Category Archives: Reviews

REVIEW: Enslaved Odyssey to the West

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a game developed by Ninja Theory, and published by Namco Bandai. It is available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It is a less than mediocre game and clearly intended for a ‘casual’ audience. The Xbox 360 game was played for the purposes of this review.

I’ll admit I’m hesitant to give a bad review to a post-apocalyptic kind of game, as I generally like this kind of stuff. What drew me to this game was the art work, the cover art, and the screenshots. It’s very different than most post-apocalyptic kind of scenarios, in that the world isn’t so desolate and barren. So think Wall-E, but instead of dust and nothing growing, there is plant life growing all over the place. The New York skyline is full of greenery, the buildings are
literally taken over by plants, slowly being broken down to the effects of Mother Nature. The idea of exploring New York like this is was really appealing to me.

Unfortunately, that is where the appeal ends. Heard of two people abandoned on an island that don’t really like each other at first, are forced to work together to avoid immediate death, and totally end up falling for each other? If you haven’t, that’s alright, because Enslaved has you covered. You play as your classic tough guy raised in the jungle. The “I have no family and I have no name” kind of hero. You and your companion are prisoners of some sort, and she controls you by means of a headband device which doesn’t allow you to leave her side without killing you. Which is why the game is called “Enslaved.” You, “Monkey,” are enslaved to Trip, your companion.
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REVIEW: The Brink of a Genre, Worth Exploring

Stretching The Edges of a Genre

Brink was developed by Splash Damage and published by Bethesda Softworks for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC. It was directed by Paul Wedgewood, Richard Ham, Olivier Leonardi, Chris Sweetman, Arnout van Meer, Richard Jolly and Stephen Gaffney. The Xbox360 copy was played for the purpose of this review following the day one patch released from developer Splash Damage.

Innovation rarely produces perfection, but it always brings something new to the table. Something on the brink of existing standards, stretching old rules with the new ideas it brings forward. Flipping on Brink for the first time, and watching it’s lengthy tutorial videos (10-30 minutes), you get the immediate sense that you are playing an ambitious shooter. Four classes, directly interdependent with one another, three distinct body types, and a plethora of weapons and abilities help shape the battlefield of Brink in a way that is rarely seen in this generation’s “run ‘n’ gun, lone-wolf” brand of first-person shooters. Brink’s team centric, objective-based battles are laden with a variety of fun opportunities, but they are also fraught with technical issues that will leave those with slow internet connections as well as eye-candy junkies disappointed. Visual issues frequently result in constant texture pop-in and online lag often interrupts the fast-paced flow of combat. Problems with the bot’s artificial intelligence in Brink can also be downright infuriating. There, is without a doubt, mountains of lasting fun to be had with Brink, however with all it’s innovation aside, it falls short of perfection.

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RED DEAD REDEMPTION is a videogame developed by Rockstar San Diego and Rockstar North, published by Rockstar Games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Xbox 360 version was played for the purpose of this review. It was directed by JOSH BASS, DAREN BADER and TED CARSTON.

Before I begin, there are 3 things you should know.

The first one is that I find the GTA games to be a painful experience, consisting of controlling characters I don’t care about, doing stuff I don’t want for people I hate. The second thing is that I’m a big fan of Westerns, which must have been very annoying for my roommates as I discoursed about every single tiny movie influence I could spot in Red Dead Redemption, from John Marston’s duster outfit, straight out of Once Upon a Time in the West, to the plot itself, lifted from The Proposition. The third one is that I really like how most Rockstar games come with an actual map enclosed with the game box. Not only is it a testament for the amount of polish Rockstar adds to its games, but also helps the game be more immersive– as it begins to “embrace” my real life when, for instance, I use that map to plan my next moves instead of eating my dinner.

Moving on. Red Dead Redemption is a good game. It contains some moments that are pretty close to greatness and the amount of care put into this game is almost palpable (Well, actually, it IS palpable! There is that map after all!). Unfortunately, however, it still suffers from issues like pacing, ludonarrative dissonance, flat characters, lack of focus, clutter and noise. There are also some control issues (e.g.: occasionally, turning your horse will feel like you are back to Resident Evil‘s “tank controls” days), but who cares about those, right? However, one thing is for certain: Red Dead Redemption is certainly the best western game out there right now – though I am certain it will be later passed by better western games. Read the rest of this entry

Review: Cargo

Describing Cargo, the newest game from games as art Russian luminaries Ice Pick Lodge (developers of the impenetrable Pathologic and the penetrable but intense The Void), is both simple and devilishly hard.

Let’s get the simple out of the way. Heard of, or played, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts? It’s that. But Russian. Not in the traditional overwhelmingly bleak way, but in the same way Russian animation is. That’s Cargo. That’s it. That is its central idea.

They then combine this base with five games worth of storytelling hooks mashed into one world and in the process create the most fantastically creative game worlds imaginable. Hook after utterly bizarre hook slams into you and leaves you utterly, completely bewildered.

So, when I say that Cargo is completely undefinable and a game you should play, know that I’m being serious. This is not “a wolf in feudal Japan restoring nature” weird, or “anime weird”, or even Super Mario Bros. 2 weird. This is Russian weird. This is absolute, intense, mind fucking weirdness. It’s also a very good way to get into their two previous incomprehensible but utterly brilliant releases, so it has that going for it, too. As it is, it’s a game that defies general definitions of goodness. Is it a good game? I can’t say. Is it bad? Almost certainly not. Is it mediocre? That’s the most ludicrous title to pin on it.

It simply is, and is what you make of it.
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Horror Genre Again

I’ve always been a massive wimp when it comes to horror movies, games, what have you. Still, I love them in a small, masochistic way. I’ve been a big Resident Evil fan since the originals on Playstation. As a 12 year old playing these games at night with the lights off, I have never forgetten those bloody dogs!. After Resident Evil 4 and 5, though, the games lost the ‘horror’ feel and became more action oriented–thus, my faith in a good horror game was lost. For me, a Horror game is about using your limited resources wisely, being alone in an unfamiliar territory with no form of help and no hand holding. Many horror games have lost sight of what that all truly means, opting, like Resident Evil 4, for more action-packed forms of combat. This typically means more resources, less darkness, fewer fear-inducing sections of games. In essence, with over-addition action into horror titles, they became Action games with a horror influence. Adding the ability of being able to fight back removes the fear you feel, the necessity of getting away, and instead replaces it with a small boost of adrenaline. This makes it less about survival and the “true” aspects of horror and more about seeing how many creatures you can kill. Eventually I lost my love for the genre and moved on to other waters that were calling my attention.

Recently though, a new horror game has taken the gaming world by storm. Amnesia: The Dark Descent makes us all feel insecure about being in the darkness once again thanks to developers Frictional Games. Although they’ve created previous games in the fantastic Penumbra series with similar mechanics, they hadn’t gotten much interest from the public until Steam sales and youtube reaction videos thrust the game into the public eye.

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Portal 2 and Imagination

For those of you keeping score, Valve have not released a narrative based game since October 10th, 2007.

That’s four years. Four years of co-op multiplayer shooters and hats and no Half Life. This has been a great disservice to the gaming world, because Half Life 2 is one of the pinnacles of video game storytelling. Other games have stories, while Half Life 2 told one in ways that so few titles are capable of.

Coincidentally, on the same day as Valve released the most recent bit of Half Life 2, they also released Portal. Portal was a proof of concept wrapped up in a polished meme-worthy package. It was, in its own way, narrative brilliance: it was a masters’ class in making gamers care about inanimate objects in the game world, in letting the player affect his or her own salvation, in providing a compelling villain. It had all the things other games lacked, and it came without the trappings of an overbearing mythology no one cared about.

It also created about a half dozen memes that have stuck with us until today, so there’s that, too. We often forget the quality game behind the memes when we talk about Portal; I was lucky enough to be the first person in my group of friends to beat Portal, so I remember Still Alive as a charming, fantastic ending rather than a cloying thing referenced to death by everyone and their brothers. I know GlaDOS as a villain instead of as someone who’s voice you imitate when you’re being evil or as a line of quotations. I have a homemade companion cube that was made before it became a fetishistic object of desire.

What I’m saying is that Portal was a fantastic game in its own right, and that Portal 2 builds admirably on that, in ways which video games have rarely touched before.

(And now the cavalcade of spoilers. If you have not played Portal 2, this is one of those situations where it’s really, really, really a good idea to go in as unspoiled as possible. More than other games, it needs that. So if you’ve not beaten it, stop here, bookmark this page, and come back later, when you’ve beaten it yourself. If you want a mini review, it is a great game that is the best video games have to offer.)
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GHOST TRICK: PHANTOM DETECTIVE is a videogame developed and published by Capcom for the Nintendo DS. It was directed by SHU TAKUMI.

Ghost Trick was a game I purchased mainly because of its cover. It is pleasantly odd and unique. Instead of your average collage of floating heads or the game’s protagonist posing menacingly just to show you how much of a badass he or she is, the focal point of Ghost Trick’s cover is a lifeless body in a flaming red suit, with his body slumped over at the shoulders and his buttocks facing the Almighty. This dead body, posed in a comical and somewhat pathetic fashion, is the central point of interest of the picture, his red figure greatly opposing with the generic shadowy town and debris at the background. For the Japanese cover, this is made even more obvious by removing all but the dead body – and, while at it, adding a spotlight illuminating it. The cover I’ve purchased shows the phantom of this dead body rising from this miserable body. With more sober colors, it stands so proud, cool and confident we barely notice his bizarre hairstyle. The contrast is glaring and incredibly effective in conveying the game’s premise: death is too trite an obstacle to stop you.

Shu Takumi certainly seems to think this way. His most famous creation, Phoenix Wright from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, often had to deal with the interferences of the deceased in order to find the truth. Here, however, it is the deceased who has to deal with the shenanigans of the living, who still keep that annoying habit of dying, in order to uncover that “truth”. Read the rest of this entry

Darkspore Open Beta Review

One of the benefits of being a fringe site is that you don’t have to worry about people giving a fuck about your reviews. Major sites can’t really cover the Darkspore open beta on Steam, because EA would throw a fit and demand they review the finished product, not the beta of a game that’s 99% complete. Not so here, folks! As an independent nobody, I can do whatever I want.

I’ll admit, I decided to play the Darkspore beta out of morbid curiosity. I mean, this game is the electronic equivalent of a platypus: a Diablo clone shoehorned for absolutely no reason under the banner of the most disappointing franchise ever launched. And one thing is true: this is obvious, absolute shoehorning; besides using the same character models as Spore did, there is nothing, repeat, NOTHING in common between the two. It is a massive bait and switch.

The irony is that the bait is rancid, but the switch is pretty solid.
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Review: Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2 is the oddest bird I have played in ages. It’s what you get when people who really don’t want to be making role playing games make one anyway. It tries to follow the Mass Effect blueprint, by tearing out all the negatives reviewers pointed out in the previous game, distilling the game down to an unadulturated positive experience.

Of course, there is a major difference. Mass Effect was a game with simple, obvious flaws: the combat was a little off, there was too much generic exploration, and the story, while good, featured a lot of characters who were not especially memorable. We can pretty much all agree why Mass Effect wasn’t perfect. On the other hand, if you put ten fans of Dragon Age: Origins in the same room, you would have ten completely different sets of complaints. Some people felt the combat was boring, some felt it was confusing, and others felt it was the best in an RPG in ages. Some people loved the story, the “generic” quest to defeat a horrible evil race, and some people loved the silent protagonist and the complicated dialog system. Others didn’t like those things. Some people liked the scope of the game, others felt the characters were bland and unlikeable.

A lot of the problems with Dragon Age 2 can be traced to the fact that it is a game built to mechanically correct the flaws of its predecessor. As it is, however, I want to go at it in as pure a way as possible, and not compare it to Origins in the slightest. Well, that’s not true. I plan to spend a second or two on it at the end. But it’s very much it’s own beast, and deserves to be tackled as such.

Unfortunately, as such, Dragon Age 2 is a mediocre game that is soulless and forgettable fun.
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Pokemon Black and White Impressions

Well, I guess I called it, months ago. Welcome to the world of Pokemon, indeed.

I’ve not beaten Black and White; that would be ridiculous. Rather, I’ve sunk a good half dozen hours into the title, and this has given me time to form impressions of the game. Read on, to find out!
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