Tag Archives: Xbox Live Arcade

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.

SCIIHDO2The Good:

+ 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.

SCIIHDO3The So-So:

+/- 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 

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death Review

MarlowMarlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (Available on PC, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: ZootFly
Release Date: September 20th, 2013

Parent Talk: Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death was given an M rating by the ESRB because of violence, blood and gore, partial nudity, and strong language. This third-person action game features lots and lots of violence, but never goes too over the top compared to something like God of War. That doesn’t mean you don’t impale your enemies, or perform other devastating attacks, because you do.

Plays Like: Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now, this is a God of War clone, but that doesn’t automatically make it a bad game. It feature all the staples of the genre, including QTE events, light platforming, and lots and lots of button mashing action. The developers went a step further though, and added some much needed humor, which rounds out a surprisingly fun package.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I finished the game in about five hours on the Normal difficulty setting.

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death is a game I was certain I wouldn’t like. The opening cutscene was unimpressive, and the production values were clearly low budget. I didn’t let the sour taste put me off though, and gave the game a fair shakedown. I’m really glad I did too, because this is actually a very fun action game that features lots of great dialogue, witty banter, and surprisingly deep gameplay. If you enjoy the God of War series, this is certainly a game you should check out. Seriously, don’t let the first impression put you off.

Marlow3The Great:

The humor stands out above all other aspects. This is one seriously funny game, and not because of juvenile humor, no it’s funny because as a videogame it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Marlow makes one cliché comment after another, but then slowly starts to realize where he is. He’ll yell “wow having that turret here sure is convenient,” and then “how is it this whole place is trying to kill me,” referring to giant pistons that could crush him at a moment’s notice. His partner in crime, a possessed Mayan mask, is perhaps the real star. He names Marlow the dancing death princess, and all other manor of belittlement. When Marlow happens to fall to his death, he says one of my favorite lines, “did you see some enemies down there?” The back and forth banter goes a long way in making this feel like a fresh experience, even though the gameplay has been done a million times before.

Marlow1

The Good:

+ Solid combat system. There’s a simple combo-chain system in place whereby you have a fierce and weak attack which can be used in conjunction with each other. There are special magical attacks, grappling moves, and much, much more.

+ Additional weapons also flesh out the combat system. While Marlow starts off with a weapon that has mid-range, he eventually finds three others with one that looks an awful lot like Kratos’ mighty blades.

+ Keeps things fresh by introducing new elements one after another. Just when you’re getting bored of fighting wave after wave of nameless goons, you get to use a turret to take out helicopters. Once that’s done, there’s a large platforming section followed by an upside down helicopter mini-game. By continuously throwing new things at players, the action never becomes overly monotonous.

+ There’s also the genre-mandatory experience system, which allows players to improve a weapon’s strength, or increase Marlow’s health and magic meters. It’s not original, but works.

+ While the cutscenes aren’t anything special, but the grand set-pieces look fantastic for a $15 arcade release. Marlow also animates very well while facing a nice assortment of enemies. The level design is also very impressive.

Marlow2

The So-So:

+/- Real-time cutscenes are interesting the first few times you see them, but get dull fast. They feature paused action sequences that have the camera sweeping around, and zoomed in for dramatic effect.

+/- Platforming sections don’t have the same fluid feel as the combat. Marlow often feels far too heavy compared to how agile he is while in battle.

+/- For the most part the fixed camera angles are great, but every now and then enemies will appear from just beyond the camera’s reach and cause you problems.

The Bad:

– Too many cutscenes break up the pacing. While all the cutscenes can be skipped, there are simply far too many of them, often back to back after only a minute of gameplay.

The Ugly:

The introduction is jerky, low res and quite frankly poor in quality. I was thinking to myself, “oh no, not another one of these…” but then everything got so much better. Really wish the intro would have been reworked.

Marlow4

The Lowdown:

Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death started off as a me-too clone, but eventually turned into something surprising. If you’ve got $15 lying around and are looking for a very fun way to spend five to six hours, this is a game you should look into. It’s not original by any means, but the gameplay is deep, the humor is top notch, and it feels as though the developers really let the game come into its own. This one might just surprise you.

Final Score: 8/10

Charlie Murder Review

Charlie MuderCharlie Murder (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Beat ’em Up
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Ska Studios
Release Date: August 14th, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Charlie Murder M for mature because of violence, blood and gore, and the use of drugs and alcohol. You take on the role of one of five punk rockers who fight everything in their path. You can rip off someone’s arm and beat them to death with it. There’s even a scene where someone’s face is ripped off. Sure the game’s cartoony graphics may make you think this one would be suitable for all ages, but don’t make the mistake. This is a game clearly aimed at adults.

Plays Like: If you grew up playing games like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, Charlie Murder will feel like second nature. You can perform simple combos, pick up weapons and use them against your foes, but the game goes further than that by introducing a leveling system where you can increase your stats, and unlock new combos. There are shops where you can purchase better gear and weapons, and there are even a wide assortment of mini-games thrown in for good measure.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I played all the way to the very last stage, and played both online and offline.

Beat ’em ups used to be one of my favorite genres growing up. In the arcades I used to spend what little money I had either going to town on the the latest spaceship shooter, beat ’em up, or eventually on fighters. Charlie Murder takes the new-age anarchist punk movement and mashes it with a classic beat ’em up. The results are mostly delightful, although a few sour notes do bring the package down somewhat.

Charlie Muder2The Great:

Charlie Murder is far deeper than you might think. Defeating enemies nets you cash, which can be used to purchase upgraded gear, and power-ups. You can find ingredients scattered around the environment and dropped from defeated enemies, which allow you to create your own beer. Beer grants all sorts of wicked enhancements. Your cellphone also has unique abilities. Emails progress the storyline a bit, and teach new combos. There’s a Twitter-like app which adds humor and a way to show your level progression. There’s even a camera app which allows you to scan the environment for QR codes, which unlock new items.

Charlie Murder1The Good:

+ Story is so ridiculous it works. You play as one of five band mates whose sole purpose is to stop Paul, the sixth and disgruntled member who was ejected from the group right before they made it big. Paul made a deal with the devil and now leads a demoniac heavy metal band, which has had the small side effect of unleashing all hell on the Earth. As any good rock star would do, you aim to fix this mess.

+ Graphical presentation does a great job of helping to break up the monotonous feeling of beating the crap out of endless wave of ninjas, zombies, and whatever else you can think of. Each new location is distinctly different than the last. One moment you might be fighting off hordes of zombies in a snowed in graveyard, and the next you”re taking on hallucinations from someone in a mental hospital.

+ Art style is rough and gritty, which fits perfectly in-tune with the anarchist feeling the developer was going for.

+ Each band member has a distinct class, and therefore their own unique move set. Charlie, the band’s vocalist can learn magical screaming attacks, while Lester, the band’s guitarist acts more like a mage, and can cast spells. Special power-ups are unlocks by getting new tattoos, which was a really nice touch. Having each band member feel different was an excellent decision on the part of Ska Studios, because it encourages players to try all the different playable characters, and also differentiates each character from one another.

+ Co-op is a blast. Grab three friends and enjoy, as there’s nothing like playing with buddies.

Charlie Murder3The So-So:

+/- Even with all the cool special moves, co-op moves, and weapon pick-ups, in time I found myself using the same generic X and Y attacks over and over again because those were the moves I could count on. There are more robust combos players can pull off, but the reward is seldom worth the effort.

+/- There are a wide assortment of mini-games thrown in for good measure, like quick time events, and DDR-inspired music mini-games, but ultimately each one feels tacked on. They help break up the non-stop button mashing of the rest of the game, but occasionally feel uninspired.

Charlie Muder5The Bad:

– At the end of the day, no matter how much variety or added mini-games there are, the core gameplay gets repetitive over time.

– If you play the solo campaign you might have to do some grinding as checkpoints are often very far from where you died. Mid-bosses can also prove quite challenging, but future attempts make you stronger, so either you learn to beat your opponents or you’ll eventually overpower them.

The Ugly:

Some of the animations can be downright nasty, but they’re always humorous in the context of the story. One scene in particular was truly gruesome. An innocent bystander gets grabbed by some pumpkin-head muscle bound freak, has his face ripped off, and thrown at Charlie. The face hits the ice with a splat and then proceeds to slide across the ice. Yummy!

Charlie Muder4

The Lowdown:

Charlie Murder is a far deeper beat ’em up than I thought it would be. It tries a lot of different things, with most coming together surprisingly well. Even with these fresh new ideas it can’t completely remove the monotonous nature of the genre, but if you’re into these types of games you could do far worse. This is a great one to spend an afternoon on with a group of friends, either online or off.

Final Score: 8/10

Pacific Rim: The Video Game Review

PRPacific Rim: The Video Game (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1-2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Yuke’s Co.
Release Date: July 12th, 2013

Pacific Rim is the perfect example of a quick cash-in on a blockbuster summer movie…that ended up being not quite as popular as everyone had hoped.  Yuke’s Co. created a simple game based around it in the hopes that the franchise name itself would sell the game. What you have here is a product meant only for hardcore fans of the movie and even then that’s pushing it.

The Good:

+ Simple one-on-one monster fighting game. It plays like all those classic monster games we used to play back in the 16-bit days (King of Monsters, etc.), but obviously looks a lot better. If you always enjoyed fighting with giant monsters, chances are you’ll love this game.

+ Multiplayer through Xbox Live means instead of battling the A.I., you can challenge your friends instead, and as we all know fighting games are much better with buds.

+ Leveling-up system adds very basic RPG elements, which allow players to increase their stats.  You can also customize your Jaeger (Robot) or Kaiju (Monster) to a certain extent, however more advanced customization features are locked behind a DLC gate.

Pacific Rim3The So-So:

+/- Energy conservation adds about the only interesting layer to an otherwise dull fighting system.  There are no combos, and most fights break down into a monotonous cycle of block, attack, or wait for your energy to fill up and deliver a power attack.  That’s about all there is to it.

Pacific Rim4The Bad:

– Virtually no effort was made to polish the game.  It looks as though the assets from the disappointing IOS game were used, which is inexcusable for an Xbox 360 game released in 2013. On top of the shoddy visuals, there’s no voice-acting either which means the limited storyline is revealed through a couple lines of text in-between missions.  The story was slapped together for the sole purpose of allowing players to select characters from both sides of the fight.

– Poor collision detection.  Occasionally power attacks you were sure should have connected won’t.

– Repetitive from beginning to end. Kill a monster, pause for a little story progression, and then start all over again with the next creature.

– Makes no sense whatsoever.  You start off as a Jaeger fighter, but then switch over to a Kaiju without explanation.  While it’s understandable the developer didn’t want to follow the movie’s plot in order to allow players to play as both types of combatants, some explanation would have been appreciated.

– There are only three Jaegers and two Kaiju to use in the game’s 12 stages.  Other selectable characters are available, but only through DLC.

– Very little incentive to replay the game after completion, or even finish it. It’s so repetitive because of the simplistic fighting system, and overall generic feel.

Pacific Rim2The Lowdown:

Pacific Rim is a game that could have been so much more had more resources been poured into the project.  This was clearly a game that had a low budget and was meant to earn a nice profit based solely on the name alone.  Multiplayer remains the game’s sole redeeming factor, and offers glimpses of what could have been. If you absolutely adored the movie, you might get a few laughs out of this, but for everyone else, odds are this won’t be for you.

Final Score: 4.5/10

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?

First Impressions of Minecraft for the Xbox 360

I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend a few days ago about to try out the new Minecraft for the Xbox 360.  We wanted to check out the game a bit before calling it a night. Both Apryle and I have played a lot of the original Minecraft on the PC, more her than I, so she’s familiar with all the latest additions.  Personally I haven’t played it almost a year. I was about to show her the game when I realized she could actually play alongside me as this version supports up to 4-player split-screen. Our brief session ended up lasting for 2 hours. The same thing happened last night too. Minecraft was already an addicting game to begin with. The premise, simply dropping you into a world and letting you build stuff and do whatever you want, is unique and charming. Being able to now experience all this with friends is simply awesome.

I adored Minecraft on the PC. My only gripe with it was that it was a bit complicated to play with friends. You had to open up a private server and invite people to join it. However, if you wanted to continue playing in that world alone when you friend was at work or away, he would have to leave his computer on all day and make sure the server was on if he was hosting. Plus, with constant lag and bugs, the experience could sometimes get a bit frustrating. Of course, the game was still in beta at that time so some of these problems have most likely been fixed. What makes this edition so exciting is the tremendous potential Xbox Live can give it. Inviting friends in your game now takes three seconds, as does joining a game. With the inclusion of party chat, Minecraft should become more user friendly. Sure, all of this is already possible on the PC version, but a unified service like Xbox Live makes all of this so much simpler and easier to execute. The addition of split-screen is just icing on the cake, but man is it ever delicious icing.

In order to run the game with up to eight different players with no lag, the Xbox 360 version has unfortunately one big letdown. The game is nowhere near as huge as the PC version, which is eight times the size of the Earth. The Xbox version is only 1,000 by 1,000 blocks. That’s still pretty huge, but something that Apryle was pretty disappointed in. I imagine some hardcore Minecraft fans will feel the same. Besides that, this version is not the latest one, meaning it has a few omissions like food stamina and some of the newer animals (octopus, etc.). However, the game does promise many updates so it wouldn’t surprise me to see these added in the coming months.

Finally there’s one added feature that’s really useful. Instead of having to manually craft all the items, you can simply click on let’s say a sword and if you have the necessary ingredients, the game will make one for you. The downside with this is that you lose the charm of discovering new items by experimenting with the workbench. Still, this saves you so much time that at the end of the day, I think veterans will appreciate it. No longer do you need a wiki page beside you to figure out all the different recipes.

Right now, colour me impressed with the XBLA version. Split-screen will undoubtedly breath new life into Minecraft. It’s just so much more fun to play with friends and this will also make it easier to introduce new players to the game and show them the ropes. Xbox Live makes this all a unified experience. Expect a full review in the coming days as I delve deeper into the game. For now, this is one game you should be on the lookout for.

Bloodforge Review

Bloodforge (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Climax Group
Release Date: March 28, 2012
Price: 1,200 MS Points ($15)

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Bloodforge M for mature because of suggestive themes, blood and gore, partial nudity, intense violence, and strong language.  This is what to expect from a God of War rip-off.

Plays Like: Bloodforge is intended to be similar to God of War, but isn’t.

Review Basis: Read on to find out.

Our reviews usually break down into pros and cons. However, when coming up with something nice to say about a game is very difficult, there’s a problem. Bloodforge is one such game. I’m not shy to say that you shouldn’t bother with this XBLA release. If you’re the type that thinks games can be good because they’re so bad, try this if you must. I like the fact that developers are trying to produce console-like experiences for a bargain price, but Bloodforge needed to return to the drawing board. It’s just not fun, at all. They copied Kratos’s revenge quest. A god tricks you into killing your wife (sound familiar?), so you spend the rest of the game killing different gods in order to bring justice to the world or something. Sadly the characters are forgettable at best, the writing is terrible, and the voice acting is horrible.

That’s OK, it’s just the story, right? Games don’t need a good plot to be enjoyable. Look at Nintendo’s success over the years for proof of that. Unfortunately, Bloodforge’s gameplay isn’t brag-worthy either. It’s a hack ‘n slash title that’s hard on the eyes; you defeat the same enemies over and over. Simply playing might challenge some because the camera constantly shifts as you move. It almost made me sick on a few occasions. It feels wrong. Even if that was fixed, there’s still the dull and repetitive concept. You only kill enemies every 30 seconds or so, while exploring a bland environment that resembles the one you just came from. The only positive thing I can think of is that the bosses look wicked. That’s it.

The Xbox Live Arcade has seen plenty of gems lately (Walking Dead, Trials Evolution, Skullgirls, etc.) as we’re used to, but Bloodforge isn’t one of them. If anything, the game just lowered what we expect from XBLA titles. I know that the next Devil May Cry or God of War will be ten times better thanks to my experience with Bloodforge. Stay far away.

Final Score: 2.0/10

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

Trials Evolution Review

Trials Evolution (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: RedLynx
Release Date: April 18, 2012
Price: 1,200 MS Points
Live: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Trials Evolution E10+ for everyone ten and up. That’s perfect for this game; it doesn’t feature violent acts, outside of painful-looking crashes.

Plays Like: The classic PC game Elasto Mania, and original Trials.

Review Basis: Completed each Hard course; achieved gold medals on everything.

The Great:

If you’ve played Elasto Mania or the original Trials, then you know why games like these are awesome. They’re racing-platformers that slowly ease you in before cranking up the difficulty to near-impossible levels. Just the first jump of some courses require hundreds of retries to execute; yet you keep going. It’s that addicting. You won’t want to put the controller down.

The Good:

+ Countless different courses. Even if you’re a Trials master and finish each course easily, there’s enough content here to justify the admission price.

+ A lot more variety. You don’t play the same track twice; each course sports a unique environmental setup. Plus, hazards such as air traps are added to increase the need for strategy.

+ Perfect leaderboard. If your friends play this, you race against them during your runs. It’s a blast trying to best them. You can even watch full video replays of leaderboard champs to learn how to tackle courses, and try to do better.

+ Sleepless nights. It seems impossible to put your controller. You may find yourself going to bed one or two hours later than intended because you want to finish just one more track.

+ Anybody can play. You worry about two buttons and the stick. TE is perfect for everyone, despite the brutal difficulty. Sure, most will quit after a while, but it’s still time well-invested.

The So-So:

+/- Too hard? I can personally live with the fact that I suck at Trials, but I admit it becomes very frustrating. At times it seems the game has a mind of its own, as you often crash from something simple that you’ve done a thousand times. Just be warned that Trials Evolution is no push-over.

The Lowdown:

Download this, right now! Trials Evolutions is a must-buy. You’ll have a blast, and not stop playing anytime soon. I can’t wait to see what’s next. TE  is one of the best XBLA, and greatly recommended.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Skullgirls Review

Skullgirls (Available on PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Autumn Games
Developer: Reverge Labs
Release Date: April 11th, 2012
Price: 1,200 MS Points / $14.99
PSN/Live: Online Multiplayer

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Skullgirls T for Teen because of violence, partial nudity, use of tobacco and blood.  Skullgirls is a highly stylized animated fighter that’s perfectly geared towards the teenage and adult crowd.  Young kids need not apply.

Plays Like: A 6-button fighter.

Review Basis: Completed most character stories, played through a large portion of the tutorial, and got my ass handed to me multiple times online.

The Great: The prettiest and most entertaining fighting game I’ve ever seen. If there’s one thing Skullgirls doesn’t lack, it’s style. The screens don’t do it justice; the game is simply sexy as hell. All these characters have original drawings that you won’t find anywhere else. It kind of reminds me of Gal Fighters a bit since it’s an all-female cast, but pumped up to the extreme.

The Good:

+ A story mode worth playing. Skullgirls knows how to handle a plot. Usually, fighters do one of two things wrong. They either have no storyline whatsoever, or the game bombards you with line after line of dialogue until you finally fall asleep. This one lets the visuals do all the talking while incorporating just the right amount of text. It’s told mostly with still drawings, but they’re such a wonder to look at. You’ll want to complete all the stories because the premise is so interesting. Each character also has a unique ending too. Well done.

+ Very simple, yet deep tutorial. It starts off slow but isn’t afraid to go in depth as you approach the ending. It makes the learning experience fun, but doesn’t expect you to learn everything all at once. I personally couldn’t complete the entirety of it as I write this review because of the sheer difficulty. I always wondered why fighters felt the need to have difficult tutorials near the end, why not leave this to a separate mode where inputting complicated and well-timed combos reward you with goodies and whatnot. Nonetheless, there’s a quick way to learn the ins and outs of Skullgirls and the tutorial does a great job at that.

+ How do you spell F-U-N? Like all fighters, this one is meant to be enjoyed with friends. Button mashers will be impressed with all the moves and characters that they won’t care about the tedious million button combos you see in tournaments. However, hardcore fighters designed this game and it shows. If you fall into that category, this is your game!

+ Flawless online gameplay.  Nuff said.

The So-So:

+/- Extremely difficult. Unless you’re a pro, this is one bloody hard game. Even at the easiest difficulty setting, Skullgirls offers no mercy. It’s really mostly aimed at hardcore fighting fans. Casuals will have fun playing against other casual fighters, but will probably get extremely frustrated at the story and arcade mode. Take consideration of this if you’re mainly looking for a single-player fighter.

 

The Bad:

– Lack of options. Plus the only way to learn the move-sets of the characters is to head to developer’s website. There should have been an in-game option included to make this all accessible. Also, only featuring eight characters might turn some people off.

– Some of the combos require the press of three buttons at the same time. On a controller (heck even on most arcade sticks), this proves very uncomfortable.

Which version should you pick?

Skullgirls saw a simultaneous release on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Feel free to purchase it for whatever system you own. However, if you have the luxury of owning both consoles, unless you possess an arcade stick, go with the PS3 version. The 360’s d-pad is an abomination. End of story.

The Lowdown:

While extremely difficult, Skullgirls is a match made in heaven for hardcore fighting fans. I completely suck at fighters, yet I find myself going back for more. Just for the visuals I’d recommend this game to any gamer. It’s so much fun. This is probably one of (if not THE) best looking 2D videogames ever released. The art style is unique and screams of originality. Add to all this, a fantastic story mode and you’ve got yourself a winner. Just be prepared for one heck of a challenge.

Final Score: 9.0/10

Warp Review

Warp (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: TrapDoor
Release Date: February 15th, 2012

Parent Talk: While Warp features an adorable little alien, it also has tons of gratuitous violence, strong language and blood and gore.  Yes sir, this was rated M for mature for a very good reason.  Keep children as far away as possible.

Plays Like: Warp plays like a stealth action game, a la Metal Gear Solid, but with heavy puzzle elements.  It also has a very familiar Portal feel to it at times.  That’s sort of expected as you’re warping from room to room, and from one object to another.

Review Basis: I finished off the story mode, and tried a few time trials, which proved to be way too difficult for me.

How many times have you played a game where an alien visitor comes to Earth only to feel the might of our strongest army.  Be it a first-person shooter, third-person action game or whatever else you can think of, the poor aliens always seem to get the short end of the stick.  Well not this time!  Warp features a lovable alien that is captured by the evil humans who experiment on and cut him open while he’s still conscious!  Trapped in an underwater facility, the alien quickly regains his powers, and with your help makes his way through corrupted scientists, guards and anyone or anything else that stands in its way as it tries to escape.

The Great:

Not at all what you expect.  What begins as such a cute-looking game quickly turns dark and never looks back.  Once your alien counterpart is on the loose, he can warp through walls, and into any object, including people.  By rotating the left analog stick he can then cause said objects to explode from the inside out.  This causes a large pool of blood to spurt everywhere; thereby making your jaw hit the ground.  It may only be shocking the first time, but you won’t soon forget it.

The Good:

+ Excellent gameplay.  By warping into different objects, people or anything else, you try and traverse each area as quickly and quietly as possible.  You’re also rewarded for taking out as few people as possible.  For those asking why don’t you just warp out of the facility, you can’t as the alien can’t touch salt water or he temporarily looses his powers and remember you’re in an underwater facility.

+ Puzzles can be solved in multiple ways, further adding to the variety.  You can typically use stealth to make your way through, or kill everyone.

+ Exploration is encouraged as you can find hidden grub worms, which are a form of currency.  These worms allow your alien to unlock new abilities, such as being able to shoot projectiles or create copies of yourself to throw guards off the trail.

+ Leaderboards help connect you to your friends.  Once you perform a certain number of tasks your overall rank is measured against your friends, making the replay value higher than anticipated.

The So-So:

+/- Not the most technically impressive arcade out there.  All the lab techs look identical, all the guards, etc.

The Bad:

– The final boss is a bit of a letdown compared to the rest of the game.  Don’t want to spoil it, but TrapDoor should have rethought this.  There are also a lot of technical issues that pop up during the final battle for one reason or another.

– Identity crisis.  Sometimes the cute look is a little too jarring from all the vulgarities being thrown your way.  While the game never takes itself seriously, I found the mish mash didn’t always work as intended.

The Ugly:

“Sometimes I cry when I masturbate” – Yeah that’s an actual line you’ll hear.  Imagine what else follows something like that.

The Lowdown:

Warp is a really fun game, but goes a little over the top sometimes with the language and violence.  I suppose it’s part of the game’s charm, but some might find it a little excessive.  If that doesn’t bother you, then Warp should certainly be checked out.  I caught myself laughing quite a few times, and by the end I wanted all the humans to pay for what they’d done.  I’m sure you will too.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you’re looking to finally have the chance to get revenge on all those evil humans for torturing aliens for countless centuries, this is a game for you. 

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you can’t get into the cute yet murderous style of the game, it’s easy to be turned off.  That said, the gameplay remains exceptionally tight and addicting.