Axiom Verge - PC Review

This homage to Metroid does not just respect the formula - it improves it

Order of Battle: Pacific - PC Review

Surprise - but this is one of the best strategy games of 2015 so far

Gratuitous Space Battles II - PC Review

Get ready for lots of strategic space combat - your time will be well spent

MLB 15: The Show - PS4 Review

It is still the best game of baseball on the market, though the improvements from last year are minimal

Sayonara UmiharaKawase + - PS Vita Review

A challenging platforming title that gets an update for the Vita - but has it aged well?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Madden 2011 - iPad review

Bonus post this weekend. I reviewed an older football game, because I had already reviewed Madden 11 earlier in the season and wanted something football themed. Then, I sat down with my wife's iPad and remembered that a month or two ago there was a sale on EA app games and I had picked up Madden 11 for 99 cents. Guess I have my modern, if lightweight review after all.

So, what is Madden 11? Basically the only NFL licensed game out there. I did a fairly lengthy review for it on the Xbox 360, but I was not sure how much this game and that one would have in common. Turns out - a fair amount in some places, and almost nothing in others. Probably my biggest gripe: no franchise mode. You have seasons and quick games, and they added local player versus player (which I haven't been able to take advantage of myself) since the release. They also added a mode called 'Vintage Voltage' - which really gave me a grin.

You ever play one of those tabletop football games, with the thin metal field that vibrates, and these little characters on green squares with 'feet' that move about as the table vibrates? I did - I got my uncle's when I was like 6. This looks like that, and it is pretty cool in my opinion. Sure, it's kind of a gimmick, but it's a very cool gimmick.

Another thing going for the game is that is has roster updates. I just ran one tonight in fact. You have your authentic players, their stats, season statistics, so it's got some meat on it - I just really miss franchise with progression. That's my favorite part of almost any sports series and here it feels like a huge omission. Let's break the game down a bit now, shall we?

Graphics - 7:

At first glance, I thought: these are really pretty good. The colors are nice, the players animate pretty well. Then you spend a bit of time in the game and you realize that players are a bit chunky looking and don't really look all that different from one another, and it sort of reminded me of a Sega Genesis version of Madden. It's better than that, but not great. I'm not sure if there's any weather or not - I played through about half a season and did not encounter any rain or snow, but then my primary team is a dome team. My guess is, there will be, but I can't really comment to it one way or the other. They do have some nice images of players.

Sound and Music - 6:

Probably the most startling thing for me was hearing Madden's voice going "Boom!" a few times. I'm not sure when the last time I heard John Madden's voice as part of the commentary, but it's been a few releases (or so). It was both kind of cool, and then like the graphics sort of reminiscent of the older versions like the Sega Genesis. However, repetition is the name of the game here. I got the exact same commentary chunk 3 straight plays on offense. The music was ok when it crept into things like the menus and pause screens and the on-field action was accented by the appropriate grunts and thuds that play out pretty loud and clear from the iPad speakers.

Gameplay - 7:

This is sort of a mixed bag for me. For one, the playbook was not as responsive as I would have liked. I found myself needing to poke 'short passing' or 'running' repeatedly to get a page flip in the playbook, so as a result I stuck with Gameflow because it sped up the whole process for me. I kind of liked Gameflow in the Xbox 360 version, but for the iPad I almost felt like it was needed just to keep the game moving along. The analog stick works fine, but it's easy to wind up pushing in the wrong direction because you're paying attention to the other action on the screen. Since there's no tactile feedback like you would get from an actual joystick, I found it just a bit too easy to be pressing in the wrong direction and not even know it - but honestly that's something that happens to a lot of iPad games.

The ability to create and save offensive hotroutes and setting up defensive audibles worked well and I liked it. There's a handy option you have to 'slow down' time by pressing a stopwatch icon. The thing is, it felt like more of a necessity than an option, even more so than Gameflow. Otherwise it was way too hard to keep up with the action in real time. Trying to perform a spin move with a defender in real time without changing direction can be tough - but as soon as I started to use the time slowdown, I managed 2 sacks in the second half (using Suh, who is amazing. Just saying...). I found it really hard to run, but really easy to pass (Calvin Johnson was my game MPV every game but one - Stafford was the exception.)

There were a lot of little things the game did well though, like having detailed help and guides in the pause menu, and they keep you from doing stuff like going off-sides pre-snap. I like to use the defensive tackle (Suuuuuuh!) and I found myself moving a lot of times with accidental 'touches' of the stick. If there wasn't that invisible barrier to keep me from going offsides, I would have no doubt accrued a good deal of penalty yardage.

Intangibles - 6:

The ability to do multiplayer is nice I suppose, but I'll probably never get to take full advantage of it. The vintage voltage feature was pretty cool. The updated rosters are very nice. There's a full season to be had here, which is pretty solid for a portable game. However, no superstar modes, no franchise modes and lack of true online play really hurt the package a bit, since they're my favorite modes. The game does a nice job of automatically saving your game should you need to close it out - a huge perk with a portable game like this.

Overall - 6.5:

I wanted to really like this game more. It's a solid game of portable football, and they did some very good things with it from an interface standpoint. It's good for a quick fix, but I don't use my wife's iPad enough to play out a full season real often. If I'm using it, it's for 5 minutes and I'm flinging some angry birds at brick walls more often than not. I got the game for 99 cents though, so I can't say I regret my Madden purchase. I've already gotten my 99 cents worth out of it, but for those considering it at full price, just be aware going in that it's a decent game of football, but a slightly stripped down version.

Friday, February 4, 2011

All-Pro Football 2K8 - Playstation 3 review

This is a big weekend in football, wouldn't you say? I already had my Madden review a few months back though, so I had to dig around for something else. I'm stretching here, but what the heck: All-Pro Football 2K8 was staring me down this week. I have played it before - even commented on it about nine months ago as part of my cheap sports game article. I touched on each game briefly, talked about their scores and moved on to the next. Now? I'm going to talk about this one real quick.

What is it? It's 2K Sports' answer to the Madden NFL license. No longer able to use the players actively participating in the NFL, 2K Sports set out to do something a bit different - the ultimate pickup game if you will. It was an inspired idea really: get some of the greats players of all time - like their cover stars: Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice and John Elway. Three of my all-time favorite players - including my absolute favorite in Barry Sanders. The game's emphasis is on offense, at least that's how I felt in playing it - so it's interesting that none of the three cover athletes were defenders. I was hanging up some pretty substantial point totals while playing. Some of the names are kind of odd - The Boz and Andre Ware? Really? Guess they had to designate someone for the bronze roles.

So, next up - what are the teams? Well, they don't have an NFL license so these are fictional teams and you 'draft' players. Barry was my first pick - shocking no? They group the players by Gold, Silver and Bronze ranking. I had a handful of Lions on my team - like Herman Moore (another old but favorite player of mine as I glance up at the autographed football card of his I have on my sports memorabilia shelf). So you get to fill so many positions with gold, silver and bronze players and it autofills the rest of your team for you.

The customization options are decent - you can pick cities, design uniforms, name your team, and so on. I think setting up a team is probably my favorite part of the game. It's a lot of fun putting together a team of legends. I loaded up on the defensive side of the ball one time, created a team of mostly Detroit Lions another and even set up a third team just to help me establish Barry Sanders as the greatest of all time, spending my top picks on linemen, a quality tight end and fullback. My offense was a tad bit predictable. Still, the actual play modes feel a bit lacking. Part of it is probably due to the fact that the game feels a great deal like it's spiritual predecessor - NFL 2K5. The season modes are okay, but lack the punch of Madden's more established franchise modes. That said, I think this game aged better than the older Madden entries - perhaps because it has not seen the updated versions that help improve upon the formula each year?

Graphics - 6:

I feel like I'm being a bit hard here. For when it was released, it was pretty solid. Compared to the pretty visuals of Madden last year or this year? It suffers. The engine is very similar to what NFL 2K5 ran, which is both good and bad. NFL 2K5 was a great game, but by now it's an old game too. Animations aren't too bad though - juking and tackling is fun. The crowd is nothing special, though - and the stadiums just felt sort of lifeless to me compared to their real counterparts found in Madden games. It's tough not to compare the two, even if they're not trying to be the same thing.

Sound and Music - 6:

The music was nothing special, but the sound wasn't too bad at all. One of the areas I sort of nitpick at sporting games is the commentary. Here's the thing, the commentary found in this game isn't that much worse than what you would find in this year's Madden. With all of the advancements made with video games in general and sports games in particular, this seems like perhaps one of the most outdated aspects in sports games. The sound effects from the game itself are pretty solid as well. Some of the hits look and sound appropriately violent.

Gameplay - 7:

This is a pretty solid element of the game Running is good - though I like it better in this year's Madden. Offense is easier than defense in my opinion. Gang tackling was a bit ahead of its time back three years ago. The menus are easy enough to navigate and the game of football itself is solid. Unfortunately the modes are a bit lackluster. It was more fun to play a game against another person than the computer. Something deeper and more involving than the season mode would have been nice as well.

Intangibles - 5:

There's not a lot of depth here. Even 2K5 had a franchise mode with progression. There's just not a lot to invest in here. The season mode feels a bit throwaway after going through it once. It seems unlikely you can even find someone to play this game with either. There are a lot of different players - 200+ I believe. That helps because setting up teams is fun, like I mentioned earlier. But the game feels more like a glorified version of fantasy football than the real deal, and that hurts the package quite a bit. The idea of a dream team is great - who doesn't want to see Elway throw to Rice? But once you've played for a bit, there's not much reason to pick it up again. Now, for the primary reason to pick it up in the first place - this game was $4 used at my Gamestop.

Overall - 6:

Obviously this game does not compare to people who want a Madden game with fully fleshed out franchise modes, with real rosters and NFL teams, but you can spend more on five candy bars, which actually makes it worthwhile to take a flyer on this game if you have any interest in it at all. I got it last summer, played it pretty heavily for a weekend and did not pick it up again until this week. I gave it a few more days, and doubt I will pick it up again for awhile. It's a decidedly average, dated game - but at $4 I got a couple of weekends' worth of play out of it, and really that's not such a bad deal I suppose.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gaming News and Notes from 2-2-11

For fans of the Resistance series on PS3 - there's a preview video about the next installment.

My family loves Legos. My son has a ton of them. I liked them growing up. Oh, and there's about a dozen Lego-themed movie adaptation games out here. Including this first look at Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.

Here's a look at Pokemon Black/White - my kids are fascinated by all things Pokemon. We'll wind up owning this I'm sure.

The Last Story for the Wii was a huge hit in Japan. This is one I'm looking forward to in the US.

The Parasite Eve sequel, The 3rd Birthday, is slated to arrive in the US on March 29.

For Kinect fans, there's an interesting new game called Gunstringer that has a trailer out - since there's just not a lot of Kinect games out there yet, despite the unit selling like crazy, any new game news is of interest to their owners at this point.

And for fans of the new DC Universe online game, IGN already has a trailer for the next expansion.

For those looking for yet another reason to consider the 3DS - unsurprisingly there will be a new Mario Bros game.

Interest in Playstation downloadables? Well their half-off deal is done, but there's plenty of new content right now, including Bionic Command Reamed 2 according to the linked article. I loved the first one, but am curious how this will be received. I recall an IGN first impressions a few months ago that was not favorable.

For fans of Demons Souls (raises his hand) there's some info on its spiritual successor - which in theory is supposed to be harder? Good grief...

The upcoming Marvel vs. Camcom game is getting a limited edition fighting stick. A buddy of mine has a Street Fighter one from awhile back. I really really liked it, but they're a bit out of my price range personally.

Last up, I found this sort of funny - but on my own blog an adsense ad popped up for a Magic: The Gathering tactics game (how is I all this card game stuff keeps cropping up in the last 3 weeks for me?). Anyway, I had to give it a shot. The link is here:

My initial impression is pretty favorable. Like D&D Online or LotR Oline - it's free, but to get extra content you have to pay. It's a turn-based tactics game with Magic: The Gathering cards and theming. I may do up a full review on it soon, but so far sunk about four hours into it last night. It looks like it will be released on the PS3 at some point as well and is being brought to us by SOE - the same general group as DC Universe Online I believe. I think to date the Google Adsense stuff has made me a whopping 2 cents so far (retirement here I come) but I thought I would share this unexpected find (there's no reviews of any sort on this game yet that I can find on IGN, Gamespot or Gameinformer - I don't know just how 'new' it is yet).

Monday, January 31, 2011

Got my coffee and games calender...

Just got a rather nice surprise tonight. I had entered a contest on one of the blogs I follow:

Coffee With Games

Fun site - mostly focused on Wii games, but also posts about topics like the 3DS, PS3 games, deals at One of the few blogs I hit pretty much daily. He had a contest recently with names drawn out of a coffee container (fitting, no?) and I won a free Club Nintendo calender I'll be fighting to keep from my son, and some instant coffee that I've already had to hide from my oldest daughter. A very nice surprise after a long day at work.

My son and I were both just looking through the calender - I particularly dug October - Metroid: Other M - which is the Wii game I spent most of the weekend playing. April was Kirby's Epic Yarn, which my youngest is currently playing - very cool. :) Thanks again!