Madden 15 - Xbox One Review

It looks good, but how does it stack up to the prior years?

Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star - PS3 Review

This ambitious RPG might not be for everyone, but is worth giving a chance

Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut - PC Review

The definitive version of an outstanding game

Dialbo III: Ultimate Evil Edition - PS4 Review

The title might say 'Ultimate Evil', but the game is oh-so-good

Starpoint Gemini 2 - PC Review

Assume the role of a ship - it may sound strange, but is worth trying out

Friday, May 6, 2011

Potato Sack #2

So I touched on a trio of titles that were interesting, but as full games were a bit lacking in my mind - at least for the price - back with Potato Sack #1 the other day. This time, I'm examining two of the titles created by Two Tribes - Toki Tori and Rush.

Both of these games are essential puzzlers. Toki Tori has minimal story - you're basically gathering up eggs in various levels using a handful of tools available to you. When you start off, it's little more than navigating a basic level. It's all 2-D platforms, ladders and occasionally very simple enemies that wander back and forth repeatedly. You will use freeze rays, a teleporter, lay down bridges and more during your adventure. There are 4 worlds in total, and a dozen maps in each. I blew through the first two worlds in about an hour, but spent much longer on the last couple of worlds as the difficulty spiked a bit. You have to be very creative when you try to navigate the maps, but there is a handy rewind feature that lets you go back to various points in the map in case you made a silly mistake along the way. It's a great mechanic that encourages much-needed experimentation.

The intangibles are somewhat lacking - there's a harder difficulty that can be applied to the maps, essentially doubling them, but when it's done it's done. There's just not much to do after. Graphics are cute - bright and colorful. My youngest termed them 'adorable' when she saw me playing. The sound is okay though the music was actually pretty catchy. From what I've seen, the maps are different on the PC than the Wii version. Overall, I'd give the game a 7 or maybe 7.5. It was fun, and at $5 on steam, not a bad value if you like this kind of game.

The other Two Tribes game in the Potato Sack was Rush. Again, a puzzle game, but without the cute graphics of Toki Tori. You control blocks that roll from start points, and you use certain physics, signs, treadmills and more to redirect them to a finish point on a 3-D map that sort of reminded me of Marble Madness on a much smaller scale. It sounds easy, and some levels are, but others require a lot of thought. There's a nice hint system you can leverage as well should a map be particularly challenging.

Graphics are bright and fun, if very simple. Not much in the way of sounds, but the music is catchy at times. The controls and menus are easy to get around and the learning curve is pretty solid. There's probably around 100 puzzles in total - you can get more if you sign up for the Steam group on Rush. I liked this one just a bit better than Toki Tori - so probably a 7.5 or an 8 overall out of 10. Like Toki Tori, it has a palatable $5 price tag should this sort of game be of interest, and I believe there's a free demo available for download as well. A pleasant surprise that I spent most of my afternoon on (Toki Tori I believe took me about 4 hours to get through the normal difficulty from start to finish).

In the video you can see my struggling with levels the first time I encountered them in both games. Toki Tori in particular was rough - about the first 4/5 of that video was me being stuck, then dead. Then, the light bulb came on and you can see me wrap up in the level in about a half minute.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Potato Sack #1

So a couple of weeks ago I commented on a fairly large-scale deal Steam had put out. The Potato Sack, as they called it, was a package of 13 games that would in total normally have cost about $130 on Steam, but was available for about $35. Of course, that in and of itself doesn't make it a good deal if the games don't hold up.

Myself? I was interested in 2, maybe 3 games outright that were on the list: Super Meat Boy, Amnesia and had something of an interest in Killing Floor. Those three titles alone would have added up to more than the Potato Sack price, so I went ahead and picked it up, figuring that everything else was extra.

I have been playing the games that came with it to varying degrees, and will talk about them each in turn. A few like Amnesia will likely net a full review, others like the Dejobaan trilogy are light games that are all interesting, but probably not full-review material.

Now, I have never heard of this company before, but their inrto states that they have been "making quality video games for 75 years" - you immediately realize that this small group wears their sense of humor out there for everyone to see.

The first one I played was called 1, 2, 3 Kick it! (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby). Described as:

Battle your favorite drum ‘n’ bass tracks, or zen out as you soar through that trance album. “Kick It” mines your existing MP3 music to build hovering, hallucinogenic worlds to fly and fight through.

This game is a beta right now, but anyone who bought the Potato Sack bundle gets to play the beta for now, and gets the full game when it comes out. What is the game? Well, it's basically a geometric flying/first person game. The shapes, the rhythm and targets all generate based off of the music you choose to play it to. That's right - the game comes with a pair of pre-packaged songs to test it against, but the real replay value will come from putting your own mp3's into the music folder. You gain multipliers and more points by avoiding objects and flying close to - but not touching - them. There's not a whole lot to do in here yet - but I did notice that very different songs did in fact alter the game environment quite a bit. it's still in early stages, but I hope a lot more variety shows up in the final product. There is a shooting mechanic, but it's almost completely unused currently, which makes the game feel more like an interactive Windows Media Player visualization than a true game.

The 2nd game I played was called AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity. Maybe they're digital download because the titles won't fit on retail boxes? :) This game is infused with the same energetic humor as their other ones so far. The description is this:

Jump off of a perfectly good building, create your own stunts, and flip people off for points in our award-winning title for Windows PCs.

So basically you are base jumping off of tall buildings, trying to guide your character during his downward plummet. You want to get close to buildings (close enough to 'hug or kiss' them) for bonus points. As you unlock stages you find more advanced falls, with buildings of varied height and metal beams along the way that can turn your femurs to paste, as they put it. Adding to the variety, some stages have fans and haters - and these groups are exactly what they sound like. Basically you can give your fans a thumbs up and the haters the bird on your way past them. You don't actually see the gesture, but you are rewarded points if you are successful and in proximity.

Like 1...2...3 Kick it, this game relies heavily on large, geometrical shapes to make up most of the landscape.

Last but not least is The Wonderful end of the World, which they describe as:

A joyous trek around the earth to gather everything you can before it's eaten by a giant fish head.

Mass Effect-like story creation this is not, but it is an amusing if simple game in premise. You start off as this sort of empty entity, and you walk around making contact with and 'picking up' or absorbing smaller objects. The more you absorb, the larger you get. Objects that may have been too large 20 seconds ago can then be absorbed once you're of size. The controls aren't bad, some of the levels are genuinely cool (I like the word tile one I included in my video), the music's fun and the world around you scales to continually get smaller as you get bigger. This is probably the game my son, daughter and I played the most of these.

These games run $10 each off of Steam. It's hard for me to say they're worth the price when you can grab a full-fledged game used like Splinter Cell: Conviction from Disc Traders for $11 (which I did the other day), but they were nice addins to the Potato Sack and I enjoy seeing smaller scale games like this and can appreciate the creativity and effort that goes into them. That said? These are probably the weakest part of the Potato Sack package for me personally.

Below is a video of 1...2...3 and Wonderful End of the world - Aaaarg pushed to full screen and I couldn't record that (all I got was a blank black screen). I'll post more games from the Potato Sack soon!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gaming thoguhts... 5/2/11

Quite a bit going on game-wise right now, for me and in general.

So, the in general first:

Lots of new stuff about the Project Cafe by Nintendo has speculation running all over the place. Too soon to really get into any one camp about it, but I'm definitely curious where it will go. Hearing that it will have significantly more horsepower than the 360 and PS3 was interesting, but the controller rumors and how it will be integrated into the game play is a bigger curiosity of mine. Also, hopefully they'll get the online stuff right this time around. Speaking of getting online right...

Sony held a press conference earlier stating that they were working with the FBI and will be slowly bringing up their systems over the next few weeks or so. They're also running with the idea to give Playstation Plus users an extra 30 days free, while giving all PSN users a free 30 day run of Playstation Plus. I think that's a good idea for a few reasons:

- that will increase downloads and help them stress test things
- it doesn't really cost Sony anything unlike the suggestion to put funds in our wallets online
- it gives people a chance to try the service who haven't yet (raises a hand - that's me) - so they may even get some new customers out of the deal.

There was a lot of good sentiment to what Sony's offering and saying, but still question marks. The Playstation Store sounded like it could be down much of May. That makes it hard to take advantage of Playstation Plus - so when does that free 30 day trial start, exactly? Also, Sony has said there would be select free downloadables - I for one am curious what those are. Games? Themes? What if you have said items already - do you get alternates?

So far it doesn't look like anything bad's come of the vulnerable account data, but only time will tell. Losing the network access has been mildly annoying for me - I just picked up Mortal Kombat and couldn't really do much of anything with it online, but I know my time will come. The potential loss of personal credit information was much more bothersome, and I am keeping a close eye on that.

I just wrapped up my large Mortal Kombat series of reviews. I don't often get to review brand new games, that are only a couple of weeks old, so I wanted to get that one out there quickly. A few of my side projects are on hold at the moment. I wanted to do more 'best free games' but haven't had much of a chance. Also, my KotL - Summoner game is on hold for a bit. My trial ran out and I do plan on buying it and picking up where I left off - I've got about 45 minutes of play right now. I don't plan to make this a massive game, but hopefully 4-6 hrs worth of time, but I probably have to wait a few weeks before I can dig back into it anyway.

That gets me into my biggest game related project of late. I've been breaking down the Potato Sack from Steam. 13 games - lots there. I'll probably break this up into multiple posts over the next couple of weeks. While the deal's dead, the individual games are still on Steam for those who find something interesting. And many of these games wind up on sale from time to time - like Amnesia just in the last 6 months has been on sale for 2 or 3 different times and was included in this bundle.

I've also got a handful more reviews coming up soon - having recently beaten several games. So, what am I playing now?

Well, I've been playing King's Bounty on Sega Genesis for a retro. I've been playing FX Pinball as well on my PS3. I've been playing one of the Dragon Ball Z games on my 360 as well. Then there's the potato sack. God of War has gotten a bit of time too. Also as soon as I post this, I am ducking back into Star Craft 2 a bit - I've hardly gotten to play it yet, but really want to so that's next. What have you all been up to and have any thoughts about the general topics above?