you really need to play.

Final Score: 9/10

rain Review

rainrain (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Release Date: October 1st, 2013

Parent Talk: rain is touching, sad, yet beautiful all at the same time. Children might be put off by some of the enemies that chase after you while, but there’s nothing overly violent or gory about the game as a whole. Young children will most likely not enjoy the feeling of isolation, and anyone over 10 should be perfectly fine.

Plays Like: rain is an action adventure game that tries to do something new. For the first few stages you’re trying to make your way to a little girl, always one step away from you no matter how close you get. While in the rain your playable character (a little boy) is visible, to both you the player, and to the various creatures that roam the land. If they touch you, it’s game over. The trick is to make use of your environments wisely. If an enemy can see you in the rain, then be sure to hide under sections of the street that have an awning so the rain doesn’t touch you. The goal is to make your way to the next section of the stage without being swallowed by the darkness. It sounds easy, but it gets complex fast. After the third level the game switches gears and plays more like ICO, where you have to work together with the little girl in order to overcome enemies, and other obstacles as you make your way to the stage’s exit.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review code, and I completed the game.

Sony has made real strides this generation with their digital download service. What started off rather simple, has blossomed into a platform with some of the very best games available. From Super Stardust HD and Guacamelee!, to Journey and The Unfinished Swan, the PlayStation Network is home to a wide variety of AAA titles. With all that quality, releasing a new original IP can be tough, what with it being easily overshadowed by its peers. Sony has a lot of faith in rain and for good reason, it feels incredibly unique, looks great, and has solid gameplay.

rain5The Great:

An incredibly unique world. It often feels like a mixture of ICO and Limbo, because of the setting and overall gameplay. rain takes place in a world that is constantly raining. The only way to see yourself is to walk into the open, and let the rain fall down on you. The problem is monsters can also see you when you’re standing in the rain. In order to bypass them, you need to walk underneath awnings, roofs, or any other area where the rain can’t hit you. Throw in puzzles based around this gameplay mechanic, and a stunning visual style and you have yourself one heck of a creative videogame.

The feeling the game puts off is also impressive. Do you remember being extremely young and walking into a dark basement? Remember that feeling of isolation or dread that slowly crept up inside you? That’s exactly what this game does, it makes you feel like a child who’s trapped in a familiar setting, that’s teeming with dark and strange creatures.

rain4The Good:

+ Excellent difficulty progression. While the first few stages are extremely simple, mainly acting as a large tutorial, eventually you’re forced to use quick thinking, and multiple skills at the same time. That includes making sure you don’t step in mud, hiding from the rain, pushing blocks so you can reach safe zones and much, much more. Oh and you need to do this all while being chased by the Unknown, a large hulking beast that shares a few resemblances to a teacher, which ties into the feeling of making players feel like children.

+ Gameplay really shines once you hit the forth stage. That’s when you have access to a second character, and much like ICO before it, you have to help each other in order to solve puzzles, and escape enemies. This can include moving a ladder so one character can climb to a higher level, or waiting for your partner to sneak by enemies so you can quietly get by afterwards. Things get really interesting when several mechanics are thrown into the mix while enemies are chasing you both down.

+ Nerve-wracking at times. You might not believe it, but this game can be more creepy than even the scariest Resident Evil game, and that’s because there are several monsters that will follow you wherever you go, and you only have a finite amount of time to solve the puzzle before you and your partner get consumed by darkness.

+ While the eight levels can be completed in around three to four hours, maybe less if you use the hint system, upon finishing the game you can revisit each chapter to try and locate memories.

+ Level and art design are excellent. The way the rain interacts with both kids is wonderful to look at. Rain drips from their silhouettes, there are wet footprints which show which direction you’re walking in when not in the rain, and the overall environments are extremely polished. The way the narrative is presented is superbly stylized. This is one fine-looking videogame.

+ The audio is also very impressive. While there’s no spoken dialogue, the ambient noise is enough to calm you down during thought-provoking puzzles, or drive you up the wall when a giant monster is right on your tail. Composer Yugo Kanno and singer Connie Talbot have crafted an excellent soundtrack to accompany the sound effects. The tracks are somber, sad, and delightful, which fit the mood of each scene perfectly. There’s a lot of piano work here that’s especially memorable.

rain3The So-So:

+/- It can be a little hard to see exactly where you’re going when multiple mechanics are thrown at you at once. For example there are sections of the game where you need to use moving cover in order to hide from enemies all around you. One false step and it’s game over because you’ll be spotted within a second. The problem is that the moving cover doesn’t highlight your wet prints making it extremely difficult to tell if you’re going to overshoot your cover or not. It’s not mechanic that’s used too often, but when it is, it can be problematic.

+/- Some really intelligent gameplay mechanics like the one mentioned above are only featured in one stage in the entire game. While most will be further expanded as the game progress, there are a few puzzle elements that are slowly introduced just for the sake of having them at one particular point in time, and then never used again.

+/- Fixed camera angles are also problematic over time. 90% of the time they work perfectly and offer some stunning views of the action, but the other 10% twist and turn or cut too soon and will cause you to either run off a roof, or walk directly into an enemy you didn’t even know was there.

rain1The Bad:

– Hand-holding to the extreme. Die three times and the solution is presented to you. Wait around for a few minutes and the same thing happens. Sure you don’t have to hit the ‘Select’ button, but the fact that the solution shows up so quickly is annoying. It encourages people to simply ‘cheat’ their way through the game instead of using their brain to try and figure out the solutions for themselves. Sadly the hints cannot be turned off.

The Ugly:

You will learn to hate the Unknown monster. He clearly represents a teacher, as he sticks his finger out scanning for your footsteps, and it reminds me of a teacher scolding a kid in class with their finger. If he spots you he’s almost impossible to lose, and will surely catch up to you. It makes for some truly intense moments, and if someone like Steven were to play this, you’d hear his screams miles away.

rain2The Lowdown:

rain is a very refreshing game. While it has a few problems that keep it from achieving the same milestones that some of the other big heavy hitters on the PSN have, it’s originality help make it a title you should check out. The biggest problem is clearly the hint system, and the fact certain gameplay elements don’t seem to evolve over time, but the environments, the soundtrack, and feeling of isolation all come together to make rain a truly unique experience. If you enjoyed ICO or are simply looking for something a bit different, you can’t go wrong with rain.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Irrational Games Reveals Single-Player DLC for BioShock Infinite

Burial at Sea

After what feels like an eternity of waiting, Irrational Games has finally pulled the lid off their story-driven DLC for BioShock Infinite. Ironically enough, the first piece of DLC isn’t story-driven at all. It’s called Clash in the Clouds and is combat-focused, and set in Columbia. It’s out right now on Steam, PSN and Xbox 360, and costs $5 for those who don’t own the $20 Season Pass.

Clash in the Clouds is a horde-based DLC pack, and includes four different challenge maps (The Ops Zeal, Duke & Dimwit Theater, Raven’s Dome and Emporia Arcade). Each map contains 15 waves of enemies, a special challenge and even leaderboards for players to see how they rank. The DLC pack also includes the Columbia Archaeological Society, which acts as an in-game museum of sorts where players can look at original concept art, character models and much more. The pack also extends the lore behind Columbia through unique Voxophones and Kinetoscopes.

The second piece of DLC is indeed story-driven and is called Burial at Sea. It takes place 24 hours before the fall of Rapture. Here’s the official teaser trailer.

Even if you’ve never played BioShock or BioShock Infinite, you’ve got to admit there’s something really appealing to the overall style of the trailer. We don’t have much to go on right now pertaining to concrete details about the DLC, other than the fact that it’s broken up into two parts, and that it will feature a Noir-style Elizabeth. Each part will be $14.99 to those that don’t own the Season Pass, so now might be the time to remedy that. The second part of Burial at Sea will place Elizabeth as the central playable character. We currently have no details on when Burial at Sea will be available, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted. In the meantime my review of BioShock Infinite is finally going up sometime later this week. Yes it’s long overdue, and I apologize for that, but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

God of War Ascension Review

God of War AscensionGod of War Ascension (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studios
Release Date: March 12th, 2013

Parent Talk: Like all the games in the series, this one has been rated M (17+) for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, and sexual content. It’s one of the most gory and adult-themed games on the market and shouldn’t be played by anyone under the recommended age group.

Plays Like: God of War Ascension marks Kratos’ sixth adventure (seven if you include the mobile-only Betrayal) and it’s safe to say that if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. The series features a mix of intense action, focused on a variety of simple button combinations and clever puzzles. The epic scale and fury is what keeps players constantly coming back for more.

Review Basis: Finished the single player campaign and tried my hand at the new multiplayer mode.

Let’s all admit one thing right here and now. The God of War series is an incredible franchise, only problem is that it had a very clear path. Kratos wanted revenge for the death of his family, and he got his revenge by killing off countless gods of Olympus. So what’s a world renown publisher to do with their multimillion selling series when it’s run its course? Figure out a way to squeeze more milk out of it. The end result is a game that while technically impressive and a joy to play through simply isn’t as exciting or invigorating as the previous entries in the series.

God of War Ascension1

The Great:

As is almost always the case with this series, the absolute best element in Ascension is the incredible sense of scale. Kratos is only a man, a man in a world of stunningly impressive structures. From statues the size of mountains to enemies that can destroy cities, there’s nothing this game won’t throw at you. Traversing vast environments are always the biggest highlight this series provides, and this one is no different.

God of War Ascension2

The Good:

+ The same excellent combat returns, including the super violence beheadings, dismemberments and more. The classic quick time button events are also back, although they aren’t used quite as often as before.

+ Quick time events aren’t the only means to obliterate your foes. A new system allows players the freedom to go to town as they see fit, only focusing on dodging instead of a series of button presses. By dodging an attack enough time and keeping up your constant flurry of attack, you can perform a super move which rips your enemy in half, or some other pleasant way of dealing with them.

+ As players progress through the game more difficult battles will challenge their ability to keep up a steady combo rotation, as well as master dodging. Some enemies will force players to use different elemental attacks, such as to stun an enemy before their weak-spot opens up for attack.

+ New secondary weapon system allows Kratos to use weapons he finds scattered all over the world. These weapons change his play style dramatically and allow players to mix and match different techniques to the standard Blades of Chaos.

+ Puzzles return, and while they start off relatively easy, they eventually become true brain teasers. The ratio of puzzles to action set pieces feels much more refined this time around, and I never felt the pacing was suffering as a result of trying to solve a puzzle.

+ The audio visual presentation is absolutely outstanding. From an incredible soundtrack, to killer voice acting and great special effects to one of the best visual experiences you can have on the PS3, Ascension is a joy to the senses.

God of War Ascension3

The So-So:

+/- The story takes place 10 years before the events of the original God of War, and provides a change of pace for the Ghost of Sparta. The problem with that is his rage has yet to be fueled and as such just isn’t as interesting a character as you remember him to be.

+/- The multiplayer mode is largely forgettable, but long-time fans may appreciate the diversion. While there are a variety of different modes, most play out in a arena where eight players or fewer try to destroy each other, open treasure chests, and more. Action is greatly slowed down from the single player campaign to allow others to dodge attacks and to try and balance the action. In the end I found the multiplayer nothing more than a neat little extra.

The Bad:

– Platforming sections, while not plentiful, are annoying because of cumbersome camera angles. Often I felt they were going on far longer than they should, and that I was falling to my death for no reason whatsoever.

The Ugly:

The bodies of all of Kratos’ victims over the years. In this game alone he mercilessly kills thousands, all thanks to you, sicko!

God of War Ascension4

The Lowdown:

The God of War series is going through series fatigue right now. It’s to be expected. A new entry in the series has come out more or less every two years since the original game was released back in 2005. The formula has proven extremely successful for Sony and no doubt the series will continue for many years to come. That being said, it’s time to let Kratos go on a nice four year vacation. Let the developers build up anticipation, and let some new ideas come to the surface. Ascension is an excellent game that’s worth playing for fans of the series, but it fails to capture the essence of what makes this series so awesome, the rage of Kratos and what it’s like to go up against all the Olympian gods.

Final Score: 8/10

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault = November 27th @ $19.99

The title says it all folks, Insomniac and Sony’s latest Ratchet and Clank game will hit the PlayStation Network on November 27th for $19.99.  For those that don’t know, this isn’t your typical R&C game, it’s actually a tower defense game.  Full Frontal Assault is also cross-buy and cross-save compatible, meaning if you purchase the PS3 version you get the Vita version for no additional cost.  The cross-save feature allows you play start the game on your PS3 and continue on your Vita, or vice-versa.

I can’t speak for everyone else here, but I’m in.

Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time Impressions

Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of Time (Available only on PlayStation Portable and PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Strategy RPG
Publisher: ATLUS
Developer: Career Soft
Release Date: July 31st, 2012

Note: This game is playable on PlayStation Vita.

So far, I’ve poured about 15 hours into Growlanser IV. I plan to play for quite a lot longer. My experience thus far has been very favorable, because Wayfarer of Time has proven to be an addictive, engaging handheld role-playing game. Fans of the strategy genre will have a lot to work with her and people who enjoy the “dating sim lite” approach in games like Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and 4 will be thrilled. Even if you’ve retired your PlayStation Portable, you may want to dust it off or download this gem for your Vita–because it’s looking great.

What is Growlanser? Growlanser is a strategy role-playing game series. Most of the games have an isometric perspective and 2D character sprites. Think of like like a combination of Final Fantasy Tactics and a dating-sim. Outside of battles, the player can talk with characters, go to shops, engage in events (like going to see plays), and so on. There is an extensive relationship system that permeates the whole game. The player can form relationships with characters in the game, becoming close friends and possibly more. There are extensive dialog trees and the experience is highly customizable and personable. In battles, players fight enemies in a real-time, menu-based system.

I’ve never played a game in this series before. Can I play this one without experiencing the others? Yes! Wayfarer of Time stands on its own. If you’ve played Growlanser Generations, you will have a good understanding of how this game works-both are similar. They have the same battle system and general mechanics.

What makes this game unique/worth playing? The character customization make this a unique, lengthy, and engrossing adventure. There are multiple endings and many different options, depending on how you play. Are you kind and caring? Or are you cold and ruthless? How you act determines how characters will interact with you and treat you. You can also meet different characters based on how you act in the game; certain characters may live or die by your actions, as well. The battle system is also highly engaging and should be fun for any role-playing game fan, with its clever blend of real-time, turn-based, and tactical elements. Characters do not move on a grid nor is it a “wait-based” system. Battles require quick thinking and a level of preparation.

Is the story any good? Yes, and it’s lengthy. Characters are memorable and interesting. The high-level of of character interaction means that you get many opportunities to learn about each of the characters, but it won’t be the same way for each person. ATLUS has proclaimed that there are over 40 possible endings in the game. I won’t include any spoilers here, but here’s a rough primer: You play as Crevanille, a young boy taken in and raised by a mercenary brigade. His leader calls him the “key” and believes he will be instrumental in defeating the angels, who had destroyed human civilization ages ago and apparently threaten to do so again.

Expect a full review from me soon! 

Sega Announces NiGHTS into Dream HD! (Trailer inside)

For longtime fans of the original Saturn classic, this is a very special day.  Check out the debut trailer, and then read on for more info.

NiGHTS into Dreams HD will be available on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and PC sometime later this fall.  Sega hasn’t announced which digital platform the game will arrive on, on the PC, but odds are Steam as the company uses Steam for almost all of their releases.  Sega has yet to announce a price, but I’m going to guess it’ll be $14.99 on the PS3 and PC, and 1,200 MS Points.  That’s just speculation at this point though so don’t quote me.  In terms of the remake, players can expect up t0 1080p resolution, 16:9 display and achievements/trophies.  For those of us old enough to have played through the original version, Sega is including a saturn version for nostalgia.  I highly recommend everyone give it a go in this mode just to see how vastly improved the visuals have been.

Capcom Announces Marvel vs. Capcom Origins (Trailer Inside)

Two of my favourite fighting games of all time are getting the HD remaster treatment and will arrive on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade this September for $14.99/1,200 MS Points.  Which two games?  Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs. Capcom!  The compilation will see both games remastered in 1080p, feature online gameplay and a wealth of new gameplay modes and unlockables.

Looks pretty awesome, no?  Capcom’s been getting a lot of flack these past few years for some questionable business practices (multiple releases of slightly tweaked fighting games, on-disc DLC, etc.), so it’s nice to see a little fan service.  While I think it would have been even better to include X-Men: Children of the Atom or X-Men vs. Street Fighter, I’ll gladly accept this compilation.

Who else is interested in this one out there?

Insomniac Announces Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault for the PSN

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of Insomniac, the company announces they’re working on a very special game for the tenth anniversary of Ratchet & Clank.  It will be released exclusively on the PlayStation Network, and it’s a return to the series roots.  Titled Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, the download-only title will play similar to the Future titles, but will also incorporate some form of online multiplayer.  Ted Price, CEO of Insomniac Games said the following:

We’ve been hard at work on Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault and now we’re giving you a sneak peek at this first piece of art to give you a taste of what we have in store for you when the game launches later this year. In the meantime, we hope you pick up the Ratchet & Clank Collection when it comes out this summer. We’ll have some more news on the Collection’s release date and a special surprise for North American fans coming in the next couple of weeks.

This is extremely exciting, and it’s nice to see that Insomniac hasn’t completely ditched Sony.  This series has been a staple for years and personally I’d love to see it continue as such for many more years to come.  I’ll update this story once we learn more information, for now, let us know what you think of the series, and this game in particular.

Starhawk Review

Starhawk (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-32
Genre: Third-person shooter
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: LightBox Interactive
Release Date: May 8, 2012
PSN: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Starhawk T for teen because of blood, language and violence.  That about matches the content in the single player campaign, but multiplayer is certainly an M-rated experience.  Within five minutes of playing, f-bombs are dropped at an alarming rate.  The ESRB doesn’t rate the online portions of videogames because developers can’t control how other players act online.

Plays Like: If you’ve ever played Warhawk, you know only a fraction of the story here.  Starhawk ships with the same core gameplay for its multiplayer, while introducing tower defense elements, and fast-paced third-person shooter action.  The package actually seems to be three separate games in one, and therefore very unique.

Review Basis: Finished the five hour campaign, and tried all the online multiplayer modes.

Warhawk was one of the first PS3 games unveiled.  It fully supported the Sixaxis controller, and promised a lush single-player with the most hardcore online multiplayer for the PlayStation Network.  The final product ditched the solo stuff, focusing solely on multiplayer.  It was one of the first games to support trophies and be available for digital download.  Warhawk quickly became a cult hit.  Fast forward, and LightBox Interactive (Warhawk’s creators), have created a spiritual sequel.

The Great:

Starhawk features the best online multiplayer experience available on the PS3.  A few nuances make the game a little disjointed at times, but the myriad of options like fortifications to all the vehicles increase the epic nature of the battles. A cooperative team can push hard and reclaim lost territory; while another match might see your opponents make one key decision to achieve victory. Regardless of your strategy, fun is all but assured.

The Good:

+ Short campaign eases you into the combat.  It boasts fast-paced action, a beautiful presentation, excellent voice work and a decent challenge.

+ Tower defense. Players can summon walls, turrets and more to reinforce their position.  Knowing when and where enemies will spawn next helps greatly.

+ Strategy is rewarded.  Simply building a watchtower provides rudimentary cover, but connecting walls with gun-mounted turrets would do more of the job you want. Players are constantly encouraged to ponder new ways to fortify their position.

+ Wealth of vehicles. Hover bikes focus on get-in, get-out killing sprees, then you have jeeps, tanks, mech-suits, jetpacks and hawks…there’s no shortage of ways to bring the fight to your enemies.

+ Play as you wish.  Prefer the sky to eliminate enemies? Veteran players will develop a balance between building strong positions, and employing a mix of land-based attacks and hawks for dominating the battlefield.

+ Horde mode. Grab a few friends to take on wave after wave of increasingly difficult AI enemies.

+ Dual log-in splitscreen action.  Two players, one couch, dual PSN sign-in.  ’nuff said.

The So-So:

+/- Huge disparity between each mode. The strategies you use for single-player must drastically change in multiplayer.  Fortifications don’t last as long, turrets are less powerful, and vehicles can either provide an incredible advantage or major burden. Horde mode requires different tactics too, since defense is just as important as offense.

+/- Don’t play online without a headset. Since the PS3 doesn’t ship with a headset, most of the people I played with couldn’t communicate with me. Trying to formulate a plan without that is impossible and hurts the experience.

The Bad:

– Only two-player splitscreen. Some will be disappointed about the lack of four-player splitscreen. At least two-player uses the screen space efficiently and creatively.

The Ugly:

Think you’re an expert? Spending five hours with the campaign, and a few more with a buddy in Horde mode can make you think you know how to play. Once online, you basically have a new game to learn.

The Lowdown:

Starhawk is essentially three games in one. Once you learn the ropes, it offers some of the best PS3 multiplayer. If you enjoy online gaming, I can’t recommend this enough.  Those who prefer meaty campaigns might be disappointed here. Everyone else should at least try Starhawk because the many modes and features. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting!

Final Score: 8/10

The Unfinished Swan Looks Incredible

If you’ve been on the PlayStation Network for any amount of time you know it’s a platform where creativity thrives.  Studios like thatgamecompany have created some of the most breathtaking digital experiences of the entire generation.  Just recently I was blown away by the superb Journey.  Now it looks like a new company, Giant Sparrow is set to continue the tradition of making original games that leave your jaw on the floor.

Similar to the deal Sony has with thatgamecompany, Giant Sparrow is part of Sony’s new incubation project.  In essence that means the company receives funding by Sony, office space and additional assistance, but the studio is left to create and think over original ideas for the PSN.  The original idea behind this game predates this deal though.  As a matter of fact back in 2008 the guys behind The Unfinished Swan released the following tech demo to highlight the unique nature of the game.

A long time has passed since 2008, and during that time the studio was formally created and signed onto the incubation project with Sony.  Now the developer is finally gearing up to release this incredible first-person puzzle game.  Here is the official trailer.

Still confused how this works, here’s how the developer describes the game: “The Unfinished Swan is a first-person painting game that begins in a totally white space. You throw globs of paint to explore the world around you. In the game you’re a boy named Monroe who’s chasing after a swan. The swan stepped out of a painting and has wandered off into a surreal, unfinished world.”

I vaguely remember seeing the tech demo back in 2008, but I’m very glad someone was able to sign a deal with this studio to bring this title to the masses.  I’ve also been tremendously impressed with Sony’s PSN policy.  The incubation project has created some incredible software and this just might be what helps separate Sony from the rest of the pack come next-gen.  I’m hoping this policy thrives moving forward because all good ideas should be given a chance.

So what do you all think of this bizarre looking game?


The Walking Dead Episode 1 Review

The Walking Dead Episode 1 (Available on PC, Mac, iPad, PS3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Price: $5/400 MS Points

Parent Talk: The Walking Dead is rated M, and for good reason. It contains gory scenes and plenty of F-bombs.

Plays Like: An adventure game set in The Walking Dead universe.

Review Basis: Completed Episode 1.

I’m not ashamed to be a huge fan of The Walking Dead comic series. It’s my favorite in fact. Think it’s just another zombie apocalypse story? Wrong. Instead of banking on every cliché known of the genre, TWD actually deals with the issues at stake if such a tragedy would ever occur. Zombies are second to character development. The writers aren’t afraid to kill characters either, even major ones left and right. It’d be foolish to think that everyone should survive during such an adventure. Further shocking; I had no clue a game was coming out for my beloved series. As soon as I saw the reviews, I knew I had to play. Here’s what I think.

The Great:

Perfectly represents The Walking Dead. The game takes place in the same universe as the comics, but the cast is brand-new. You bump into familiar faces, but this is a fresh experience that retains the series’ charm. It’s classic adventure: you find items, talk to people, and solve puzzles. Like the comics, the character interactions steal the show. Nobody deals with the disaster the same. Some characters clash. In horror movies, it never makes sense why they don’t cooperate, and instead spend as much time fighting each other as they do the monsters. Here (just like in the books… again repeating myself but it’s an honest take on the series) you come to understand why people behave that way.

The Good:

+ Simple, but quality controls. You walk around exploring, interacting with different items or people. The combat functions basically the same, but feels tense thanks to the clever targeting system.

+ Decisions count. Your choices impact every character. This is the first of five episodes, but Telltale promises that everything you do will carry over. A simple lie might seem harmless, but destroy a relationship in a future episode. Plus, two instances force you to save a character, but not another. This guarantees tons of replay. With three save files to boot, you’ll want to finish the game over and over just to witness the different outcomes.

+ New details. We finally understand better how the epidemic started, but don’t know the cause. (I hope we never do; it shouldn’t matter). TWD starts at a time when the events are just unfolding. It’s always entertaining to see someone’s first reaction to a zombie.

+ The episodic setting. I think the pacing will be perfect with these episodes. Plus, the price is right. Buying each individually will cost $25 in the end, which isn’t shabby for a 12-hour console experience.

+ Sweet visuals. It’s just what I imagined TWD would look like in game form.

+ As fun as the comics. The story has the potential to be even better because of the branching paths. There will probably be dozens of endings and thousands of possibilities. You can stick to your original choice for an authentic adventure, or try to experience it in many different ways.

+ Time limits. To emphasize the survival-horror feel, you don’t have forever to think about your decisions. This fits the game like a glove. Just like in real life, the wrong words might come out in a tense, “under pressure” situation.

The Bad:

– No inverting? Why can’t I invert the controls? My mind learned the controls after an hour or so, but there’s no reason not to allow such a simple option. For some, TWD could prove unplayable. Fix this soon please…. or include it in future episodes.

The Lowdown:

Here’s a few reasons why TWD should be your next purchase:

* You’re a fan of [classic] adventure games.

* You adore zombie movies/books/stories etc.

* You like The Walking Dead series in either the comic or TV show format.

* You like video games.

* You have $5 lying around.

Only gamers who insist on constant action or can’t stand adventures wouldn’t like The Walking Dead. It’s worth playing, and for such a cheap price, The Walking Dead deserves your attention. While you’re at it, check out the comic books too. They’re awesome. A must-buy!

Final Score: 9.5/10