Portal 2 – Game Review

Portal 2

Developed & Published by: Valve
Rating: E10+
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3 and Mac/PC

Portal 2. Wow. Just wow. In a proof of concept, Valve shows that the innovative gameplay and story of the original Portal (originally released as part of a bundle) can carry itself as a standalone release. The sequel is an unblemished masterpiece that lives up to the hype and fully dispels the worries of fans. With a fantastic single player campaign and story, Portal 2 is by far one of my favorite games this year, if not of all time.

The game starts with the main character from the first installment, Chell, waking up in cryo-chamber 0 (disguised as a tacky motel room) deep in the bowels of the Aperture Science Testing Facility. After an extended rest, Chell is woken up by a robot named Wheatley. Chell finds that the facility has fallen apart after her climactic battle when the rogue AI GLaDOS crippled the complex. Chell and Wheatley then attempt to escape the dying Aperture Labs, inadvertently re-activating GLaDOS. From there, shit goes down, and Chell is forced to begin testing again. In the co-op campaign players control Atlas and P-Body: two robots created specifically for testing.

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By | 2017-09-24T22:41:44+00:00 April 23rd, 2011|Game Reviews|1 Comment

You Don’t Know Jack – Game Review

You Don't Know Jack

Please note: I will not be making the obvious joke about this game not being based on the Al Pacino made-for-HBO biopic mini-series on Jack Kevorkian. That’s an easy joke, and we’re above that (no, really, stop laughing).

Most people who owned a PC in the 90s will recognize the name You Don’t Know Jack, or at least the bald head that graced the cover of every YDKJ released. And there were a lot: twelve iterations released in stores between 1995 and 2000. That’s not counting expansion packs, website games, spin-offs, books, and the TV show either. Yes, for about three hours in 2001, there was even a YDKJ TV game show, hosted by someone who’s enjoyed a comeback of his own lately: Paul Reubens. After 2003, developer Jellyvision took a break from the Jack brand to focus on advertising, web design, tax software, that sort of thing.

Now, Jack has returned with the reintroduction of You Don’t Know Jack. The first Jack game since 2003 is also the first to be released mainly on the major consoles; Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. There is a version for Windows, but it doesn’t have the online capability, and won’t receive any of the downloadable content.

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By | 2017-09-24T22:43:28+00:00 March 5th, 2011|Game Reviews|0 Comments

Alan Wake – Game Review

Alan Wake XBox Cover Art

Release Date: May 18, 2010
System: Xbox 360
Rating: Teen
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft

A long long time ago, back in the Summer of 2005, a little project called Alan Wake made its debut at E3. The game started development at least four years before that. And now it’s finally been unleashed on the world as an Xbox 360 Exclusive title. This is the first game from Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment since The Fall of Max Payne in 2003. Does the game show its nine year development stage? Has it been worth the wait? Welllll…yes and no.

You play as the titular Alan Wake, a hugely popular crime author, who hasn’t been able to knock out a decent novel in the past year or two. So he does what I’m led to believe all good moody novelists do when they’re suffering a block: vacation to a creepy cabin on a creepy lake in the creepy woods of the Pacific Northwest. Alan is joined on this trip to a generator-powered cabin by his loving wife, Alice, who happens to be terrified of the dark. Not long after the couple arrives at the cabin and get settled in, they have a fight. Alan runs off into the night, knowing she won’t follow him. A few minutes later we hear Alice screaming in terror as the cabin’s generator has shut down. How unlucky is that?! Upon bursting back into the cabin, Alan follows the screams to the deck, where the railing is broken, and we see what appears to be Alice in the water below. Alan jumps in.

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By | 2017-09-24T22:51:01+00:00 June 17th, 2010|Game Reviews|0 Comments

Red Dead Redemption – Game Review

Red Dead Redemption Box Art

In addition to bad action, kung fu, and the geek staple sci-fi/fantasy movies, I’m a huge fan of Westerns. Be it old-school oaters like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 60s fare like The Wild Bunch or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, or modern reinventions of the genre like Unforgiven or Tombstone, I’m game. Horses, six-guns, outlaws, shoot-outs…what’s not to love? But as an avid gamer, the genre has been almost criminally under-represented over the years. There are a few notable titles scattered over the past few console generations, but mostly it gets overlooked in favor of gritty war games or visually inventive flights of fancy. Enter Red Dead Redemption.

Rockstar Games’ “spiritual successor” to 2004’s modestly successful Red Dead Revolver stays true to the studio’s proven open-world sandbox roots, shifting away from the dense urban environs of the Grand Theft Auto franchise in favor of the sprawling open plains and deserts of the Old West. You play as former outlaw John Marston, a surprisingly erudite man attempting to leave the ugliness of his past behind, recruited/blackmailed into service by the federal government to track down his former gang leader and associates. Reluctantly strapping on the six-gun, Marston ventures back out into the dangerous wilds of the U.S./Mexico border country to hunt down his former friends.

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By | 2017-09-24T22:51:34+00:00 May 27th, 2010|Game Reviews|2 Comments

Batman: Arkham Asylum – Game Review

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Release Date: August 25, 2009
System: Xbox 360, PS3, Windows Vista/XP
Rating: Teen (Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Tobacco Reference, Violence)
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Eidos

Comic-related video games have a…storied history. They range from the mediocre to the execrable, on the whole, with a tiny number of counter-examples scattered across the pages of game history. In those few bright spots, though, one hero has been consistently under-served: Batman. Attempts have been made to digitize the Dark Knight before, to be sure, and you might find a few copies still lurking in the discount shovelware bins at used game outlets. They’re not worth whatever price is marked.

From the first teaser images released by Eidos, Batman: Arkham Asylum was clearly in a different league. Using Epic’s Unreal Engine, the game’s designers deliver a less cartoonish caped crusader and a truly disturbing rogue’s gallery of classic villains, all through the twisted lens one would expect with the title’s invocation of Gotham’s disturbing sanitarium. The end result is a tense, atmospheric chess game between Bats and his most notorious foe, the Joker. Along the way, you’ll square off against several other long-time adversaries of Batman, including the game’s most memorable (and disturbing) sequences against Scarecrow and Batman’s own darkest fears.

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By | 2017-09-24T22:59:53+00:00 August 28th, 2009|Game Reviews|2 Comments

Plants vs. Zombies – Game Review

Plants vs. Zombies opening screen

Release Date: May 5, 2009
System: Windows/PC or Mac
Rating: Cartoon violence, so take that for whatever it’s worth
Price: $19.95 at PopCap

Publisher: PopCap Games

There might be a backstory to the game, but if there is, I didn’t bother to find it out. If there was one, it might be something like this, in a nutshell. Zombie holocaust. In your neighborhood, at least. And you’re some kind of mad vegetarian Dr. Moreau, because you’ve got an army of seeds that will sprout plants to defend your home from the undead.

That’s really all you need to know. It’s quite possibly the perfect storm of addictive games, which is why I’m going ahead and reviewing the goddamn thing so I can uninstall it before I spend any more time with it. First, it’s tower defense–which, for non-gamers like me, basically means you set up items that have distinct qualities that enable you to defend yourself against increasingly specialized attacking forces. If you haven’t played a game like this, seriously, don’t. Because it is a timesuck of the highest order. Second, it’s zombies. And you know how we are on this site about zombies.

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By | 2017-09-24T23:02:44+00:00 May 31st, 2009|Game Reviews|2 Comments

Infinite Undiscovery – Game Review

Infinite Undiscovery game cover art

US Release Date: September 2, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: Teen
Price: $56.99 at Amazon.com

Infinite Unsatisfaction

Infinite Undiscovery is a Japanese action JRPG brought to you by Square Enix (the company that brings us Final Fantasy and thus the reigning god of JRPGs) and tri-Ace (the developer behind a number of well-received series including Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile), which is why I picked it up in the first place. The game promises an engaging storyline, beautiful graphics, a seamless real-time battle system that encourages strategic thinking, a vast number of characters, and other goodies. From the blurb, the fantastic cover art, and the absolutely stunning animation that plays over the opening screen, it’s very exciting. This, you think as you pick up your controller, is going to be AWESOME.

And then you start to play.

And all your hopes and dreams for the next 30-40 hours of your game-playing life come tumbling down.

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By | 2017-09-24T23:11:33+00:00 October 8th, 2008|Game Reviews|5 Comments

Guitar Hero on Tour – Game Review

Guitar Hero on Tour

US Release Date: June 22, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Price: $47.99 at Amazon.com

Concept

The Guitar Hero juggernaut rolls to handhelds with this title for the Nintendo DS. Best Thing Ever, or are they milking the cash cow a leeeetle too hard?

Sight and Sound

I would like to give a detailed review of the graphics, but unfortunately I can’t, because when I play a Guitar Hero game my eyes must remain unswervingly fixed on the scrolling note indicators lest chaos ensue. So as for the in-song graphics, I can tell you that the scrolling note indicators scroll smoothly and are easy to read. The few glimpses I caught of the performance animations out of the corners of my eye seemed fine – fairly standard for the GH games and the DS system. Nothing to write home about, but not disappointing either.

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By | 2017-09-24T23:11:36+00:00 October 6th, 2008|Game Reviews|1 Comment

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – Game Review

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

US Release Date: February 10, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Price: $29.99 at Amazon.com

Professor Layton and the Curious Village was released in Japan in 2007 to great success, spawning two sequels and a planned manga series. The English version of the game was released this February and has thus far been very well received by US gamers.

Concept

This is a hybrid game, the sort of thing that might result if a point-and-click adventure ate a book of brainteasers and then had a baby with a European cartoon (the developer has dubbed the genre “puzzle adventure”). You control the titular Professor Layton, a noted puzzle solver (you can apparently get famous for that – who knew?) With his young apprentice, Luke, in tow, the Professor has come to the town of St. Mystère to find a mysterious treasure alluded to in the will of a wealthy Baron. Naturally, once you arrive in town, this simple task becomes rapidly more complicated, and you are trapped in the town until you solve a number of mysteries.

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By | 2017-09-24T23:18:13+00:00 June 5th, 2008|Game Reviews|1 Comment

Men in Black II: Alien Escape – Game Review

Men In Black 2 Alien Escape game cover

Overall:

Published & Developed by Infogrames
Platform: Playstation 2
ESRB Rating: Teen (Blood, Comic Mischief, Violence)

It is a near-universal truth in the computer gaming world that movie tie-ins are terrible games. LucasArts has provided some entertaining exceptions to this rule, but outside of those, the argument against licensed properties in video games is pretty solid. Men in Black II: Alien Escape serves as yet another bit of evidence to hold up against licensed games. Generic gameplay, uninspired visuals, and a nearly palpable sense of desperation to ride someone else’s coat-tails all combine to make the game another casualty in the war to translate successful properties from other mediums into the world of digital gaming.

To start with, the game ostensibly lets you select from either of everyone’s favorite pair of MiBs, Jay and Kay. Unfortunately, the voice-acting for the characters isn’t performed by either the original stars (probably an expense issue) or the voice talent that portrayed them in the animated series (which couldn’t have been an expense issue, and can only be chalked up to bad decision-making). So they don’t sound like Jay and Kay. Add to this a really mediocre modeling job, and they don’t actually look like Jay and Kay, either. Pretty disappointing stuff. They’d have been better off naming them Aitch and Eye and trying to distance themselves from such comparisons, but oh well.

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By | 2011-03-10T04:40:18+00:00 December 7th, 2003|Game Reviews|0 Comments