Monday, January 30, 2012

S&S Review: Final Fantasy XIII-2


Title: Final Fantasy XIII-2
Format: PS3,360
Release Date: Jan 31, 2012
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Price: $
59.99
ESRB Rating: T




Its official, the gaming drought is now over and the slew of triple A titles will be pouring out.  I am excited with all the new titles that are being released in 2012, with games like Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, and Max Payne, you can't help but be excited.  If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that one game I've been excited for is FF XIII-2.  Luckily my favorite Gamestop, always gets these big games a couple of days early.  


Presentation/Story:
If you have played the previous game, then you know how good the game looks. You'll see little strands of hair on each character and immensely detail environments. From top to bottom XIII-2 is a gorgeous and impressive game. The music in this iteration is the weakest in the the series. Saying that is misleading, seeing how high of a standard this franchise accomplishes with their music, its still a good soundtrack. Although, when you stack it up to other games, you'll notice the quality isn't as high as a FF 6 or X. The story is as complicated as ever, with lots of time travel and similar monotony. Lightning somehow finds herself guarding the throne of Valhalla, a realm of chaos unbound by time. She fights a dark-haired man named Caius and -- in the midst of battle -- meets a stranger from a future age named Noel. She asks Noel top travel through time and bring Serah back to her.  It seems simple, but gets very complicated as you playthrough the lengthy campaign.  It also never really ends, the ending was really weird and left a lot of questions unanswered.  



Core Gameplay:
One of the things I love about the game, is the fast paced nature of the combat. They are quick and easy to master, combat is still my favorite part of the game. One gripe I had for the previous game was that it was too linear, Square has completely revamped the exploratory aspects of the game. With webs of rooms to explore and treasure chests hidden off the map, the developers want you to branch off the path. You can also unlock the ability to close time gates and start the area from scratch, correcting mistakes or just trying something new. One big change is that, the ability to collect monsters you defeat and have them fight along side of you. Each creature has an inherent role in battle and a few special skills. Also, each monster can level up along with the human heroes by consuming items. The more streamlined level up mechanics are a welcome addition, although I didn't have a problem with the previous system.  Gameplay is as strong as ever, with the new additions, this makes it the best I've played yet.

Final Thoughts:
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a great direct sequel to XIII.  Its also great game on its own, with polished combat and great gameplay.  With extremely impressive visuals, there story doesn't compliment it very well.  Hardcore fans will enjoy the game, but these few gripes hold it back from greatness.



Final Score = 8.75/10

Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008

Thursday, January 26, 2012

S&S Review: Resident Evil Revelations




Format: 3DS
Release Date: Jan 26 2012, Feb 7, 2012 NA
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Price: JPY ¥5,990.00
ESRB Rating: M


For the past few weeks you'll notice that I've been playing and reviewing games on the 3DS.  The portable has been picking up speed with the last few good games that have been released for it.  Resident Evil Revelations was easy for me because I love these games.  After the new trailer for RE 6, I was eager to play something related to Resident Evil.  I even managed to get an import of the game, which was a little expensive.

Presentation/Story:
Revelations is so far the best looking 3DS game out there.  Incredible character models, creature designs, environmental effects and lighting create a dreary and creepy atmosphere. These impressive features take full advantage of the engine under the hood of the 3DS, and create for some great set pieces.  You'll be stopping to smell the roses just to gander at how good the game looks.  Corridors are plentiful, dark, twisted and claustrophobic, which is a callback to the original Resident Evil games.  The audio is top notch as well, with a superb soundtrack and sinister sound effects.  The game features sort of a dynamic soundtrack like previous games, when enemies approach the whole audio atmosphere changes completely. You'll hear eerie sounds in the wind and men screaming while they transform into these creatures.  I can't and won't spoil the story for you, its solid.  Its a great foundation to play on.  I'm sure if you've played previous games, this one will feel right at home for you.



Core Gameplay:
In the game you really won't be fighting zombies, Capcom has introduced the Ooze, an amorphous race of bio-organic weapons that are similar to previous enemies, but add new an diverse ways to kill.  The game still utilizes the infamous stop-and-pop mechanics introduced in RE 4.  Most people don't like the control style, but I find it ok.  Support for the Circle Pad Pro has been added, which allows for twin-stick controls.  A few aiming issues takes you out of the game, but doesn't keep you out.  The AI suffers at times, it resembles the issues of RE 5, with some of the dumbest AI partners out there.  Overall its your classic style gameplay of mostly every RE game to date.

Final Thoughts:
Resident Evil Revelations is a great handheld game, one that not only pushes the boundaries of the system, but creates new standards as well.  I hope more developers push   out more content at this high of a level more often.  This is an easy purchase for fans of the series and even enthusiasts.  



Final Score = 8.75/10

Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

S&S Review: ScaryGirl XBLA



Title: ScaryGirl
Format: Downloadable Title
Release Date: January 18, 2012
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer:  TikGames
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points
ESRB Rating: E10+

After browsing through the Xbox Live Arcade store, I noticed ScaryGirl.  The trial certainly pulled me into the game.  Its very unique and intricate, it was developed from an ward winning graphic(one that I've never heard of).  After being merchandised into toys and made into a Flash game, it finally made it to the XBLA and PSN.  I'm checking this out on the XBLA, and from what I read, they are pretty identical on both platforms.


Presentation-Story:
First off, you'll notice the unique art style in the game is stupendous.  The game features a cool 2.5 dimensional look and feel to platforming.  ScaryGirl's stylish visuals paint imaginative and eccentric characters and a diverse world of, high mountains, oceans and caves.   The colors really pop out of my HD set, they will on yours too.  You'll notice busy traffic during some of the levels that adds diverse and new game elements.  The animation is ok, its sports a cartoony style to it.  The story is a little bizarre at times, maybe not as crazy as a Metal Gear though, but it still stands on its own in the weird field.  A floating bunny lives under the girls house, and she's having dreams about a guy(who's the villain) with a comically large head.  The story doesn't really drive the game forward, the art does most of the heavy lifting.  Sound is good in the game, with some hit-and-miss voice overs.  The Presentation in the game is my favorite and the best part of the game.






Core Gameplay-Multiplayer:
The game has a simple platformer feel to it, it doesn't shine as bright as the presentation components of the game.  With the creepy girls tentacle-arm ability to hover and grapple certain environmental objects, missing a jump doesn't mean you have to start over.  This is a good thing, in my opinion, with other hardcore players will look at this with scorn.  Tentacle augments allow ScaryGirl to float across longer distances or attack with more power. These abilities come from an in-game shop which you can buy these things with the gems you pick up during gameplay.  Fighting in the game is a little mundane, with different combos to pull off for more damage.  There is multiplayer in the game, just local with no online.  Multiplayer is fun if you have someone to play it with you.  






Final Thoughts:
ScaryGirl looks great and plays well, even with the average level of combat.  With the great pacing and smooth difficulty, its a great overall game.  The $15 price or 1200 MS points maybe a little steep in my book, you need to try the trial before you make a full decision. 





Twitter = @iSamKulii
PSNID = sameo452008
Apps = S&S Reviews, iOS, Android, Windows Phone













Monday, January 23, 2012

Short And Sweet Review: Run Roo Run iOS



Title: Run Roo Run
Format: iOS
Release Date: January 12, 2012
Publisher: 5th Cell
Developer: 5th Cell
Price: $ 0.99
ESRB Rating: E


We now have a week until the gaming drought is over, and you'll start to see the big triple A titles like Soul Calibur and Final Fantasy XIII-2.  Like I previously stated, I like to review these small mobile games.  It gives these new developers the exposure that they deserve.  


Presentation/Story:
The game has your typical 2D art and style to it. Its average at best, the game doesn't really have that unique feel about it. The same goes for the music as well, after a while, it gets really old. Sound effects are solid but will really grind on you after awhile with the game in your hand. Gamers play as Roo, a mother kangaroo out to rescue her poached joey. The presentation overall is not bad, but it lacks inspiration and ambition.




Core Gameplay: 
The game takes place across 420 levels of 2D awesomeness. Each stage takes place on a single screen, and takes just 2-3 seconds to complete. Roo runs automatically, and players simply tap the touch screen to make her jump. Obstacles and other obtrusions are slowly introduced as you progress through the game. The bite-sized nature of each stage is brilliant. Complete one and you're propelled into the next, with the knowledge that you're just a few seconds away from hopping into the next level. The games difficulty is a slight problem, you can get through the most of the game without a hiccup. Only late in the game will the difficulty start to spike.

Final Thoughts:
Run Roo Run is a good and solid 2D game.  Although the presentation aspects could use more work, in my opinion, the gameplay shines brightly.  It’s another great example of simple one-button controls used to create a game experience with an impressive amount of depth



Final Score = 7.5

Twitter = @iSamKulii
PSNID = sameo452008
Apps = S&S Reviews, iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Short And Sweet Review: MinoMonsters iOS



Today I have a mobile review, that I wanted to talk about.  MinoMonsters caught my eye after reading a few different reviews on the web.  Its been getting pretty fair scores, so I thought I would give it a shot.


Presentation/Story:
The story in the game is very simple, it stars a shipwrecked sea captain, and about a dozen adorable little critters trying to stop evil monsters from wrecking their island home.  MinoMonster's adorable art style carries the game, it reminds me of Where is My Heart.  The monsters are very cutesy.  The monsters are also fully animated, which is a step up from Nintendo's Pokemon franchise.  The audio is is great with some cool music and sound effects.  You will definitely want to play this game with headphones.








Core Gameplay:
MinoMonsters is a touch-controlled turn-based role playing game, similar to games like Pokemon.  So if you're a rabid Pokemon fan like myself, the game really felt familiar at times. If you seen any screenshots of the game you might think that its a children's game, but its not.  Its not as easy as it looks either, the game offers a lot of challenge at times.  Beating it without level grinding for days takes some strategy, so all you Final Fantasy nerds out their will enjoy the grinding aspects.  You will be traveling across four locations, completing small quests like saving captured monsters, stopping pollution, and finding special gems. 






Final Thoughts:
The .99 cent price tag is great, its well worth the dollar.  iOS games have always intrigued me,  I want too see more from this new developer , the cleverly named MinoMonsters Inc.  This is a promising start for the new developer and a unique game on the iOS.  Although its pretty short, its still only a dollar.


Final Score = 7.5/10

Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008









Monday, January 16, 2012

Short And Sweet Review: DC Universe Online



Over the past couple of days I've sinked my time into DC Universe, and its been a surprisingly fun time. Its been out for quite some time now, but it has been free only recently. Once I got past the 5 hour download time, I finally got my hands on my first MMO. At its core, DC Universe Online is an action game where you beat up villains, heroes and robots for experience and rewards.  This is the basic gist of the game, but add in playing with friends and you get a great experience.  

Presentation/Story:
The presentation component in the game is the weakest in the formula.  The game looks like a high res PS2 game, with constant pop in, and a sporadic occurrence of bugs.  Although, there are plenty of graphical hiccups, you don't notice em that often unless you're standing still.  Player models can be very detailed, I'm still seeing new ideas and creations every time I log on to the game.  I actually had to drag myself from the opening character creation sequence in the game,  I spent almost an hour just browsing through every option of your specific character.  From different hairdos and capes, you can customize nearly everything.  The audio in the game is ok, music is pretty mundane.  Voice overs in the game is very solid with great cameos.  Hearing Adam Baldwin play Superman, is very cool, especially if you're a Chuck fan.  Overall the audio is good, but the visuals suffer with constant bugs and pop in.  The story is pretty ridiculous at times, basically all the famous heroes and villains are going at it.  Its a good foundation for a MMO style game.






Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The combat, for the most part, works well. Its fast paced like Dragon Age 2, with cool and hard hitting powers. There is an overwhelming array of combos to learn, it will take a lot of time to unlock and get learn the new combos. As you level up, you gain powers which vary in effect and depend wholly on what superpower you chose at the character creation screen. Some powers are lethal and you have the others that make you feel like Robin. I have a bit of a problem with the organization of the power and skill menus. They need more streamlined menus. There are loads of quests and to complete, and you will want to get together with either friends or randoms you meet on the street. Its tough to find friends in the game, its my other only complaint. Bosses can be difficult at times like Bane, and Grodd. There are a lot more options like dueling and alerts which add more to an already huge game.


Final Thoughts:
DCUO is a good and solidly executed game, with occasional bugs and hiccups.  I forgot to mention that the game is free.  Which is always welcome in my book.  This comes at a different kind of price though, you have to wait in line to log in every time.  I actually waited for about 30 minutes one time. Once you get in though, its pure fun.


Final Score = 8/10


Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008


Friday, January 13, 2012

Short And Sweet Review: Mighty Switch Force



With the end of the gaming drought coming closer, you guys and gals have a limited time to play these smaller games.  My friends 3DS has been getting a lot of attention from me lately and I'm actually having fun with the gimmicky portable.  With the frequent price drops of the 3DS, I'm considering purchasing one for myself.  


Presentation/Story:
The visuals and audio presentation are top notch in Mighty Switch Force.  I did not expect the production values that went into producing this game.  The 2D art in the game rivals the likes of classic street fighter games.  It has some of the most lifelike and fluid animations I have seen on a portable console.  The 3D in the game is great, it provides brilliant depth and brings the backgrounds to life.  The soundtrack is fantastic, with a good eclectic mix of cool tunes that you'll instantly  fall in love with. The story in MSF is simple, you play as Officer Patricia Wagon, a cybernetic super cop working to bring five escaped criminals to justice.  The presentation is my favorite aspect of the game.




Core Gameplay:
This is a platformer at heart but there is a substantial amount of puzzle solving in the game.  Patty runs, jumps, and fights her way through 16 unique levels.  From one puzzle situation to the next, each level presents you with arrays of blocks to navigate around, across and through.  When solving the puzzles, you have to use the Switch feature in the game.  This means any blocks sitting in the background will zip forward into the foreground, and any other blocks already there will do the reverse. The puzzles involve properly timing your switches of these big blocks, causing them to rush out of the background to become platforms when you need them to be.  The levels are designed with bad intentions and take considerable thought to overcome, especially after different block types are introduced.  Puzzle solvers everywhere will love how meticulous these solutions have to be.






Final Thoughts:
The 3DS has been growing on me with every new game I review.  Mighty Switch Force is another example of the unique titles being released for the Nintendo handheld.  Although the game isn't very long, it is still worth a playthrough.  The Nintendo eShop is picking up steam with another great release.


Final Score = 8/10


Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tales of The Abyss 3DS



Tales of the Abyss is a game that I always wanted to try, so I though I would borrow my buddy's 3DS, since I don't wanna pay for another glorified DS.  I've heard nothing but good things about the Tales series.  I got tired of hearing how good the game was so I decided to give it a shot.  


Presentation/Story:
The story follows red-haired, Luke Fon Fabre, on a long and illustrious journey.  I'm a little confused on what the story completely entails, but its pretty cool so far.  There are lots of characters in game that keeps you interested, with the man character being as boring as Vaan(FF XII).  Voice work was done by a talented group of American actors who did a solid job for the cutscenes.  The visuals look great on the 3DS, the vibrant colors really jump out of the screen right at you.  I don't mean that the 3D is good in the game, its ok.  I can't stand any kind of 3D on the 3DS, because of its poor implementation and frequent headaches.  I like the music in the game, not as much as a Lost Odyssey or Final Fantasy, but its good.






Core Gameplay:
The combat system is really fast-paced and my favorite part of the game.  I was surprised how action heavy the system was, it kept me engrossed with each battle.  You have an attack, a block and a skill button, and you can modify your actions by pulling the analogue in different directions.  There active and passive skills that open up gradually as you gain battle experience.  The way that characters' abilities develop and unlock is controlled by the Capacity Core that you equip them with.  You can give them Strength based Capacity Core and you'll gain battle skills quicker.  The AI is solid during the heat of battle, allies will heal you when needed and attack at will.  A problem I have with the game is that you have to figure most of the game out by yourself, the game has a hard time explaining what and how to do specific things.  This is the only real problem I had with the solid gameplay components.  




Final Thoughts:
Tales of the Abyss 3DS is a surprisingly impressive port of the PS2 game, I'm surprised they kept so much of the console's content.  Its a six year old game and at times it shows, but doesn't bring the game down at all.  This has gotten me interested in other Tales games, I want to see more from Namco Bandai and Team Symphonia.  


Final Score = 8/10


Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID: sameo452008

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sonic CD XBLA



Sonic has always been one of my favorite franchises to date, Sonic CD is the counterpart of Genesis versions.  The story behind this game is that it was made by a hardcore fan of the series, it took years to make.  After about a year of turmoil, Sega decided to release the game.  If you're a Sonic fan, then this will be familiar to you.


Presentation:
For the port, Sonic CD has many options in terms of how you want the game to look.  It has many filters to choose from, but I'm sure you'll be sticking to one that you like.  The heavy pixelated filter will please all nostalgic fans.  The game looks great in HD, and the colors are vibrant and lush, you'll especially notice the time changes as well.  There are some sporadic bugs in the game that create odd camera spikes and being able to fall through objects.  These few bugs don't hinder the game in any way though.  You can freely choose between the Japanese and US soundtracks to the game, which is a very cool addition.  The overall presentation of the game is spectacular and the highlight of the game.






Core Gameplay:
Each level really has a cool sort of gimmick to it.  In each level there are multiple gates you can pass that will allow you to travel forwards or backwards in time.  There are basically three levels in one for ever act in the game, and playing right can change the ending of the game.  This adds more reason to come back after you complete the game the first time around.  This still reigns as one of the best 2D platforming games all time.  A time attack mode and leaderboards modernize this game for the current gen.  Extras like the previous mentioned US and Japanese soundtracks add more to the game.


Final Thoughts:
This is yet another example of how packed these last few months have been with great downloadable games.  This is the cheapest of the games I have reviewed, at $4.99, its definitely the most you'll get for your hard earned money.  For Sonic fans, Sonic CD is a definite purchase.




Final Score = 8.75/10


Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores 

Friday, January 6, 2012

NFL Blitz



After about a decade since NFL Blitz was first released, we finally get another chance to play possibly the best arcade style football game ever made.  This is great for me since I don't wanna go back to using my N64 controller.  That was the first time I ever played the game, ever since I was hooked to it.  I didn't know that EA was releasing this so quickly.


Presentation:  
The game still has that comical look that has made the game famous ten years ago.  Animations and player models look slightly more sharper than the original versions of the game.  Stadiums on the other hand look very similar to one another, and are rarely unique.  You won't be noticing the stadiums when you're barreling into opponents at crazy speeds.  The audio in the game is top notch, especially the commentators.  Hitting hits hard on the subwoofer and booms with bass. If you have headphones, you will definitely benefit with good quality phones. The humorous lines will never get old.  The menus are clean and easy to navigate through, you can get to every game mode quickly and hassle free.  Presentation overall is great in this new remake.






Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The simplicity of available plays, and running a seven-on-seven match is what made Blitz so great, in my opinion.  Hitting a receiver while trying to catch the ball and not getting a  flag for pass interference is still very satisfying.  The removal of after-the-whistle tackles and post-play elbow drops is a bit of a downer, this little extra feature added something that other football games lacked.  Gameplay still stays solid  with all the little innovations taken out.  The Gauntlet is a new mode that operates like an old 2D fighter ladder, presenting three normal fights followed by a zany boss fight, repeated several times to the top. Its a cool diversion from the core games and a welcome addition to the Blitz formula.


The online portion of the game is great, pure and simple.  There is almost no lag in the game what so ever, out of the 10 games I played so far.  The net code is stupendous and should be used in more sports games out their.  Every win and stat adds Blitz Bucks to spend on Elite League player card packs, online cheats , new stadiums, and a few others.  This is the staple for Blitz games, the multiplayer, and it still reigns as champion in my book.






Final Thoughts:  
NFL Blits make a long awaited return to current gen consoles, the $15 price may be a little steep for some and a steal for others.  The lack of late hits and the inability to change the length of games don’t take away from the overall package of the game.


Final Score = 9/10


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Batman Arkham City Lockdown iOS



After about a week of doing nothing for the site, I came across a Batman game for iOS.  We are coming close to the end of the gaming drought, and I needed  a game to take me away from MW3 and Skyrim.  Since I love anything that relates to Batman, I went ahead and grabbed this for my iPod touch.


Presentation:
Batman ACL is ran on the Unreal Engine just like Infinity Blade, and its not as technically impressive as Infinity Blade 2 but it gets the job done.  The stellar voice acted cutscenes were a surprise for me, I didn't think that they would put voice acting in the game.  The game overall doesn't look to good.  The audio in the game is OK as well, like I said before the voice acting is good, but the soundtrack is pretty forgettable.  




Core Gameplay:
Batman ACL is a melee fighter set in the Batman: Arkham City universe. The game features swipe-controlled one-on-one combat against different thugs and baddies we've all come to love.  Players fight through four different areas of Arkham City, encountering cool and unique bosses with famous Batman villains at the end of each.  WayneTech upgrades makes a return from the console games.  The game also have unique Batman skins that give the game more depth. Each skin changes Batman's Health, Damage and Speed attributes, this of course wasn't in the original game.




Final Thoughts:
Diehard Batman fans like myself will come to like this game with time, even if it takes a while.  The game is a fun way to pass the time, but lacks the great story that made Rocksteady’s Arkham games so engrossing on consoles.  The $5.99 price tag makes this a tough buy for casual fans, and an easy one for hardcore fans.


Final Score = 7/10