Tag Archive for Reviews

Conan Has the Best Grand Theft Auto V Review

Well, it’s not so much a review as it is the unbridled joy of someone playing Grand Theft Auto for the first time. It’s really a special gaming experience that you forget about until you see someone else go through it. A lot of us got our first taste in Grand Theft Auto III, but there still some out there that get that joy. Conan is now one of them. Look at him accomplish a mission… sort of. Well, the best part is his vendetta against a strip club. Oh, man, that building should be destroyed.

Fake Grand Theft Auto V Review Too Good to be Real

It’s not real, by the way. Just a fancy, obvious parody that is going to get them lots of views. And I’m helping. Go realty!

Dragon’s Crown: Wonderful, Yet Infuriating

Dragon’s Crown is… well, it’s beautiful. Let’s start there. It’s the prettiest game Vanillaware has ever made, and their whole deal is making pretty games. Like Odin Sphere and Muramasa before it, they’ve just taken beautiful 2D animation to the absolute limit. I doubt you’ll see anything as purdy as this until, well, until the next time Vanillaware makes a game. I’m sure they’ll release something on the PS4 that makes you think Dragon’s Crown looks like balls, but for now, this is it.

When discussing the art, obviously, the flip side is the much maligned art style which is indeed… uncomfortable. It’s easy to say it’s sexist because boobs, so many boobs. But it’s an equal opportunity thing. Sure, you might see the Sorceress, who’s gotta be constantly spending part of her magical powers to avoid nip slips and this Magical Item selling lady who’s wearing a “dress” so uncomfortable looking that even before my brain can go “Ooh, boobs!” another part is going “Ouch, why would you even wear that?” But you’ve also got the fighter that appears to be ninety percent chest muscles, and in your first mission you will meet a barbarian who’s pecs fill almost the entire screen. Every part of this art style is designed around extreme exaggerations. It’s uncomfortable for a bit, then you get used to it, and you don’t notice it so much anymore. You just notice that it’s all very purdy. Though, as a counterpoint to the reviews that state it’s “What Vanillaware has always done” I’ve played all the other Vanillaware games, and I’m still a little put off, so it’s clearly not the same as it’s always been. It’s definitely more. Let’s not pretend it’s not a noticeable thing.

But wait. It’s a game, isn’t it? Despite all that talk about the pretty art and the sexism and the boobs, there’s a game somewhere in there, right? Yes. And it’s definitely good stuff. You wander around, you kill stuff, you get treasure, you use that treasure to kill other stuff, and then get more treasure. Repeat forever. There’s a story in there, too, a kindly voice that narrates the adventure like a DM would, and informs you why precisely you’re killing things at this moment. But if that’s not your deal it’s easy enough to ignore him, and just mash X until you get to the part where you get to kill more things. Never will you be lost on where you need to go, it’s always pretty much going to be “Walk right, murder everything in sight until an even bigger thing shows up, murder that thing too.” Either way’s a valid choice. There are a couple of decision moments, but whatever your choice, again, you will end up just killing a bunch of things.

As far as the gameplay, it’s mostly good stuff. It’s a beat em up. You’re going to walk right, and then mash one button to kill things, another to jump, and another to kill things in a special manner, but that can only be used occasionally. If you’ve played a Vanillaware game before you pretty much know what’s up, you hit Square for everything. Hit square to attack. Hit square while pushing forward to attack differently. Hold square while pushing forward to run and also attack. Hit square in the air to do another attack. Hit square while pushing up to do another attack. Which, in the opening tutorial all seems to make a lot of sense. But this is a beat em up, so when the game actually happens you just end up mashing square constantly. When your dwarf picks something up and throws it it’s as much a surprise to you as it is to your enemies. And that’s all good. If you’re buying a game that’s clearly a love letter to Golden Axe, you’re not expecting Street Fighter combat. But. still, there is a desire for a bit more variation. Even a God of War Square and Triangle combo thing would be nice. Anything but “Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square-Square” would be an improvement. That’s an extreme, obviously, there’s a special attack than you can use, some item you can pick and purchase later, or a bunch of skills that you can purchase once you start leveling up. And since there are six different classes you can mess around until you find one that you like, with the moves that you enjoy. Still, most of the game is going to be that Square button.

So this is all pretty great, right? Other than that small complaint about basically wishing the game was something that it’s clearly not, and a little bit of queasiness from that feminist part of your brain, everything seems to be great. Where’s the “Infuriating” happen? Multiplayer. Specifically Local multiplayer. This is an incredibly multiplayer game, It’s so multiplayer that when you play by yourself it provides you with other NPC heroes to travel along with you. And yet it seems to hate local multiplayer. There are some issues you’re always going to have. If it’s a local multiplayer game with an inventory or a skill system, you’re going to be staring at someone else’s menu screen. The only game that avoided it completely was Crystal Chronicles. And the only way to duplicate that would be if everyone bought a PS Vita, and then we were able to convince developers to make a game that used the second screen functionality of the Vita the same was Crystal Chronicles did with the GBA (side note: Sony, if you can somehow convince Squeenix to make a Crystal Chronicles sequel for the PS4 using that functionality, not only will I buy a PS4 that day I will buy my friends PS Vitas just so we can play). That being said, there have been a lot of games that did it better. Borderlands keeps the menu on your friend’s half of the screen, so you can do whatever. But that is a split screen game. Better example: Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes kept your menu in your quarter of the screen, allowing your party members to continue doing whatever in the other three quarters of the screen. That was good stuff. But Dragon’s Crown sticks with the “I wanna check my inventory, so everyone else talk amongst yourselves.” Lame. Still, this is an accepted evil. We know this is happening. The worse bits happen when you start visiting locations. You want to level up your skills? Gotta go to the Adventurer’s Guild. Great, I don’t know why that can’t happen in the same menu where you equip stuff, but fine. Then someone else wants to update their skills. Sensible. So you just hand control over, right? No. You have to leave the Guild, then that player has to enter. Despite the fact that you’re all on the same system, looking at the same screen, every person has to enter on their own. Why? Then, hold on, there’s a quest. Each person has to individually select that quest. Despite the fact that you’re all on the same machine, and the fact that you all have to agree to do that quest at the same time, or it’s just not getting done, if every person hasn’t selected that quest, they’re not getting credit for it. Why? Stuff like this just piles up. Like they actively hate you for playing local multiplayer. Certainly if you’re playing online, or on PS Vita, this isn’t an issue. Everyone’s going to see their own menu screens, everyone’s going to get their own quests, everyone’s going to get their own tutorial (Oh, yeah, that’s a thing. Game starts with an unskippable tutorial, but only for player one. Which would be fine, except each class has slightly different controls as befits their class. Whoops). Everything aches for online multiplayer.

Except that’s not what you want to do. If there’s one genre that screams out for local co-op multiplayer, it’s this one. It’s a classic, side scrolling beat em up. You don’t want to play that online. You want to play that shoulder to shoulder with friends. That’s how you beat Golden Axe, that’s how you beat X-Men, that’s how you beat The Simpsons. And as a game that seems intended precisely to invoke those classic feelings, completely ignoring every possible option to improve that local multiplayer component is the most insane choice I can imagine. It’s soul crushing. It’s a wonderful, beautiful game, with a completely unnecessary impediment layered over almost every aspect. And that kinda sucks, guys.

Bonus! We attempted a play through of this game, but for some damn reason the video didn’t capture. Sad. However, we do have the audio of the play through. So, if you want to listen to that, for whatever reason, here it is:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Direct Download

Whose Line Is It Anyway? Review

Whose Line made its glorious return to television last night. Well, as glorious as a show on the CW can be. It’s pretty much the same show, why ruin a good formula when you have it for a couple decades? Difference here is more celebrity guests who may or may not lose composure, less familiar guest performer faces, and Aisha Tyler instead of Drew Carey. I kind of like Aisha better because she gets to the point quickly. I also like that they seem to be getting away with raunchier material, which ABC clearly didn’t like (if you’ve ever seen the outtakes, you know what I’m talking about). I think I can thank CW for that. The guest performers can hold their own, but they just aren’t showcased enough. Most of the cast is pushing 60, so they need the youthful extra person every once in a while. I’m going to keep watching, and it’s not going to take a big audience to keep it around, because it’s on the CW. I just wish they’d get rid of the hashtags. So dumb.

Conan Loves Injustice: Gods Among Us

This is the first one by Conan that I’ve seen him genuinely like a game. Also shows that button-mashing is still a viable strategy for fighting games. I am jealous that he got a Superman reskin for his own character. I’d like to see a fighter editor in Injustice. So many possibilities.

Starcraft II Heart of the Swarm – Review

heart of the swarm starcraftHonestly, if you liked any form of Starcraft previously, you are going to like this game. I beat the campaign in less than week, and I’m still trying to figure out if I did it that quickly because I really enjoyed it or I’m achievement hungry. I do know that Blizzard is really taking RTS level design to exciting new places.

The one big difference in the campaign is the added emphasis on hero characters, mostly Kerrigan, which works. You are following characters, lets see those characters fight. Some of my favorite missions in Wings of Liberty used heroes and it seemed to resonate. I’m sure a lot of people are glad that it didn’t creep into multiplayer like Warcraft 3. But it’s just enough RPG elements to say you have RPG elements without overdoing it.

The enhanced master archives section for replaying missions is nice, but it doesn’t seem to strongly tie in with some story-based achievements which I’m sure is a drag for the achievement hunters. And I haven’t been privy to all the neat upgrades to Battlenet, but they are all pretty and was pleasantly excited to see it revamped. Everything works.

The only negative here is the relatively short story, and the fact that I want the third installment sooner than two years from now. Feed me more, Blizzard. I guess I’ll just play some custom games until then.

SimCity First Impressions

simcityUnlike a lot of you, I was able to play SimCity last night and a little bit this morning. I dig it. I did not have a huge problem getting into the game, but I didn’t attempt to until 8pm PST, so I think a lot of people had given up or gone to sleep by the time I wanted to play. It plays very differently than SimCity 4, road building and zoning is not as precise as you would like it, and in order to increase density you have to plop decorations and have all the necessary utilites in place, including safety. It’s a lot to juggle and eventually you realize you have to bulldoze half your city to put bigger roads down to alleviate congestion. There’s just so much to do and it’s not quick. You can lose 3 hours by poor planning.

I ran into a lot of road blocks that would’ve made my time easier if I was playing with other people, mostly City Hall attachments. You need some attachments to unlock all of the buildings, which some will take a long time to unlock unless a neighbor takes care of it for you (they are region unlocking). So while these dinky clinics don’t really solve my health issues, I can’t get a hospital because I spent the attachments on finance, utilities and education. I decided a university was more important than my city’s health.

Anyway, can’t wait to play with friends when this thing will really unlock itself.

King of the Nerds Premiere – Review

There’s a couple of reasons I watched King of the Nerds. I know somebody on it, most of the content should appeal to me as a person, and I wanted to see how far TBS went for nerdsploitation (term I use to describe things taking advantage and making fun of nerds, i.e. Big Bang Theory). I am proud to say that I enjoyed watching it, and feel that the nerds do enough to make fun of themselves that the show doesn’t have to do a whole lot of exploiting. Though, this is just the first episode, I’m sure there’s room for improvement.

It really was a brilliant opening in that, the players had to choose teams, but with 11 there would be one singled out. In a show about nerds, I don’t think I have to tell you the twist there. After all that, they played chess, and someone went home. I definitely will be watching the next episode to see if the nerds really start going after each others throats. They’re playing pretty nicely right now. I’m sure that will change.

Hawken Brings Back Mech Combat – Review

HawkenHaven’t really played a real-time mech combat game since the days of the Mechwarrior. I even spent some time in those VR capsules that made it feel like you were in the cockpit (circa late 90s, so probably bleh by today’s standards). So Hawken harkens (haha) back those days in a way that’s totally refreshing at the same time.

The game starts you off in their free mech. Later you can sample other suits or buy your own using in-game credits which take a while to earn or use your own money. They do play very differently: different special powers, different default weapons, maneuverability, health, etc. From what I’ve seen and played, the spec’ed out mechs (high offense and defense or speed) seem to kill my average build more often than the other average builds.

Controls work very similar to any mech game. The one new addition I’m not used to is the dash button which lets you quickly dodge left, right, straight ahead or turn around. Combine that with the slow jetpack and you can actually be quite mobile. A primary and secondary weapon make up most of your attacks. Primary is a machine gun of some sort while the other is a missile, though I haven’t liked anything beyond the default weapons. I’ve played around 15 games, but I am still a ways away from unlocking everything. There’s a lot to explore here if you are willing to put the time in.

I say Hawken is a successful game, especially for its price point of free, but you certainly have to enjoy online competitive play, because you will be doing a lot of it.

The Hobbit Impossible to Review

the-hobbitThanks to Jewish Christmas, I was able to see a movie in a theater again. My dad’s choice was The Hobbit, and while it is neither good nor bad, it’s really not fair to reviews to claim that this is reviewable.

The Hobbit is now going to be three movies, and being based on what is considered an unfinished work, we just watched an unfinished portion of unfinished work passed off as finished. Now I believe that there are several redeemable qualities to the movie: loved all the dwarf characters, it was fun seeing the nods to the other trilogy, much like the book did before it. The problem here is that Peter Jackson has reached the Spielberg status of filmmaking in that no one can say no to him. So anything he wants to do gets made and has to be there which is why we have three movies for one book. The good thing is that he hasn’t reached Oliver Stone status and everything he does looks amazing and the acting and directing are mostly good.

A lot of what can be pinpointed as bad might come from the source material and the fact that nothing will get resolved in the first third of any story. They forced it anyway because you need to have it. I forgot how much hi-jinx this company got into in the story.

Not saying it’s bad. Just saying that we have to power through 9 hours total before we can give it a fair shake. Let you know in a couple years.