NHL 2015 - Xbox One Review

The NHL comes to current gen - but does it do so smoothly?

Gunspell - PC Review

This puzzle game lacks magic

Pure Pool - Xbox ONe Review

Pure fun for billiards fans

Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager - PC Review

I surprisingly high amount of depth makes this trip to the moon worthwhile

Tales of Hearts R - PS Vita Review

This update on the RPG from a few years ago has a lot of heart

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gaming thoughts... 7/8/11

Console durability.

They sure don't make them like they used to. I think that applies to video game consoles as much as anything, doesn't it? They consoles are bigger, more moving parts, they get hotter, the electronics are both more advanced and sensitive... but let's compare a bit. Systems still bouncing around my house and working with minimal maintenance from me:

Old ones still working:

- Atari
- NES
- SNES
- Sega Genesis w/ CD
- Sega Saturn
- N64
- Game boy color
- Game boy advance

Consoles I've had in the past that are now dead and gone:

- Game boy
- Playstation 1
- Playstation 2
- Gamecube

Modern consoles and how they've fared:

- I've had my Wii die once and had to have a refurbished one sent to me for $75

- I've had 1 Xbox 360 red ring and get fixed by Microsoft and then break down in another way that wasn't covered by warranty

- I have purchased 2 other 360's which are both running

- I have purchased 2 PS3's - one broke down last night and no longer reads any discs (feels like it's not spinning)

- We have purchased 3 DS Lites. These get their own breakdown:

* One's cartridge bay broke and Nintendo fixed for free (it was only 2 weeks old), and then that same thing broke about a year and a half later. $50 to fix so we'll probably just replace eventually. (this is my youngest daughter's)

* One's screen cracked when dropped on its side - not even a direct hit, but broke. We had replacement on it though so for $10 we got a new one that lasted until it was traded in for a DSi which has held up well (my son's)
* The third has worked flawlessly (my oldest daughter's)

PSPs - also get two sub headesr:

* Mine was a 2nd generation run, has worked flawlessly
* My father's was a 2nd generation run and it died about a year ago and he gave it to me for parts

It's sort of amazing that I still have working consoles from two decades ago, and then myself and many other people have had to replace modern consoles in two years (or less). I've heard horror stories ranging from red ring of death for the 360, yellow light of death for the PS3 to Wii black screen of death - I've actually suffered two of these issues myself (the 360 and Wii).

But we invest so much in these systems, we're bound to replace them most of the time, right? I was already set to sell some stuff to one of my buddies for about $400. I suspect I'll get a new PS3 when that happens because my game collection is worth more than that alone and we really do heavily use two of them in two different rooms (yes, at this point I expect no sympathy as I clearly spent far more on gaming systems than I ever have on a good, grownup car). Bummer is I was considering a 3DS or putting the money toward getting my wife a new cpu.

What are your thoughts? Have you had any modern console horror stories of your own? What did you do? replace or sell your game collection after? With the Wii U coming out, I worry about the controller durability as well - now there's an additional, potentially very expensive component to concern yourself with.

Also, I've been hearing rumors of a $50-$100 price drop for the PS3. Anyone else heard this? Since I won't be getting my $400 until Aug 16th, I'm really hoping those rumors come to pass sooner than later!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair - Xbox Live REview

I recently reviewed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and one of the complaints some people had was that the game was more God of War than Castlevania. Another Castlevania game I only recently got the chance to play was Castlevania: Harmony of Despair - and this title is very much a throwback to the older Castlevania games, but with a unique twist. It has some RPG elements in the equipment you can find/buy that increases your stats. The most noticeable change however was the inclusion of multiplayer - in fact, the game feels like it was built with multiplayer in mind. It was a risky new direction to take, but did it pay off?


Graphics - 7:

There is an old-school feel to the graphics, and it works well. Animations are nothing spectacular, but the pixelated appearance does a great job of setting the scene. The castles are all quite large, and there are some decent interactions with the backgrounds. The ability to snap to three different view sizes is a huge plus since each level is very labyrinthine.


Sound & music - 6:

The music does not really 'fit' with how I picture Castlevania in my mind, and the sound effects are very simple and recycled quite a bit. The sound effects get the job done and the weird guitar music used in the background is not necessarily bad, but for me Castlevania games were largely about atmosphere, and that is not really handled well by the music here.


Gameplay - 7:

This is the basic gameplay fans of Castlevania are no doubt most familiar with. Run, jump, attack. It's combat and platforming and the level layouts are actually pretty creative for the most part. Your character does not gain experience, but you gain gold as you play and you can grind to get better and better gear, which raises your stats. There are also several characters you can choose from that helps to add some variety to the proceedings as well.

Unfortunately, the game is built with multiplayer in mind - and I have tried at least two or three dozen times now to find matches online and have not succeeded even once. The lack of local co-op hurts too, because my son and I would love to play together but can't. Some of these levels are just really, really hard on your own, which is no doubt by design, but frustrating as I can't seem to find much of a community out there for it.


Intangibles - 7:

The game only comes with 6 maps, but there have been several more released since then, which is nice. You can't progress through the original six until you beat your current one, though you can thankfully jump ahead to the downloaded ones. I used that to help gear myself up better since later maps are 'higher level' and generally have better drops. It was a good workaround for me since I lacked anyone to actually play the game with. The way you improve upon your characters and the fact that the different characters all actually feel different is a big help.


Overall - 6.75:

I might have enjoyed the game a bit more if I had picked it up when it first came out and there were more people still playing it, but as it stands what was meant to be a social experience has shaped up to be a largely solo one. To that end, some sort of scaling difficulty would have been nice so I did not feel like I was in over my head. I understand the decision not to have local co-op based on the very independent nature of your travels through the castles, but my son and I both agreed we would have preferred split screen to only single-player as well. It was a good idea with some addictive formulas that just aren't quite clicking for me, as much as I wish they were.



Monday, July 4, 2011

Gaming thoughts... 7/4/11

Actually, not much in the way of gaming thoughts today. I just wanted to wish everyone a spectacular 4th of July.

I spent yesterday out with my wife and kids at Michigan's Adventure. Worked up a semi-sore back, stiff legs and a slightly tender sunburn, but all in all it was a lot of fun. Today is going to consist of some grilling, some fireworks tonight and then back to work tomorrow.

Still, one quick gaming thought I can share: I really like the new Captain America (see? Keeping it in theme) table for Marvel Pinball. Picked that up on a whim the other day to go with my other Marvel tables and scored rather nicely on my first play. More to come on the Marvel tables soon!

Happy Independence Day to all and I hope you've had a nice weekend!