Thursday, December 29, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: All Zombies Must Die

Well this holiday season has just been packed with XBLA and PSN titles, if you've read my last few reviews, you know what I mean.  We've had Oddworld, and Trine 2 for the past couple reviews.  All Zombies Must Die had me interested from the first video and screenshots I saw from the game.  If a game has any kind of Zombie in it, I'm all for it.

The game has a unique look to it, the visuals have a cartoony look to it that brings the game to life.  Its has an overall simple feel and look to the game but it works.  I didn't come into the game expecting the game look like a Batman of Gears, but it gets the job done.  The audio is ok in the game, it definitely is the weakest part in the game.  The soundtrack gets too repetitive way too early in the game.  The game does have a strong narrative component in the game and it keeps driving the game at a good forward pace, it never really slows down.  Jack, Rachel, Luxo, and Brian each have their own unique personalities and intricacies.  At times, the interaction between the characters is really cool and very humorous.  All Zombies Must Die! takes place in Deadhill, a cliché small town thats perfect for an undead takeover.

Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
At its core, this game is your classic twin stick shooter like Everyday Shooter and Super Stardust HD.  Each character has a main weapon and power in the game, like your standard shotgun and some special ability.  Jack, the character I played, could set Zombies on fire.  Also, all characters can equip a secondary weapon, ranging from Uzis to swords. The ability to customise guns adds another welcomed addition to the game.  This adds a RPG layer to the classically styled game.  Weapon status effects can be applied to any weapon, meaning you don't have to stay with one gun at all times.  Weapon crafting is in the game, its not a big part, but its there if you like that sort of thing.  Personally I never care for weapon crafting and potion making in RPGs.  The game's multiplayer is good but lacking online, which would have been great for this kind of game.  All that said, the local play does hold up with friends.  It supports a total of four players, you can instantly tell that the game was developed with multiplayer in mind.

Final Thoughts:
All Zombies Must Die! is a good game for the holidays, but its definitely the weakest game in the herd.  I don't like the price of $9.99 too much considering what you are getting for your money.  Its tough to say to you guys to just go buy it, try the demo and see for yourself if you like it for yourself.

Final Score = 7.5/10

Monday, December 26, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Trine 2 XBLA

After a short hiatus for the holidays, I still have a few extra holiday bucks to spend on some downloadable titles.  Trine 2 just so happened to be on my wish list for a while now and its a pretty cheap XBLA game.  I had managed to cut myself away from MW3, and I try a different kind of game.  This is another perfect example of the different varieties and diversities that XBLA and PSN have to offer us.

The first thing I noticed about Trine 2 is its gorgeous and stunning visuals. Each scene invites you to different and diverse environments. The lush forests and caves to calm beaches shines with rich detail and impressive. lighting effects. Surprisingly, Trine 2 is one of the most visually impressive games out there. The game stars a trio of classic fantasy heroes: a knight, a sly thief, and a cool wizard. Their adventure sends them through the classic tale of rescue the princess. The voice work is well done and solid, the actors really bring these characters to life. Music in the game is a cool eclectic style and really adds to the game. The games' storybook-style narration is a cool touch and rounds out the games atmosphere beautifully. 

Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
Since I never played the first game, I didn't really go into this game expecting any thing.  I just knew it was a RPG type of game with different puzzle elements.  The three characters each perform specific tasks and have their own unique equipment.  The wizard can conjure blocks and platforms, the thief has a bow and grappling hook, and the knight bashes enemies with swords, hammers, and shields.  You get to choose who you want to play with, with recent games being so restrictive, this is a welcome addition.  The game has a hard time letting you know of what you need to do at certain times, this can be a real pain when you have those intricate puzzles.

When playing by yourself you can switch between the three heroes at any time.  You will want to play multiplayer though.  This is where the game shines the most, there are options for online and offline co-op play.  Combining powers opens up new avenues of sandbox tinkering; the wizard can float other party members on a conjured plank platform  Its great for puzzles since you get help from other human players.  There are a few boss fights in the game but they aren't really that engrossing.  Sometimes they can even be a bit frustrating with the difficulty spikes.

Final Thoughts:
Trine 2 offers up great fun either while playing alone or playing with a group of friends.  You will want to play online with friends though to get the most out of your 1200 MS Points.  The price tag is a little steep, but it makes up for with great gameplay and a cool story.  A superb presentation make this a complete downloadable game.

Final Score = 8.75/10

Friday, December 23, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Oddworld Stranger's Wrath HD

First off, I've never played the original Oddworld game on the Xbox, and I never payed any attention to it.  The PS3 remake was a great way to get my hands on the game, and with the HD treatment, its the best version to play.  During the holiday season, there are many cool new PSN games to try out.  So Strangers Wrath was an obvious choice to receive my holiday money.

Since I never saw how the original looked, only by videos and screenshots, I can make little comparisons with each of the versions. The HD visuals look great, and nice graphical enhancements like lens flare that captures the beautifully rendered world that you explore. The cartoony aesthetic also fits the humorous and witty writing perfectly making a great and winning formula. The world is well developed, deep with lore and life. Towns you visit feel like actual places in a bigger universe, with unique characters that help bring the game to life. The audio is pretty good all around, with a solid soundtrack and great voice acting. Although, Stranger himself, sounds a little drab at times but he doesn't bring down the experience. The general story in the game is simple , Stranger is a bounty hunter, who tracks Oddworld criminals in an attempt to raise money for an unexplained surgery that he "needs to survive." Its pretty vague at first, then develops into a engaging story.  With a smooth and locked 60 fps frame rate, the presentation is top-notch.

Core Gameplay:
The core gameplay in the Stranger's Wrath is a mix between a FPS game, and a third person action shooter. Shooting feels really good and solid, but at times it can go out of whack and become a bit floaty. Platforming is a little wonky and clunky most of time, but you won't be spending most of your time jumping around so thats not a big problem. The overall combat is what keeps me coming back for more action, each of his ammo types has different abilities, and gives you an array of options to tackle each enemy encounter. There are traps you can set up for a different way of defeating enemies. You can combine this with the stealth component of the game to lure enemies into those traps. So theres many ways to tackle different encounters.

As you do bounty after bounty it starts to feel very repetitive, with the scarce amount of enemies making for some pretty predictable encounters.  It pretty much follows the same pattern with each bounty, explore the area, and fight off enemies, then capture or defeat the enemy.  Difficulty will ramp up on you from time to time and will frustrate you at times but never detracts from the overall experience of the game.

Final Thoughts:
This new remake of Strangers Wrath is a great one indeed and a welcome addition to the many games that have received the HD treatment.   It may drag a bit at times and the platforming may be weak, the shooting and combat makes up for it perfectly.  Its a very unique game, I've never played this one before and I'm now glad I did.  Its $14.99 guys and gals, its a great game for that price.  Go on and spend your holiday money on this awesome  PSN title.

Final Score = 8/10

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Grand Theft Auto 3 iOS

If you've never played GTA 3 either you're Amish or you have been living under a rock for the last decade. I guess Rockstar wants this game on every single device known to man.  I haven't played this since I last beat it on the PS2. I still had a great experience overall with the game, but not as much as my original playthrough back in 2001.  

Visually the game looks a little sharper than the PS2 counterpart, that's probably because of the small screen of the iPhone.  The textures appear smoother, and the animations still look impressive on a 10 year old game.  The game has all the original radio stations and music, which is great fan service and had me reminiscing of the old days. The story, for those who don't know,  follows a silent protagonist who gets left bleeding after a bank robbery gone wrong. From there, he works his way up the criminal ladder, earning more money and getting to drive cooler cars.  The presentation overall, is great and i was very impressed.

Core Gameplay:
Sadly, the touchscreen controls make half the experience frustrating and had me loathing controlling the game.  The ridiculous faux-joystick is tiny and makes some of the gameplay tough and even sometimes broken.  Sniping is a huge problem for me, with inaccuracies occurring a little too often for me.  Driving is solid, pulling off huge jumps is very satisfying with the over-the-top action scenes.   Grand Theft Auto 3's overall gunplay suffers with many reasons.  The auto-aim is a big reason for this, even when you're going up against a hefty number gangsters who are trying to kill you, you'll automatically aim and fire on any pedestrians who happen to be closer to your gun.

Missions are your standard mix of driving and action sequences, but the controls just continue to hinder the experience.  Especially the missions with heavy gunfire, will take you out of the game and make you take an unexpected break from the game.  Chase sequences are still boring but the solid driving doesn't make it a problem.

Final Thoughts:
It may seem like I'm bagging on the game but I'm not.  I just have a few problems with this remake of one my favorite PS2 games.   The $4.99 price tag is a steal with all the packed content squeezed on the iPhone.  Even though the combat may hold the experience from perfection, its still a blast to run a muck through the streets of Liberty City.

Final Score: 7.75/10

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joe Danger Special Edition XBLA

Joe Danger is a game that tried on PSN but never got around to actually purchasing it, now is a great time since it has a special edition for the 360.  This is basically the same game I played before but the new addition makes it a must buy for me.  Another thing, If you already the PS3 version, its probably worth a another purchase if you're a hardcore fan of the series.

The cartoony graphics style will instantly grab you and catch your eye.  You'll notice little nuances in the game, such as Joe's little quirky movements and gestures.  The comic book style is a nice touch as well.  You have rarely seen these types of visuals on the XBL arcade and even PSN as well.  Audio is great as well with a eclectic soundtrack and an all around great audio side of presentation.  You will notice different audience noises as well, it'll draw you in as well and make you fell like a real stuntman. The story is quite simple, Motorcycle stuntman Joe's time in the spotlight ended long ago after a debilitating injury. He aims to get back into the game but he needs our help to get him back to stardom.

Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The gameplay of the game is as simple as Mario game, with each stage containing several objectives that will grant you a star when completed, and you spend those stars to unlock additional levels.  You can spend a lot time of time exploring these levels with each playthrough and will keep you coming back for more.  It is similar to a Trials game but its not as serious and monotonous, the overall atmosphere of Joe Danger is lighthearted and just a blast to play.  The new mode is my favorite of the game, its called Lab Mode.  It has its own levels and visual style, its like playing a new game in some respects.  

Multiplayer is available in the game through local split screen play.  Races pit friends against each other head-to-head.  Its a good feature to have in the game but I found myself just going back to the score chasing elements of the single player.  You can share created levels with friends with is a bonus.

Final Thoughts:
Joe Danger constantly surprises and delights. The clever level design encourages return visits to look for all the hidden goodies.  Its close to its sister game on the PSN, so if you have both consoles you should definitely get the 360 version if you can.

Final Score = 9/10

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Gears Of War 3: Raam's Shadow

The new DLC for Gears of War 3 is now ready for download and you may wanna get it as soon as you can.  This is great news for for me and others of the series.  This is pure fan service of the franchise.  Fans who have read the different comics and books , will notice different nuances about different areas and people.  This add-on pack is purely story driven, the first of its kind.

General Theme of DLC:  
RAAM's Shadow takes everything back to the beginning, it takes place shortly after Emergence Day as the Locust Horde makes a move to overtake Ilima.  With a new cast of playable characters and some fun battles, RAAM's Shadow is a great piece on content.  It may not hold you as long as the third installment.  The first chapter reveals the origin of a certain minor COG from Gears of War 3 and the finale sets the stage for a pivotal moment in the first Gears of War.

New Additions:
The Big new addition that this brings to the Gears Of War Universe is that being able to play as General RAAM himself.  RAAM feels like a tank, and its actually pretty great.  I had my skepticism and I thought it was gonna be a cheap gimmick, but its not.  RAAM can't drop into cover, can't roll, and can't dodge, but can send a storm of Kryll to any target(Which never gets old).   His power is overwhelming, so there's no real challenge to any of the levels.  Take that any way you want too, I myself, like the feeling of being superior.  Stabbing everyone in the gut with his iconic knife never gets old.

Additionally, you play as Zeta squad, another squad with similar qualities of Delta Squad.  I have to comment on Barrick, the one liners this guy spews out is just lame and over the top.  He's similar to Cole Train, although Cole Train is funnier, its nice to see new faces in the universe.  There isn't much else new to the game except the new story and characters.

Final Thoughts:
RAAM’s Shadow is a good addition to the Gears of War universe and offers a few more hours of great action and cheesy one liners.  Not much else new to the game other than the new features I previously mentioned, but the tale is still fun and exciting.  The $15.00 price is well worth it with the high production values Epic has always done with their games.

Final Score = 8/10

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: BloodRayne Betrayal

BloodRayne isn't the most well known name in the gaming world because of how bad and mediocre the previous games were.  The always hot heroine of these games always attracts my attention(what can I say I'm a guy).  What I do know about the game is that your main goal is to kill other vampires.  By the way you'll be getting these smaller type of game reviews until the gaming drought is over.

Graphically, BloodRayne never disappoints and always impresses me with each level.  The game looks simple yet beautiful. The camera is occasionally wonky and weird in terms of zooming in too closely to your character.  The crisp animations, great character and enemy designs, and compelling environments make it easy to overlook that this is a downloadable title.  The hard rock metal type of soundtrack never really grabbed me but it never took anything away from the game.  There isn't much of story in the game because the core of the game is based on the combat.

Core Gameplay:
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a 2D side-scrolling action-platformer. and its brutal difficulty makes it a tough challenge.  The game has 15 stages that take place in, around and below a castle. And getting through each one will test your patience in a good way like Super Meat Boy.  Enemies get progressively harder, and the volume of bad guys increases. Platforming becomes more difficult and you will be trying multiple times to finish the different levels in the game.  New and fun puzzles adds diversity into the gameplay formula that mixes well with the other elements of the game.

Rayne, the main character, has two basic weapons: her blades and her pistol.  The blades are for your basic hacking and slashing, and I'm sure you guessed it, pistols are for long-ranged warfare.  Combat is very simple, but can get deep if you want to delve into the combo system.  Rayne can heal herself by biting the necks of most enemies, which is a necessity for getting to the end of the game.

Final Thoughts:
If you're interested in the game, I say give it a shot.  The $15.00 price tag is a little steep, but its workable for me.  Its a solid game for those who want a break from Skyrim and Battlefield 3.  

Final Score = 7/10

Friday, December 9, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Guardian Heroes

I've always wanted to play this 1996 classic ever since it was released on XBLA, since I was four years old when the game was originally out.  This crazy high-fantasy set against frantic, colorful combat. In a world beset by demons, angels, mechs, and gods, this is a perfect game for me.

The game has two different options for viewing the game, "remix" and "original".  With the graphics set to "original," the pixilated characters and settings are pretty much the same for those who played the game when it first came out.  The "remix" graphics don't do Guardian Heroes any favors either,  rather than colorful pixels, the remix adds a pencil-like sketch style to the shading that pulses and flows with great animations.  The movements with the characters are a lot smoother, it's an odd artistic choice that makes the game look as though it was redrawn in pencil.  The game's animations run smoothly on today's current gen systems.  It never really slows down even when the screen is packed with enemies.  Dialogue and story are pretty cheesy at times but never detracts from the game.

Core Gameplay:
Guardian Heroes' combat is similar to your basic beat em' up with cool combos.  A novice like me always felt powerful because every button pounds down enemies like nothing.   Level after level the screen is filled with enemies, so there's never a dip in the action.  The game never makes you feel like a pansy even if you're new to the game.  Your screen is split into three lanes that characters jump back and forth between while side-scrolling. By using depth in this manner, there's never a problem in who you're going to hit.  I had that problem with that overrated Scott Pilgrim game.  

Guardian Heroes uses a choose-your-own-adventure-style of progression and morality. Most levels end with a choice, your decision sets the course of the remaining story based on how it changes your karma.  You have limited continues which I hate, but your old school players will obviously welcome this feature.  The online options for Guardian Heroes are pretty cool, players can tag-team the story mode in co-op, both online and off. It's a smooth experience for both, I rarely had any lag while playing on the 360.  There are versus battles in the game, which offers up to 12 player battles,  I didn't get a lot of time with this mode but from what I played, I was impressed.  

Final Thoughts: 
Guardian Heroes is a great addition to the XBLA slate.  The graphics are OK, the remix option doesn't add a whole lot new to the visuals, but they are just fine.  For any basic beat em' up fan like myself, its a definite purchase.

Final Score= 8/10

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Short And Sweet: House of the Dead Overkill - Extended Cut

Since we have a full blown gaming drought I had to go in my backlog for my review today.  I've been meaning to review House of the Dead Overkill for quite some time now and I'm glad I got around to playing it.   Its one of the first on-rails shooters I've played this year and its a blast.  Overkill oozes fun with over the top dialogue, mutant dismemberment and tons to unlock.

It's clear House of the Dead: Overkill -- Extended Cut didn't start out as a PS3 title, usually these Wii ports don't really look all that great.  This is the case with this game, its not ugly but it sure doesn't take advantage of the cell processors.  The cutscene character models are blocky with weird hair clipping through bodies, but the levels themselves actually look good.  The gory dismemberments of the enemies look great and some times really earn that M-rating. I've read that playing in 3D adds depth to the screen and looks sharp, but I myself wouldn't buy a 3D TV for just this one game.  The audio is pretty hysterical with the over-the-top writing of these characters.  This is definitely not one to play around kids or the elderly, with all the constant swearing.

Core Gameplay:
Extended Cut takes the content of the original game, gives it a much-needed HD coat of paint, and adds cool new levels as well as enemies.  I'm seeing all these comparisons with the game and that piece of crap Tarantino movie Grindhouse(Yeah I said it),  its a pretty spot-on comparison.    The game has nine levels, the Wii version had 7, each of the levels offer a different variety of scenes and locales.  Shooting in House of the Dead: Overkill -- Extended Cut feels great with the PlayStation Move.  I've finally gotten a chance to use my Move controller, its been collecting dust since last year.

You can use a Dualshock controller, but the aiming isn't as precise as the Move.  Once I had a handle on shooting(it takes time), I tackled learning the onscreen combo meter. Hit zombies without missing, and the combo builds for extra points -- points that determine where you rank on the online leader boards.  There are bosses in the game and you won't be spending a lot of time since there completely too easy.  You will have the most fun with a buddy on the couch with the co-op.  

Final Thoughts:
Extended Cut is one of the best reasons to own a PlayStation Move in months, since I haven't played with it in months.   I liked playing though this game, but when the credits rolled, I was ready to get on with my backlog.

Final Score = 7.75/10

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends

The Dynasty Warriors series is one of gaming's most over-saturated franchises, next to the Call of Duty and Assassins Creed series'.  It's praised in Japan, but on the west side its been getting the cold shoulder.  On the plus side, where else could you obliterate 1000 enemies in a matter of minutes.  This one fact has kept me enthused to keep trying these generic hack and slash games.

Presentation has always been one of my biggest gripes about the game, the game has a lot of pop in and texture issues. The environments render fine, but if you're not keeping a keen eye on your map as you're running around various environments, expect to be snuck-up on by random enemies. It never has been one of those games that took advantage of the next generation consoles. It still looks like a impressive PS2 game. The voice work is unbearable at times, repeating lines happen all too often and will start to drive you crazy during these long battles. The usual over-the-top CGI sequences and attractive but still very forgettable.

The Dynasty Warriors team makes no attempt to appeal to newcomers. This, it seems, is one for the fans. Yet it assumes they're prepared to pay just under full price for what is essentially an expansion pack.  Even at the discounted price, I still didn't want too pay the full price tag.  This entry is best of the series but you know thats not saying much.  The new Legend mode allows you to change officer at any time. As you finish stages, the dilapidated castle town that is your hub gradually comes to life, filling with villagers and key assistants, from a strategist whose war manuals boost your character's stats to a seal-crafting blacksmith.  Fans of the series know exactly what I'm talking about.

The already heaving roster boasts three new characters from the Wei dynasty.  The game already has a massive list of warriors, so three new characters won't change much.  Cover star Wang Yi, who's my favorite character of the game so far, wields a pair of trishula, three-pronged blades that cut a swathe through groups of soldiers with incredible speed and surprising power.  Another disappointment is the lack of new stages. A number of battlefields have simply been transposed from the previous game.  Otherwise, Xtreme Legends has the same strengths and weaknesses of the game that came before it.

Final Thoughts:
This DW is more or less the same game we've all come to love and hate at the same time.  There’s plenty of game here, but as we’ve seen so much of it before, Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends still feels overpriced and generic.  

Final Score = 6.75/10

Friday, December 2, 2011

Short And Sweet Review: Infinity Blade 2

After reading so many people just gush over this game, I had to pick this up.  The $6.99 price is just right up my alley, so I had to give this a purchase.  I've never played the first game and I've heard that it wasn't as good as this game.  The visceral and cinematic melee combat has been expanded into a surprisingly good game for the iOS.

Infinity Blade 2 is a perfect representation of what iOS games are capable of. Chair has created a near-flawless combination of best-of-breed visuals and touch-controlled gameplay.   The animations are superb and just all around impressive.  The game has voice acting, which surprised me, and its your standard writing for an action game.  Your character Siris, is your stereo-typical hard-nosed knight.  His actor sounds ok I guess, other characters are pretty much forgettable though.  The bosses themselves are incredibly detailed, and will leave your mouths on the floor.

I've read that Infinity Blade II picks up right where the original left off. Our hero (retroactively named Siris) needs help from The Worker of Secrets - the titular blade's creator. The catch? The Worker has been imprisoned and can only be released if three "Deathless" are defeated.  By the way this universe is much more convoluted than Final Fantasy XIII's.  There are a ton of battles that last just long enough to keep your interest but don't drag on too long.  You can play the game in short burst if you wish because of this.  After every battle gamers earn a helping of XP and Gold, allowing players to increase Siris' stats and purchase new weapons and equipment. 

The battles are fierce and intense, and flat out pure fun.  The controls are extremely responsive and intuitive,  Each and every enemy encounter felt fresh and fun for the duration of the 5 hours it took me to reach & defeat the final boss.  Different weapon types affect your abilities, so if you buy a heavy weapon such as an axe, you lose your shield and dodging ability, replaced instead by buttons that let you block with your weapon. Choose to dual-wield, and you become much more nimble.  Since I love the speed, the dual-wielding is best for me.

Final Thoughts:
The entire package is a bigger and better value than the original in virtually every way. Four times the number of combat locations. Nearly triple the volume of equipment. Once you complete it all, a robust and challenging New Game+ awaits. Chair has also told us about an aggressive post-launch support, including cooperative multiplayer "Clash Mobs." This is a definite purchase if you have an iPad or iPhone.

Final Score = 9.5/10