Friday, March 30, 2012

S&S Review: Zack Zero


Title: Zack Zero
Format: PSN
Release Date: January 2012
Publisher: Crocodile Entertainment
Developer: Crocodile Entertainment
Price: $6.29
ESRB Rating: E

Zack Zero is a good reason that I am for Indie Developers getting a chance to release on a major platform like PSN.  Playing through this simple indie title, felt like watching a saturday morning cartoon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

S&S Review: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13


Title: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: EA
Developer: Tiburon
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E

The Tiger Woods PGA Tour series has always been the number one choice for any fan of golf, but does PGA Tour 13 do enough to earn your hard earned $65 bucks?
Presentation:
I've thought that the Tiger Woods series has always captured the unique style and look of the sport of golf.  The presentation of Tiger Woods has changed since last year's title, the matches and tournaments just don't have that same spark to it.  The crowd watching you try to make par doesn't react in a organic way, they just seem more robotic and scripted.  The environments don't look as lush as last years game, but they still look good.  Character models and their respective animations are fluid and smooth, with great deal of detail wrapped around them.  The soundtrack is ok, offering a slew of cool and calm music.  Jim Nantz and David Feherty sound like they are phoning it in, spewing out numerous one liners which get repetitive after the first few tournaments.   Frequent frame rate drops as well plagues the overall feel of the game as well.  A couple of cool inclusions like seeing how Tiger ages through his golfing career just doesn't do enough for the presentation.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
Tiburon has made numerous amounts to the overall control scheme of the game.  Some people will love and others will hate it, its as simple as that.  The Total Swing Control has gotten overly complex with tweaks.  Examples include holding your backswing too long will result in an overswing, and vice versa for underswinging.  Also slightly pulling your swing left or right, will result in an inaccurate nine times out of ten.  My biggest problem with the new control tweaks is that, the game never teaches you about these new adjustments.  There are no tutorials or guides anymore, so expect an ample amount of time to learn the right way to play.  


The biggest addition to the game is the Tiger Legacy Challenge, which lets you play through the life of young Tiger to veteran Tiger.  This mode has gimmick written all over it, its pretty cool at times but ends up being frustrating.  You'll be spending most of your time playing the standard career mode, since it is the best mode.  Online Country Clubs are a cool way to socialize with fellow golfers earning more coins.  When you earn coins, you can purchase more of the courses that are actually on the disk.  20 courses are locked, which is a slap in the face, you can spend actual money to unlock courses if you want to go that route.
Final Thoughts:
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 makes strides at realism, it comes close to most of those goals but falls short at the rest.  Don't get me wrong, this game is still a great game of golf.  With EA still holding back 20 courses, which is ridiculous in my book, the game still offers enough to warrant a purchase.


Final Rating = 7/10

Twitter: @iSamKulii
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

S&S Mobile Review: Chaos Rings II iOS


Title: Chaos Rings II
Format: iOS
Release Date: March 15, 2012
Publisher:  Square Enix
Developer: Media Vision Inc
Price: $17.99
ESRB Rating: E

With major console releases slowing down (not for long though), this gives leeway for playing through various mobile games.  Chaos Rings 2's classic JRPG mechanics and cool story made this an easy playthrough.
Presentation/Story:
Chaos Rings II takes a while to get going, but when you start to know whats going on, it becomes one of the best stories on the iOS.  Your main character Darwin ends up being kidnapped, and then forced to fight numerous battles.  I have played the previous game, and its not as team based as the Chaos Rings 1, Darwin wil be the center of focus for the sequel.  The narrative continuously drives the game to new heights and always keeps you interested.  Visually, the game is superior to the previous game, and many other games for the iOS.  Environments, are also impressively rendered, resembling Final Fantasy 7 at times.  The Japanese voice acting is OK, I wish the team would have gave us English voice work, but subtitles get the job done.
Core Gameplay:
Chaos Rings II is your basic Japanese turn-based style RPG, and it works great.  With a few cool new innovations like the ability to attack in pairs and switching between a numerous amount abilities, this is the best of its particular genre on the market.  Your HP refills with each completed random-encounter battle.  The magic and summoning system have been changed as well, the new Sopia and Advent attacks are generally the same, other than the new coat of paint.  Your special attacks or your Awake attack, becomes very useful as they deal the most damage.  You'll learn new Awake attacks each time you level up.  
Final Thoughts:
Square Enix boldly priced Chaos Rings at $17.99, which is pretty steep.  Its a solid JRPG with a cool story, with gorgeous visuals and solid Japanese voice acting.  If you take the deep plunge, you won't be disappointed.  

Final Rating = 8.5/10
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

S&S Reviews: Kid Icarus: Uprising


Title: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Format: 3DS
Release Date: March 23, 2012
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Project Sora
Price: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E





"Sorry to keep you waiting!" -Pit

Kid Icarus: Uprising is the follow-up to Kid Icarus: An Angel Land Story the 25 year-old NES game. Oh sure, there was a Gameboy game called Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. Ask any of the characters in this game, however, and the last game was released 25 years ago. That doesn't keep Pit from being as beloved as Mario, though. His media appearances and game cameos have made him the darling of any gamer who grew up on Captain N… -icus. So, Project Sora bravely sets out on its maiden voyage in a sea of nostalgia with a ship of reworked gameplay and art. If you can decipher the system and find your own way to play, you too will learn to put down the rose-colored glasses and just enjoy the ride.


Presentation:
There's two things Masahiro Sakurai does well: use of Nintendo hardware and fan service. Kid Icarus: Uprising not only marks the 25 year anniversary of the game series. The game is also released on the first anniversary of the system. Branded with a "Nintendo Network" icon instead of the deprecated Nintendo WFC; KI:U is an announcement of bigger things to come in the year of the Wii:U. The presentation leaves the gamer with the idea of, this is how Nintendo games are going to be from here on out. For the most part, it's a fair assumption. If there's any sort of control scheme on the 3DS for a shooter, Project Sora has made it available. The default scheme is a bit of a hand cramper. The circle pad pro functions as an adapter for left-handed players, but also provides a suitable grip for any player. Currently, my preferred layout is: movement with the circle pad, aiming with ABXY buttons, and shooting with the right trigger. The gamer is still afforded the option of stabilizing the system with an included plastic stand. Bicycle playing card-style tradable AR cards are included in the game for an extra battle mode.


Sakurai's last outing Smash Bros. Brawl still resonates today in games like Mario Party 9. That's due in part to Sakurai's fan service. There's a definite love of the subject matter in Uprising.  The cute cartoony artwork effects a kid friendly experience.  Character dialogue drips with winks and nods and punches through the fourth wall. Pit and Palutena rattle on like Moneypenny and James Bond with sexual tension and quips. True to the spirit of the original, this is an endearing odyssey that does not take itself seriously. Uprising does take fans of the original game seriously as evident by screenshots and sprite artwork from Kid Icarus. A very much appreciated touch is a 12 minute tutorial selectable by "chapter" in-game. Palutena and Pit trade one-liners while discussing an overview of the gameplay.

In the latest Nintendo Direct, Sakurai is almost apologetic in his presentation of the game's multiplayer and its chaotic nature. Still, he encouraged gamers to try to decipher the chaos and warm up to the game. That same image of the game designer has to be employed when playing the full game. As chaotic as the multiplayer mode is, the first stage of the game is an explosion. I'm adapting to a new control scheme and at the same time the game tempts me to peruse the character art and sprites that splash across the bottom screen. It was as if Sakurai himself stood before me with a Rip Taylor bucket full of glitter saying, excuse me but I have to do this; and then chucked the glitter in my face. If you can decipher the experience, you learn to play the game.


Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
In this explosion of fan service, you have a game along the lines of Sin and Punishment or Starfox Assault. The gamer's perspective is behind Pit in a third person 'shmup. You define the difficulty of a level by placing bets of hearts in a Fiend's Cauldron. It's almost an analog way of defining the experience as gamers can increase the intensity on a scale of one to nine on a decimal level. Controls are defined outside and inside of levels in menus. Gamers can select between three configurations of movement (without the circle pad pro attachment), and then select between three configurations of reticule aiming. The customization goes further with button assignments for shooting and power-up selection.

Playing through a stage earns weapons, power-ups and hearts. To buy weapons and fuse weapons, gamers can visit Palutena outside of levels. Gamers are encouraged to take bigger risks to earn greater rewards. In fact, Pit smiles at the camera and says, "That's a good life lesson, too!" (cue NBC's More-you-know shooting star.) The weapon fusion is on a grid. Weapon types are laid out and there is no need for gamers to guess at random recipes. That said, it's best to pay attention to range and melee ratings and the resulting weapons' augmentations. Still, it's easy enough to sort the grid and just select the strongest weapon on the top left. Multiplayer or "Together" is available as a team match mode where six players are divided into two teams. Both teams vie to have the last man standing. The mode extends the gameplay and gives each team an extra chance. When the last player dies in a team of three, the player is resurrected as the team's angel (either Pit or Dark Pit). Players are rewarded in this mode with more weapons and power ups. 

The game's achievement system is similar to the system in Smash Bros. Brawl. A grid of puzzle pieces is gradually revealed as each of the game's over 120 missions are accomplished. Feathers are earned through playing to reveal some of the more elusive goals. Not only does this system reveal artwork, but game music, figurines and weapons and power ups. With the different ways to acquire weapons, gamers are provided with methods of disposal. These weapons can be sold back to Palutena in the shop or traded through the game's Streetpass function after being converted to gems.


Final Thoughts:
Kid Icarus: Uprising blazes a path for the 3DS that I want more games to follow. Its presentation is chaotic and rich and encourages multiple playthroughs of stages. Accessibility is this game's biggest issue. You have to pick through the chaos and define your own playstyle. The default playstyle is one that is not the most friendly. Yet, there's plenty of tools to get you to where you have to go. The multiplayer and AR modes present a complete package of what a 3DS game can be. Gamers will want this game as a mark of a milestone for the system, and the overall game excels at that.

Final Score = 9.5/10
Email: jeanlucpierite@gmail.com
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S&S Review: Ninja Gaiden 3

Title: Ninja Gaiden 3
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M


The Ninja Gaiden series has always been one that received high praise from basically anyone who enjoys a good challenge and great action in a game, but Ninja Gaiden 3 surprisingly takes strides in the opposite direction.
Presentation/Story:
Pretty quickly in the game, you'll notice the much darker tone the game's narrative tries to accomplish, but ultimately falls short quite a bit.  The story focuses on Ryu Hayabusa's mental battles he has with himself, taking on his emotional struggles one cutscene at a time. The game constantly contradicts itself, wanting you to believe that Ryu is an all around good guy, but then having him murder the next human he sees.  Visually,  the game takes a dramatic step back.  The game just doesn't look good, Ryu himself, looks fine, but the boring and bland environments take you out of the atmosphere.  My biggest complaint with the game is the camera, its supposed to keep you in the action with constant zooming and panning close when you kill an enemy.  What it really comes down too is, an annoying camera that rather than adds to the action, it detracts from it.  The soundtrack it good, hard hitting metal is cool while laying waste to your opposers.  Voice acting on the other hand is mostly laughable and forgettable.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The pacing in Ninja Gaiden is severely lacking in fluency, constantly breaking up the action with boring cutscenes.  Beating Ninja Gaiden is a breeze, this probably something you have never heard.  With NG3, the difficulty will never be a problem throughout your playthrough.  The repetitious gameplay will sink in pretty quickly, with boring gameplay adding on.  The game even starts to resemble Dynasty Warriors with how many enemies will be popping up on screen awaiting their death patiently.  Co-op and competitive modes tries to add some replayability, but falls directly on its face.  The competitive mode tries to be fun, but ends up being lame.  Co-op was fun, but wore off when the camera that plagued single player returned with a bigger vengeance.  
Final Thoughts:
Ninja Gaiden 3 was a highly anticipated game that let a lot of players down.  With new innovations that hinder the game, and a half-hazard lame multiplayer, the game just ends up being a poorly executed sequel.
Final Score = 5/10
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Friday, March 23, 2012

S&S Reviews: Silent Hill HD Collection



Title: Silent Hill HD Collection
Format: Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Team Silent/Hijinx Studios
Price: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M

I am not going to review Silent Hill 2 and 3, rather I'm going to review the improvements from the original games to the HD collection.

Silent Hill 2 and 3 have always been fan favorites of the series. When they decided to remake them in HD, I was thrilled. The graphics are much crisper, but obviously converted from a PS2 game. The dense fog has been slightly enhanced, making navigation easier. Although the game is still dark, the added contrast makes it much easier to see details and items. Although some may not like this because it take away from the survival horror on the games, I appreciate being able to see more easily where heath drinks and bullets are. But there are obvious places where, because of the added contrast, previously unseen areas were shown and thus look strange when revealed.

Example: Notice the supposed drop off the lake where the textures ended in the left pictures.

The voice acting was always laughable and never quite matched the lip movements. Although there has been controversy over the new voices, I feel they are an improvement from the original. They are deeper and more believable, although still a bit silly and obviously scripted. I have not experienced any technical difficulties with frame rate or graphics, and I played it on the 360. My main complaint is the lack of CG in the cut scenes, which are still grainy, and the problems with matching voices to mouth movements.


If you were not a fan of Silent Hill, the HD collection most likely won't change your mind since no content has been added or changed (despite the rumors of the Pyramid Head scene...it's still in there). But fans of Silent Hill will no doubt appreciate the remake and will likely spend hours getting those new achievements Capcom added.

Final Score: 8.25/10

E-mail: wbulna@yahoo.com
Twitter: @WhitneyBulna

Thursday, March 22, 2012

S&S Review: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City


Title: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Format: Xbox360, PS3
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Capcom, Slant Six Games
Developer: Capcom
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M

In theory, this game should have been good. In practice, it wasn't

Presentation/Story
I have always liked the resident evil games; so when I heard about ORC and it's story, I was intrigued. The game takes place between Resident Evil 2 and 3, with your character leading a team of Umbrella operatives ordered to destroy all evidence of Umbrella's involvement in the zombie outbreak. This concept should have been great, but sadly, it failed to interest me in any way. The characters are stereotypical, bland, and poorly executed. I felt zero connection with them, and all of them are forgettable and just plain boring. Developers should still remember that we have to have some semblance of a connection with characters in order to enjoy playing them. Even Manhunt managed to connect me with the main character, and I was a ruthless, psychopathic killer who killed people for absolutely no reason. The graphics were actually crisp and clean, but the overall very dark tones made navigation and item collection difficult. Since there is nothing appealing to the eyes anyway, the graphics can't make up for a whole lot.


Core Gameplay
The game is a third-person, team-based shooter. You can play the main campaign by yourself with three AI teammates, or play co-op with others. Regardless of who you are playing with, the shooting mechanics are awful. The damage dealt to enemies is inconsistent, with some enemies needing 2 shots to die, and others needing 20 before they go down. Core shooting is too loose and spotty, very inaccurate, and too sensitive. The AI enemies and teammates are poorly designed, and are quite frankly laughably stupid. Between running directly in front of my shots, sacrificing themselves to enemies or traps, or stupidly ignoring where I am (since you can only proceed through levels when EVERYONE is present at the same spot, and you cannot call or communicate with them), I got frustrated very quickly. To top it all off, you and your partners can become infected, which ultimately turns you or them into zombies. Since the AI are pointless to begin with, turning them into even more of a burden makes me feel like I was playing a round of Babysitting Mama.


Final Thoughts
I was so disappointed at the overall execution of Resident Evil: ORC. I was hoping for a great team-based shooter that I could play with friends. Carrying the Resident Evil name is a shame, because this could have been the game to bring people back from the hatred that was Resident Evil 5. But the poorly designed core mechanics, AI, and level design make this a game I'm glad I didn't buy.

Final Score: 4.5/10
E-mail: wbulna@yahoo.com
Twitter: @WhitneyBulna

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

S&S Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations

Title: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer:  CyberConnect2
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T


Naruto games have been getting a steady release schedule for the past few years, improving with each new title.  Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is the newest entry in the franchise and can be easily considered as the best one yet.
Presentation/Story:
Anime titles have always transferred well, shows like Dragon Ball Z and Bleach have looked great, and Naruto transfers beautifully as well.  The game's crisp and smooth visuals is a direct testament to fans(including myself) of the show.  The game's high contrast really bring s out the vibrant colors of the characters and backgrounds.  The camera gets really close to the action when you use your chakra-filled supermove each character has.  The narrative in the game focuses a lot time on the complicated relationship between Naruto and Sasuke.  Other characters make an appearance but it all comes back to the two.  The story has 6 isolated storylines, that are actually pretty lengthy.  Even with a lengthy narrative, the story never dwindles or gets boring.  The voice work is great, the Japanese and English voices sound great.  As always, the anime show has transfered perfectly to gaming consoles.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The gameplay in Generations have been stripped down quite a bit, you won't be spending your time exploring the gorgeous village doing random quests.  The team ditched that whole idea for a more straightforward arcade style story mode.  The story mode is mostly made up of cutscenes and 1 on 1 battles.  The fighting is fast paced and can seem daunting, but with practice, you'll notice that its actually pretty simple.  Moves can be pulled off without having to execute perfect movements with the left stick like in a Street Fighter.  The massive roster is a plus, which lets you play as basically everyone who has shown up in the Naruto universe.  The new Awakening mode is very similar to Pandora mode, those of you who played Street Fighter x Tekken knows this exactly, its a last plea to beat your opponent when you are about to lose the fight.  In terms of fighting, its very simple.  Generations' online component are packed to the brim with features, with the cool inclusion of four and eight player tournaments.  The ranked and casual matches work great without any major lag.
Final Thoughts:
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is another stellar entry into this already packed year of great fighting games.  The demo served as a great representation of the full game, but if you want the full experience, this game is a steal with all the great content on the disc.
Final Score = 8.5/10
Twitter: @iSamKulii
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Monday, March 19, 2012

S&S Review: FIFA Street

Title: FIFA Street
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Canada
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E


FIFA Street is the second FIFA game this year.  This is the first time that EA has released two football games in a timespan of six months.  EA Canada has attempted recreate the "streets" atmosphere of soccer, and they have fully succeeded at just that.
Presentation:
FIFA games have always looked great, and Street continues the high visual levels of previous entries in the franchise.  Street has a few problems though that hinders the game's presentation, including a weird camera that doesn't help you at all score goals.  Some environments lack subtle details that other games consistently bring to the forefront.  Other than that, the game looks good.  The vast diversity of indoor and outdoor arenas make the game feel fresh every time you start a new match.  On the audio side, I can't really talk about, because there isn't any commentary.  I can see some players having a problem with this, including myself, sports games need commentary.  Instead of hearing Martin Tyler's commanding voice, you'll hear different shouts from your players in different accents.  Overall, the game looks great, but the lack of voice commentary is a bit of a let down.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
I'm sure just like myself, you thought this was an arcady style street game.  The title is misleading, but as you play through it, you can see why they chose that name.  FIFA Street utilizes a lot of the same technology from FIFA 12, you'll notice this in your first match.  Players move and react pretty much the same.  Street encourages you took take advantage of their easy way to manipulate the ball, and pull off cool moves to skill points. Skill points are used to improve players on your team.  The  World Tour mode is where you will incorporate all these features.  Speaking of World Tour, you will  be spending most of your time in the mode.  It mixes many different modes into one, take a team and try to be the best there is.  As you complete matches, you meet better teams on bigger stages.  Other than World tour, your selection of modes are pretty slim pickins'.  Online is pretty basic as well, you can take your World Tour team online and compete with others, or you just compete in unranked matches with friends.
Final Thoughts:
FIFA Street is a great game of soccer, with a few minor complaints with the camera and AI. These little annoyances don't keep this game from being another great release in the FIFA franchise.
Final Score = 8.25/10
Twitter: @iSamKulii
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

S&S Review: MLB 2K12

Title: MLB 2K12
Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive
Developer: Visual Concepts
Price: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E

MLB 2K12 just might be on its last legs as a competitor in the baseball genre.  With MLB 12: The Show receiving high praise from just about every journalist out there, is 2K12 a worthy contender for the baseball crown?
Presentation:
The presentation in MLB 2K12 is solid, but not great.  When you have its direct competitor with The Show, you can't help but make comparisons.  Visual Concepts hopes at achieving realism and authenticity doesn't beat out San Diego Studio's attempt, but it stands on its own ground.  The little effects like blades of grass and intensified sunlight effects are great, but the sporadic amount of odd character animations are unwanted.  2K12 utilizes the same engine from 2K10, and the team has continued to polish it every year.  The framerate is still a little shaky at times, but overall it holds up quite nicely, which is a first in a while for the troubled series.  The commentary in 2K12 is some of the best I've heard in any sports game, just the level of statistical intelligence spoken by the team is unrivaled.  Other than that, everything else, including the menus, look exactly the same.  The team has done enough to keep the game fresh and well polished.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
There have been loads of gameplay tweaks added for 2K12, mostly for the pitching aspects.  The batter's AI have gotten much smarter, you can't continuously sling fastballs across the plate and strike batter's out.  The batter will now catch on to your patterns and knock it out for a single.  Batting is tougher than ever, which it should be, and realistic hits are a reason for that.  There will be many balls popped up and ending up in a center-fielder's glove.  Fielders now have an improved pitching meter that incorporates many variables to affect your throw.  If your player is off balance, it'll be more difficult to get your throw in the green.  My Player mode and Franchise mode are pretty much exactly the same  as last year's.  This is a let down, My Player mode had a lot of requested improvements from the last game, and it seems like the team has completely ignored us. MLB Today Season is a new mode that lets you play alongside your favorite team.  Its a simple mode, that just adds to the subtle changes.  The online is very basic in the game, with some lag that hinders the game.  With baseball games, you need to have a smooth experience.
Final Thoughts:
MLB 2K!2 is a good baseball game, with some new improvements.  There are a few bugs in the game that I could do without, like the lousy hit and collision detection.  When you stack it up too its direct competitor, once again it falls short.


Final Score = 6.5/10
Twitter: @iSamKulii
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Friday, March 16, 2012

S&S Reviews: Journey

Title: Journey
Format: Downloadable Playstation Network Game
Release Date: March 13, 2012 (March 7 for Playstation Plus Subscribers)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Thatgamecompany
Price: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E


If you ever wondered if video games really are art, then look no further than Journey. Although your "journey" in Journey is ironically short, your travels are nonetheless spectacular.


Story/Presentation
Journey begins simply, with no instructions, tutorials, or help of any sort. Your character is a mysterious cloaked figure with one task: reach the shining beacon at the far away mountain. You aren't given any background information on the character or destination; but to be honest, you don't need it. There is no dialogue, and the only interactions you have are with other players. You do not know who you are playing with and you are able to talk online with them. Your silent partner simply aids you in your quest. You can exchange chirps (more on that below) to help find each other, but beyond that your time in journey is spent silently walking with each other. Even though you don't find out who they are until you finish the game, the silence between you and your partner creates a unique bond I never thought a game could convey.


Core Gameplay
You begin the game in a beautifully textured desert where you eventually find several red scarves that are similar to the one around your cloak. These scarves serve as a "boost" that allow you to glide for a period of time, depending on the length of your scarf. The length of your scarf can be improved by finding white "cloth creatures" and activating them with your chirping ability. Chirping also serves as a means of communication with other players or as a way to reveal hidden items. The game is very short, however; I finished it in a little under 2 hours. But those 2 hours were appropriate and very fulfilling, and the game is meant to be played several times through. 


Music/Graphics
I felt the music in Journey was the most important part of the game, so much so that I decided to make it a separate section of my review. The music is incredible, emotional, and impactful. With no dialogue, music serves as the hub of all connections you have with the game. I was amazed at how much tension some music created, or at how sad I felt during some particular scenes, purely because of the amazing orchestral soundtrack. One moment in particular that highlights the perfect combination of graphics and music involves a sliding scene through a building of sand where you're treated to a setting sun as you quickly change from day to night. I was blown away at how beautiful this game really is. Combined with the stunning visuals, Journey really was one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played.


Final Thoughts
Some players might be turned off by the $14.99 price tag for a 2 hour game. But Journey is so much more than a game that is measured by its length versus time played. By the time you begin playing, you won't even remember it is a game. Journey is meant to be appreciated for what it is, and enjoyed for it's simplicity.

Final Score: 9.5/10
E-mail: wbulna@yahoo.com
Twitter: @WhitneyBulna

Thursday, March 15, 2012

S&S Mobile Review: Mass Effect Infiltrator



Title:  Mass Effect Infiltrator
Format: iOS
Release Date: March 2012
Publisher: EA
Developer: IronMonkey Studios
Price: $6.99
ESRB Rating: T


With the Mass Effect hype at an all time high, Mass Effect Infiltrator was a definite purchase. Any game from the ME Universe always catches my eye, but the game so far, has only frustrated and angered me.
Presentation/Story:
You play as Randall Ezno, who is a Cerberus agent.  Randall goes rogue when he finds malicious experiments he doesn't approve us.  The story is okay, but I found it pretty forgettable.  The game looks good overall, especially for an iPad/iPhone game.  The character models really stand out, Randall is impressively detailed.  His movements, on the other hand, look stiff and robotic.  Environments look okay, snowy canyons and Cerberus bases are uninspired, but they get the job done.On the audio side, the main character will constantly spew out one liners as you line up your killshot.  Other characters are voiced solidly.  The game instructs you to use headphones while playing, you will want too.  The game sounds great with good headphones.
Core Gameplay:
The controls are my biggest complaint with the game.  The game utilizes a simple tap-to-target, it sounds basic, but ends up being convoluted and monotonous.  When you tap on a target, the camera zooms in, and all  you have to do is aim the reticle.  Randall automatically shoots when you aim the reticle right.  It works when you have a nice size space between you and your enemies.  If you manage to get close to multiple enemies, you'll most likely die, so I found myself dropping my iPad in frustration.  When you're not gunning down robots, the regular walking feels awkward and uncoordinated.  The basic third person shooter elements are there, but just aren't implemented well.  After you finish off a group of enemies, you will be rewarded with credits.  you can spend credits on upgrades to weapons, armor, and new abilities. On occasion, you will have the opportunity to perform Renegade or Paragon acts.  This adds a little more to the game, overall it still feels pretty shallow.  
Final Thoughts:
Mass Effect Infiltrator is basic third person shooter, with many similarities to its console versions.  Its not a good game, but it has the ability to appease only the purest of Mass Effect fans.
Final Score = 6/10
Twitter: @iSamKulii

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

S&S Review: Street Fighter x Tekken

Title: Street Fighter x Tekken
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita
Release Date: March 6, 2012 (Japan: TBA 2012)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer:  Capcom / Namco
Price: $59.99, $39.99 Vita
ESRB Rating: T

Street Fighter has always been second, in my opinion, to Tekken for best fighting game franchise.  From Marvel vs Capcom to Street Fighter x Tekken, crossover games are picking up quite a bit of steam.  This new game combines all the best elements from both titles to make a great fighting game.
Presentation/Story:
The game keeps its original style from Street Fighter 4, the over the top character models are back with this new release.  I always loved the heavily stylized models, Ryu and Ken has never looked so glossy and bright.  The environments are gorgeous, and come to life with cool 3D effects.  You'll see a truck stop level with 18-wheelers with people dancing to the bumping music.  When the night comes, the trucks lights also glow with gorgeous colors that light up the sky.  Animations appear seamless as you transition through high and low attacks.  The music is okay, the theme song isn't as unbearable as Street Fighter 4's, but it still is forgettable. The music also takes inspiration from previous Tekken games, hardcore fans will catch right on. The story is a little weird, something weird falls from the heavens, and it attracts fighters from both worlds.  Soon you'll be battling Ken with Kazuya.  The presentation is better than ever, with some of the best viusals I have seen in any fighting game.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The action in Street Fighter x Tekken is fast paced and fluid.  With the inclusion of Tag elements, you'll have new ways to dismantle your opposition.  Switching between characters in the midst of combos feel natural, and with time, you can turn simple combos to devastating dual attacks.  If just one of your fighters fall, the round is over,  similar to Tekken Tag Tournament.  Me particularly, prefers Marvel vs Capcom's style of your partners being able to jump in when your first fighter gets knocked out.  New additions like Pandora mode and the GEM system add new elements to an overall extensive formula.  Pandora mode is an all or nothing technique that you can pull of to try and win the fight.  GEMs add specific boosts to your fighter during bouts, giving you attack, defensive, and speed boosts.  Online is a mixed bag, if you can fing a good connection, the match will run beautifully.  On occasion though, you will get the connection lost message on your screen.
Final Thoughts:
Street Fighter x Tekken is a great 2D fighting game, and possibly one of the best.  The cool GEM system adds some welcomed additions to the game, while the Pandora mode, I could have done without.  Hopefully Capcom doesn't throw sand in our eyes with releasing a new  Street Fighter x Tekken Super Ultimate Edition at a cheaper price with more characters.  Otherwise, fighting fans should definitely pick this up.


Final Score = 9.25/10
Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008

Saturday, March 10, 2012

S&S Review: MLB 12: The Show


Title: MLB 12: The Show
Format: PS3, PS Vita
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: San Diego Studios
Price: $59.99, $39.99(for Vita)
ESRB Rating: E


If you're a fan of baseball and you also own a PS3, you probably know The Show series pretty well.  This franchise has been known for its mind-blowing sense of reality, making you feel like you're actually at Fenway Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  MLB 12 is just another shining reason to own a PS3.
Presentation:
Every year the visuals in The Show improves quite a bit, with a number of noticeable and minor changes.  It will take time to notice these changes though.  The lighting in stadiums have received a big improvement for example. If you know your home ball park, you will notice the authenticity instantly.  The ball physics have took quite a leap as well.  When you make contact with a fastball by Justin Verlander, the ball will react accordingly and realistically.  Animations are once again as smooth as ever, transitions move seamlessly from one to another.  The stadiums themselves are extremely detailed, little nuances bring the home field to life.  I have read that the 3D in the game is great, so if you have a 3D TV, take advantage of the option.  Commentary is still behind the 2K series, but new lines make it seem fresh.  Crowd noises and stadium sound effects are great, which has always been a standard in the series.  Another year, another great looking and sounding baseball game.
Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
The big new feature in the game is the new pitching scheme.  Instead of using the standard pitching meter, the developers added a pulsating circle that impacts accuracy and power.  It resembles the old 2K pitching meter, before they added the ridiculous Street Fighter style of pitching.  Its faster than the meter pitching, and in my opinion, better.  The new Diamond Dynasty mode resembles the EA Sports Ultimate Team mode.  You can collect cards to create a your own pack of baseball stars.  The Franchise and Road to The Show modes are pretty much the same, but have a few improvements.  The trade logic has been improved and your RTTS player finally receives the respect he deserves.  You won't be sent down to triple-A even when you're batting .398 like in previous games.  The other big feature in the game is the ability to transfer your saves to your PS Vita.  You can take your franchise team or RTTS player on the road with you, which has always been a heavily requested feature.
Final Thoughts:
MLB 12: The Show is another great game of baseball, pushing the level of authenticity even further than before.  The new game doesn't push the envelope to far, but the ability to transfer files is a big addition.  Great visuals and air-tight gameplay make this the best baseball game available to-date.


Final Score = 8.25/10
Twitter: @iSamKulii
Apps: S&S Reviews on Apple and Android Stores
PSNID:sameo452008