Posted by Ryan at Monday, December 22, 2008 | 1 comments read on

Prince of Persia Review

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the epitome of great 3D platforming. When Ubisoft announced that they were rebooting the Prince of Persia franchise for the current generation I was among the millions of people who got very very excited. The new Prince of Persia game has a completely retooled art style that makes it look like a drawing come to life. You run around in an open "corrupted" world trying help heal different areas of the land to prevent an evil God from taking over. The new art style really looks phenomenal and is unbelievable to watch as you play through the game. Part of the experience of this game is just witnessing the gorgeous visuals.

Running along with you is your partner, Elika, the daughter of the King who released the evil God into the world. It is up to you and her to defeat the four bosses of the land (the Alchemist, the Concubine, the Hunter, and the Warrior) in any order you'd like. Every time you defeat a boss they will let loose a new type of "corruption" or trap into the world.

One of the things that really got my attention in the new Prince of Persia was the the importance of Elika. She not only plays an important role in the story, but is also a key factor in the gameplay. When you fall she grabs you, when you're hurt she helps you up, when you need to make a jump she lends you a hand, and when you need an extra hit during a fight she jumps in to take a turn. The developers really did a fantastic job incorporating her into the game and making her feel like a character you absolutely need to complete certain tasks. There are times when she will get injured or knocked down and for that second that you're battling on your own you really notice how much of help she was, and how much you miss/need her assistance.

The gameplay is really good and although at times it feels like the game is playing itself and you're just watching some fancy animations, it really does a good job of keeping a certain flow going. There is so much joy to be had in stringing together perfect wall runs, ring grabs, ceiling crawls, bar swings, and double jumps. Once you get a good rhythm going and can go for a while without it breaking, you'll see what I mean.

The combat is based around a combo system that lets you use your sword, gauntlet, Elika, and a jump move. It is pretty deep and is very fun to watch as you toss your enemy up into the air, throw Elika at them, punch them up with your gauntlet, have Elika through you back at them, then slam them down with your sword. It all plays out very well and looks fantastic.

My only gripe with the game is that is is fairly easy, and I like easy games. There weren't many challenging parts and I felt like I'd always make my jump or leap. It looked fantastic and while I was concentrating on not breaking my string of acrobatics, a deeper challenge would have been welcomed.

Prince of Persia: 9/10

Prince of Persia is a fantastic display of a next gen game. The developers did something truly unique with the art style, really bringing the world to life with fantastic colors and scenery. I wish there was more of a challenge, but what is there is brilliant and breath taking. My eyes were glued to the screen the entire time.

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Posted by Ryan at Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | 0 comments read on

Mirror's Edge Review

Argh, God damnit you son of a bitch!

Holy shit, that was awesome!

Those are the two main thoughts that were racing through my head throughout every stage of Mirror's Edge.  Mirror's Edge is a first person platforming game in the vain of the Prince of Persia series.  You are tasked with running across rooftops, corridors, and air ducts, trying to find out who framed your sister for murder.

The game is beautiful, when it wants to be.  The city and rooftops all look fantastic when you can see them in the background as you're running.  The same goes for the saturated and color filled offices and corridors.   However there are many textures in the game that just come off as awkward.  You constantly get glimpses of Faith's (the main character) hands as she grabs onto ledges and swings from poles.  Every time her hands came into the frame they just looked muddled with dull textures that almost looked like they were from the PS2 era.  It's odd because the city is dazzling with color and rich textures, but once her hands came into the scene it looked like you were controlling an 80 year old women with wrinkled old man hands.

I have two main problems with the game.  First, I found it hard to figure out the best spot I could grab next, wishing I could just continue my string of jumps and tucks that were getting my adrenaline pumping.  A perfect example of what I'm talking about is Sonic the Hedgehog.  There are always times in those games where you're zipping along going super fast, only to hit a wall, or some spikes, or a poorly placed enemy.  It brings the speed to a halt and you forced to go very slow to jump over the spikes, or jump up a wall, then continue your speed run.  I got the same exact feeling from Mirror's Edge.  I would be jumping and swinging along having a blast, then I'd hit some weird area where it wasn't obvious where the developer wanted me to go and I had to walk around trying to figure out what I could grab or duck under.  It completely ruined the feeling that Faith was a pro at this and with a few button presses she'd be able to run and jump wherever she wanted.  There were times in every level where I was brought to a screeching halt, making me urge for a level where I could run and platform for more than 2 minutes without being stopped.

My second complaint about this game is that it always felt the need to force you into combat situations.  The combat in Mirror's Edge does work, it's just not as good as most shooting games.  This is understandable, after all you are a runner, not a shooter, so it makes sense that you wouldn't be able to aim very well, if thats what they were going for.  I mainly have a problem with the combat because it ties back into the first problem.  I just wanted levels where I could run for the length of the level and see if I can string together a ton of jumps without falling or missing a ledge.  The combat does nothing more than to take you out of that gameplay that makes the game so great.

When the platforming and running segments do shine through, the game is an absolute blast to play.  I was getting pretty frustrated at the end of the game from constantly having to break my streak to figure out where to go, but when I got to the last section in chapter 8 they really gave me what I was looking for.  I won't say anything to spoil it but all you need to know is that you're tasked with getting to the roof of a building.  There was no one in my way and for about 25 minutes it was nothing but great platforming, jumping, running, tucking, wall running, and ledge grabbing.  That's what I was waiting for!  If only the entire game could have been made out of sections like that, I would have liked it a lot more.  Those section are what make the game truly special, and accomplish something that hasn't been done before.  Being able to platform like that in a first person view was a fantastic experience, I just wish there were more lengthy segments like that last bit.

The story is pretty much non existent, it's told through poorly  animated "E-Surance-esque" cutscenes.  They really don't make you care about any of the characters and don't do a very good job of fleshing out the plot.  The sound in the game is great, the music and ambiance come through very well and really set the tone for the dystopian city you're running in.  The sound effects when Faith runs and jumps, and hits a ledge are fantastic.  The sound of your heart and breath when you get going really fast can be very exhilarating.

Mirror's Edge: 7.5/10

Ultimately Mirror's Edge was a fun game, but like the Sonic games, I hated when it broke up my running streaks and left me wondering what I had to grab onto or duck under.  I constantly wanted sections where I could run for the entire level without interruption, and they only came towards the very end.  The combat was wonky at times and really only bothered me because they broke up the running sections.  The reason Mario Galaxy is so good is because it sticks to what it knows, platforming.  If Mirror's Edge had just stuck with the running aspects of the game, EA and DICE would have had something amazing on their hands.  I'm not trying to sell the game short, there are sections of the game that are unbelievable and very new, they are just buried under other sections filled with wonky combat and frustrating level design.

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Posted by Ryan at Friday, October 31, 2008 | 0 comments read on

World of Goo Review

One of my most anticipated WiiWare games came out a few weeks ago, World of Goo. Developer 2D Boy really made a fantastic and unique puzzle game that looks and plays like Nintendo made it themselves.

In World of Goo you act as a sort of "architect" in that you have to figure out the best and most structurally sound way to build a tower or bridge like contraption to manuever your little goo balls to the exit of each level. The challenges can get pretty tough as there is a really good physics system behind the game. Your tower or bridge will sometimes collapse if you don't keep the base of it strong enough, it will lean in certain directions if there is not equal weight distribution, and it will hit obstacles in the level if not built well enough to avoid them. There are many different types of goo balls throughout the game, some can be used more than once, some act as baloons and instead of adding another frame to your bridge, it will raise it up over some spikes. The game controls wonderfully and using the Wii remote to pick up your goo balls and place them on your contraption works flawlessly and is very fun.

Word of Goo is presented in this very Tim Burton, almost story book like world. It reminds of Charlie and the Choclate factory mainly because of the Danny Elfman-esque music. There is a unique and fantastic story unfolding as you move your goo balls from level to level. The style of the game is a perfect fit for Wii, the developer didn't attempt to do anything too fancy and it ends up looking like a really well put together Flash game, which is a perfect fit for WiiWare.

World of Goo: 10/10

I gave Word of Goo a perfect score because it is really the epitome of the WiiWare service. A fantastic, well presented game for a low cost. I would have easily paid 40 bucks for this game in a retail store, it's that good. WiiWare is really proving to be a great showcase for indie talent in the gaming community. Games like Lost Winds, Word of Goo, and the upcoming Animales de la Murete seem tailor made for the Wii, and that's just what I was hoping we'd get with the service.

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Posted by Ryan at Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 0 comments read on

Portal Review

Having just restarted my GameFly subscription I decided I should finally finish playing Portal, so the first game I rented was The Orange Box. Portal looks like a First Person Shooter but is really a puzzle game.

You're given what is called the Portal Gun which allows you to shoot a opening and an exit Portal one colored blue, the other orange. You're placed in various different rooms with obstacles that you must avoid and get around using the gun. For instance, there may be a projectile bouncing off of the walls in a certain pattern, and you need that projectile to hit a certain switch in the room that is not in it's pattern. You simply shoot one Portal on the wall that you know the projectile will hit, and place the other Portal on the wall facing the button. The projectile will go through the first Portal and come out the other heading straight for the button allowing you to continue. There are various other scenarios similar to this and a few of them caused me to scratch my head. But that is where the genius of Portal really starts to shine through. A puzzle may look really complicated and even impossible, but a few well placed Portals, some hops, skips, and jumps, and you're on your way to exit. Like most puzzle games it can be quite rewarding when you finish a particularly hard challenge.

One of the best features and uses of the Portals is momentum. This might be hard to understand through words but I'll give it a shot anyway. Picture a wall in front of you that goes up pretty high, with a small gap at the very top, behind you is a wall that goes straight to the ceiling. On the left and right are walls to the ceiling as well. You have to get out of that room. This is done by shooting a portal at the very top of the wall behind you, another at your feet. Fall through the one at your feet causing you to fall from the top of the wall that is behind you down towards the floor. Right before you hit the floor shoot another Portal, keeping the first one on the wall behind you. This will allow you to build up speed and momentum. Keep falling from the top of the wall behind you to the portal on the floor and you will eventually shoot straight from the back wall over that tiny gap in the wall that was blocking your way. Phew, I hope you got all that, I'm not even sure that I did.

Another great aspect of Portal is the story and commentary that is conveyed through your "captor" GlaDOS. She is a computer that is essentially provoking you and taunting you all throughout each room or puzzle. She can be quite funny and devious at times so pay attention to what she is saying.

Portal: 10/10

I gave Portal a 10/10 because for what is was (a short add on to the Half Life 2 Series that did not need to be included at all) it was perfect. To me it even surpasses the Half Life series as I have never really been into those games. It is a short, addictive, funny, and challenging puzzle game that is disguised as an FPS. There aren't too many games that can fit that mold and Portal seems to have nailed it out of the park. There is an expansion pack that was just released for the XBOX 360 but as the developer Valve is not a the biggest fan of the PS3 I don't see it coming to that big black box anytime soon, if ever.

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Posted by Ryan at Thursday, October 02, 2008 | 0 comments read on

Thoughts on Nintendo's Press Conference Today

Ever since Nintendo blew their E3 showing a few months back people have been complaining about Nintendo not catering to the hardcore audience, me included. Wii Music was the only thing in the front of peoples minds after that. A game that basically puts the controller in your hand and plays music on the screen while you wave it around. That, for a lot of us, was not the major title we were looking for.

Enter Nintendo's Fall Media Summit. It did everything their E3 showing should have done, plus more. The major announcement was for the new DS the DSi. It is a redesign of the current hardware, not a new format. The DSi will have larger screens, a camera on the front and one on the inside for video, and no more GBA slot yielding it 12% (correct me of that's the wrong number) slimmer than the current DS. There is a little person inside me that wants everything new and "techie" but as of now there doesn't seem to be enough new features to warrant an upgrade from my DS lite. The only thing that has peaked my interest is the introduction of a "Virtual Console" like system for the DS, which people have been requesting for a while. If this turns out to be successful, in the sense that you can download past game boy, game boy color, and game boy advance games on it then that might justify the purchase in itself. But again this all depends on how things play out, and the software that is released for it. I'd much rather have a new hand held altogether, with a new format of games. It seems like with this re design Nintendo is just trying to get the DS brand to print more money than the millions it already has.

On a sadder note, this looks like it could be the death of the Game Boy brand. The removal of the GBA slot from the current DS seems like Nintendo is throwing away it's last tie to the Game Boy. People can argue that this may not be the smartest move because of all the prestige that name can bring, but with the amount of money Nintendo is bringing on the DS alone, I think they have a new powerhouse brand on their hands. The DS brand is also trying to attract a much wider audience than the Game Boy ever was, so it makes sense that they should be separated brands.

Now, onto the important things, the games. It seems we have been appeased and can no longer question Nintendo's appeal to the hardcore gamer. Today they announced a slew of games that have me, along with every other Nintendo fan, very excited. Specifically the announcement of a new Punch Out!! game. This is a franchise that many loyal Nintendo fans have enjoyed on the NES and SNES which has been long overdue. The franchise hasn't been seen since the SNES days, and only the NES release of the game is currently available on the Virtual Console.

One last game that has every one's attention is Sin and Punishment 2. The first Sin and Punishment was never released in the US, until it showed up on the US Virtual Console last year. It is an "on rails" shooter that was developed by industry favorite Treasure. When the second game was announced last night in Japan, many American gamers were worried that it would not come to the states. During today's conference NOA (Nintendo of America) confirmed that due to the impressive sales of the first title on the VC they are bringing the second game to America.

There were also a bunch of DS announcements including Mario and Luigi RPG 3 and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, both of which I am very excited for. Below I have posted a screen shot from the new Punch Out!!, Sin and Punishment 2, and a comparison shot from GoNintendo of the DSi on the left and DSlite on the right.


Posted by Ryan at Thursday, August 28, 2008 | 0 comments read on

Professor Layton and the Curious Village Review

When I first got my DS back in 2006 there weren't that many games that I wanted to play for it. I loved New Super Mario Brothers, and Sonic Rush, but I couldn't find many games that I felt really couldn't be played anywhere else. Now Professor Layton is not necessarily one of those games, but being able to solve puzzles using the touch screen made the game so much fun, and very intuitive.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first game in the Professor Layton series to be published in the United States. Level 5 (The developers behind the fantastic Jeanne D'arc for PSP) self published the game in Japan, but were lucky enough to get Nintendo to get the job done for them in the states. The game is a puzzle game wrapped around a murder mystery. You must inquire around town about a certain "Golden Apple" and the death of one of the towns people. However no one will help you unless you help them first. Every villager has a puzzle that you must solve before they will give you any information. The puzzles range from your standard block moving, to some pretty hard math, word, and logic problems. A lot of the puzzles fall into the brain teaser category, and most of them can be solved if you think outside the box.

The game looks fantastic, with anime cut scenes filling in the story, and some very nice 2D character art when interacting with the townspeople. Just like Jeanne d'Arc the production values were very high and it really came through when playing the game. The story actually had me guessing until the very end, something I wasn't expecting, and I really liked where the developers went with it.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: 8/10

I gave Professor Layton an 8 out of 10 only because the puzzles would sometimes get repetitive, and often times become downright impossible. Now I love a good challenge, but I simply could not do some of them forcing me to either turn to Google or my girlfriend. I loved the style and the game play and can't complain about the length, it took me a good 16 hours to get through the 100+ puzzles. I can't wait for the next game in the series which should be coming out sometime in 2009, it's already out in Japan. I have included below a very funny comic from Penny Arcade that pretty much sums up the game as a whole.

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Posted by Ryan at Monday, June 16, 2008 | 0 comments read on

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Review

I never beat games this fast, I usually never even beat games to begin with. The Metal Gear series has always been a different beast to me however. Ever since I played Metal Gear Solid back in the day I was hooked on the story of Solid Snake. When MGS4 came out I wanted nothing more than to beat it as fast as I could just so I could know the story, and have some sort of closure to this adventure I've been playing since 1998. That's just what I did, I bought the game when it came out on Thursday, after sinking 21 hours into it and having a Metal Gear fueled weekend, I'm done. The Metal Gear series has always been one of my favorites in video games, from the gameplay and stealth mechanics, to the characters and story, these are the games that rank at the top of my list.

Even though I love this series, I can't help but feel that during most of the game I'm tasked with running through tight corridors trying to disarm bombs, change key card colors, or locate certain weapons. With the exception of MGS3 most of the games have taken on this style. While it may be rewarding in the end, I sometimes got frustrated with back tracking, or being in the same type of environment over and over again. MGS4 changes this drastically. You start out in the middle east in the center of a conflict between privatized military groups and the local forces. The main difference about MGS4 that sets it apart from the other games in the series is that you are not the enemy. There is a battle going on around you, but neither side concerns you. You have a specific goal in mind and it is entirely up to you if you want to get involved in the fight. There is a perceived enemy (the PMC's) but you do not have to fight them. However, if you chose to fight them, the local rebels will notice you and come to your aide, helping you progress through each area more efficiently. There are four other areas that this story will take you to, I won't get into any details but let's just say that by the fourth act (out of five, plus an epilogue, and debriefing), I knew this game was a masterpiece.

This game brought back so much nostalgia for me, seeing these characters interact again, and being back in the story that I started ten years ago really felt amazing. I don't want to give anything away but you really get a sense of closure at the end of this game. As much as everyone touts the Metal Gear series for having one of the most convoluted stories out there, this game really does a fantastic job of tying everything together and making you understand almost every aspect of the storyline with ease. Unlike the previous games, I don't have any questions after finishing the game, Kojima (the creator) really explained every question and detail that he created in this world.

Metal Gear Solid 4 also sets itself apart from the other games in the series by allowing you to take a more action oriented approach to each mission. You start out with a ton of weapons and can upgrade or purchase more at any time once you meet a certain character named Drebin and his little pet monkey. This adds a lot to the game allowing you to shoot your way through if you'd like to. I found myself sneaking around, taking out people silently if they were in my way, but if caught I would take out my shotgun and start blasting people. Kojima may be the father of stealth games, but the action and shooting in this game are phenomenal. I would go about some parts almost begging to get caught (which sure enough would happen as I'm not that good) and would have tons of fun using all of the weapons and explosives in my arsenal. No longer is the series tied to the stealth genre, it can run and gun with the best of the action games.

I'm almost at a loss for words. There is so much that I want to talk about, but I do not want to give anything away. There are tons of twists and throw backs to earlier games, plenty of nostalgia to go around. The environments and characters that you meet up with are fantastic and all do a great job of flushing out the story. I don't have to say it, but the graphics look amazing as well, as other reviewers have stated Kojima is really pushing every pixel on the PS3. I think it'll be hard finding a better looking game for a really long time.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: 10/10

This series is legendary, and this game is a masterpiece. It feels weird to finally have closure to a series I've been playing for ten years. I have no more questions, I have all of the information I wanted, yet I still want to walk around as Solid Snake for just a little longer. He is one of the few video game characters that felt truly human and this game shows it more than ever. Kojima has stated that this is not the end of the Metal Gear series, just the end of the Solid Snake chapter. I'm not sure if there can be a metal gear game with out a snake character. I have no doubt's in Kojima, I'm just not sure if anything else can live up to Solid Snake's legacy.

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