Red Steel 2 - Nintendo Wii review

Happy New Year!

Hope you are all in for a very nice evening, whether it's going out with friends, having family visit, or just hiding indoors and playing some video games - here's to a great if all-too-fast 2010 and what we hope will be an even better 2011. With that out of the way, I wanted to slip in my last game review of the year.

Red Steel 2 was one of those games that I think slipped under the radar a bit. It got pretty good overall scores from professional game sites, and overall players seemed to enjoy it, but I'm sure Ubisoft had been hoping for better overall sales. There were a few things probably working against the game though - from the Teen rating, to its requirement of Wii Motion Plus to the underwhelming public opinion of the first game. Now however, might be a good idea to pick this one up if you have had any interest in it. I've been seeing this game relatively cheaply on a variety of sites now, most Wiimotes come with Motion Plus, and many people now already have the Motion Plus, due in part to Wii Sports Resort. And don't let the name fool you - this game may share some principle ideas from Red Steel, but it's not a sequel and the quality is much, much higher.

Graphics - 10:

The game oozes style with its unique visuals - combining the Old West with Eastern/samurai influences. There's a flat, cartoonish look to the graphics that is not my personal favorite, but it works for the game and runs at a beautiful clip. I've read that it runs at 60 frames per second, and I don't doubt that. The engine used works well, never showing pop-in or tearing of any kind. The colors used are also vibrant most of the time. I would have to say overall, this is probably one of, if not the best-looking Wii game I have had the pleasure of playing to date.

Sound & Music - 7:

This was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the sound effects got the job done without ever being overwhelming - or terribly memorable. The music was quite good however, as I found myself on several occasions pausing and thinking how cool/atmospheric it was Like the graphics, the music was among the best I've enjoyed for the Wii to date. So why not a higher score? Well, the voice acting. It was bad - almost to the point of irritating me at times. I've heard some people say that it was an intentional choice to make it campy in order to compliment the cartoony graphics, but if that's the case then I think it was a poor design choice. In a game where your actions are so immersive, having voice work that takes you out of that feeling of 'being there' hurts a lot in my opinion. I'm usually a huge fan of voice work in games as much as possible, but here it was more detraction than advantageous.

Gameplay: - 8:

There is a lot of positive to take away from this part of the game. The Motion Plus is beautifully realized here. The sword motions are well-represented on the screen. This is no Wii Sports Baseball where clever animations hide the fact that controls are not precise - here your sword stabs and slashes all respond very nicely. There are times the motions are misread, and it can be somewhat frustrating when it happens, but I can't even say for certain that the game was misreading it - or if I was just being a bit too frantic in my handling of my weapons during some of the more chaotic combat scenes. I will admit I enjoyed the swordplay a lot more than the gun mechanics. Pointing and aiming is fine, if a bit too touchy at times, but swinging, blocking and counterstriking were a lot more fun for me personally. It should also be noted - this is not a game for sitting on the sofa. A lot of Wii games can be done sitting down - do not count this among them. I'm sure you could, but you'd be cheating yourself in doing so. You should be moving your arms about as you square off with a group of thugs. That being said, some people really rebel at the 'get up off of the sofa' ideal, even if they have a Wii - one of my buddies at work is like that. The controls do not work nearly as well from a seated position in my opinion - you have been warned.

Intangibles - 5:

The game takes a sizeable hit here for me. For all of the things done right above (except the voice work) - the game is just too short. I think I beat it in about thirteen or fourteen hours. There's some challenge stuff to add to it, but not much and with a lack of online modes, once you're through the story - there's just not much to do beyond that. I also enjoyed the early part of the game more than the latter quarter or so. The progression system is nice, allowing you to improve in a variety of ways such as new techniques, but by the last quarter of the game or so I felt too strong. I do not recall many fights at all that challenged me - I was just mopping the floor with all of the bad guys by that point. Lastly, the storyline of the game itself was somewhat lacking - I was completely into the gameplay and the combat, but it felt like the mechanics deserved a better game around them. I was doing a lot of contracts and side adventures more for the sake of the combat than any sense of story or game progression. If the experience could be slightly refined and dropped into a much longer, deeper storyline, I think we'd have an all-time title here.

Overall - 7.5:

I really wanted to give this game a higher overall score. I bought it shortly after it released, and it was one of those games that sat on my game shelf several months longer than anticipated. Once I gave Red Steel 2 a chance, I thoroughly enjoyed it - but with its lack of replay value, it's now in my stack of games to be traded in sometime in the next couple of weeks. It's one of those titles that if you can pick it up cheaply, it's worth a play and will give you a couple days of solid, entertaining action. It's not one that you'll put away and forget - in fact I'll likely recall Red Steel 2 fondly for some time to come. However, I can say right now that I have little interest in picking it up for a second round of adventure, diminishing the title's long term value when I have plenty of other games to play still. For those considering this title for kids, there' a bit of language and there's plenty of violence to be had - though this may be where the cartoon style is a boon. It doesn't strike me as visually 'worse' than some of the more action-oriented cartoons you find on TV nowadays.


Hope you all had a great holiday!

I certainly did. I got a few days off from a very busy recent work schedule, and I have a few more incoming this weekend. So, for the holidays? I must have been a really good boy this year, becuase Santa did ridiculously well by me. Aside from the new computer my wife got me (thank you hon!) - I got a ton of new games. Now, the computer's been amazing (pretty sure the old one was hamster powered, and the poor little critter was on is last legs), but the setup for all of my files and programs has been a fairly lengthy process. On top of that, I have a bunch of games I've been collecting over the last few years, but that my old cpu could never seem to manage without fear of smoke billowing out of the backside. So, I may have some older cpu games to comment on soon (got Neverwinter Nights 2, The Witcher, a bunch of older games from Good old Games at - so that'll be fun.

What do we have to look forward to on the console side of things? Well - a ton of newer and older games, ranging from Culdcept Saga on the 360, to the Uncharted games and Mod Nation Racers for the PS3, to Kirby's Epic Yarn and Metroid: Other M for the Wii - not to mention the Sony Move we won for our PS3 we're just now dusting off too (Eyepet has been a ridiculous hit with my younger 2. I may ask them to write me up their thoughts in a paragraph or two as well when I review that one).

So, I'm definitely around, just 'suffering' through the amazing good luck of games and computer for now. I do have a handful of other games to toss up reviews on that I'm about done formulating thoughts and taking notes on as well, and if all goes well, I'll have a lot more content to toss out there over the next month or two. I hope you had a great 2010 and I look forward to 2011 with those of you out there who read this blog of mine!

Take care!

Nick / Chalgyr

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn - Nintendo Wii review

I’ve long been a fan of turn-based strategy/rpg games. I’ve written in the past about some of the older ones I played, like the Shining in the Darkness series, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I played Warsong on my Sega Genesis. To this day, Dragonforce is easily my most fondly remembered Sega Saturn game (I’ve thought about getting a Saturn again just to play that particular disc, and have long lamented that the sequel never made it to North America). More recently, I’ve played and reviewed some games that were fun, but left me a bit disappointed in places (like Record of Agarest War and Vandal Hearts: Fires of Judgment).

Somehow over the years, I’ve missed the Fire Emblem series. I did some research on it recently and realized it’s been around for quite a few years, on systems I had and just never picked up on it. I remember first discovering the Marth character in an early Super Smash Brother’s game. So, a couple of months ago when I stumbled onto Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Wii, I decided to take it for a spin and see if I liked it.

The short answer is that yes – I liked it quite a bit. The game’s characters were interesting, and it led me to research the prior games. It’s then I realized that this particular title is a direct sequel to the Fire Emblem game for the Gamecube that I recall getting great scores when it came out.

The game itself is pretty straight forward. You follow a band of characters through some storyline elements that lead to set piece turn-based combat. There’s units that vary in weapon use and skill, and you try to take advantage of their strengths while masking their weaknesses against computer controlled units. There’s level progression, stat increases, a large variety of weapons and skills and quite a bit more.

The pros were pretty numerous for me. The game had quality built-in tutorials, several very deep systems (like the support system where if you have two characters who spend some time around one another and supporting one another in combat, then before their next map deployment you might get to pair them up, offering some bonuses when they are close to one another on the map. Have them converse on the battlefield and support one another and you may get an option to strengthen their support then later – and this is a process you can do a couple of times until they reach “A” level support). There’s a weapon forging system, lots of spells, a skill allocation system and more.

Overall, I felt like the graphics were better than Vandal Hearts, and the depth far more impressive than what Agarest War provided. That said, it is not all roses. The game is tough. I’m not new to strategy games, but like the old Warsong game, if a key character dies, you have to restart the level. If a non-key character dies, they are gone forever. This is a far cry from Agarest War, which almost requires that some of your characters die in bigger fights, so you can bring them back to life and chain ridiculous super moves. Not the case here. If you support character dies, there is no bringing them back on that map – or ever again. And you will have characters who die in just 1 hit if you don’t protect them adequately. There are times the combat just feels cheap, and you may have to go entire maps without making any mistakes, or risk having to start the map over or progressing without a supporting character anymore.

Let’s break down the gaming components and render a verdict now, shall we?

Graphics – 5:

I have always felt that some games benefit more from graphics and sound than others. If you’re playing a first person shooter or an atmospheric survival/horror game, then you need graphics and sound to help immerse you in the experience. RPG and strategy games don’t need these elements to be successful because they pull you in with other convesions like their story-telling and character progression systems. That said, it doesn’t hurt to have nice graphics, and this game does – in the cut scenes. The occasional full video gets played before chapters and key events, and they have a neat ‘events to come’ prelude that really worked for me in the context of the game, but honestly the in-game visuals looked like something that would have been right at home on the Gamecube or DS. Even my son at one point got that mixed feeling. He watched a round of combat, and said that the characters looked silly, but then a screen popped up showing the experience gained and showed a nicely illustrated portrait and my son immediately said, “His armor looks a lot cooler here.” The overall graphics just look muddled and relatively lacking in detail. One thing I did like is that the backgrounds were a notch above most other strategy games of this ilk, at least in art direction if not technical execution. They actually reflected some of the background scenery nicely and I recall one area where I was fighting in a swamp that characters were standing knee-deep splashing around in the water as they fought, which was cool.

Sound & Music – 7:

The music is okay, but again just has a last-gen feel to it. Nothing I can put a finger on, but nothing terribly memorable either. Except later in the game – I got to a chapter and suddenly I noticed the fight music was different. This made me wonder if the entire game’s fight music to that point had been pretty much the same or not – and I found I could not recall. The combat sounds are pretty minimal as well. The voice work is not bad, but you seldom get any. Between chapters there’s sometimes a narrator voicing over a map about the story’s broader events, but those sections are usually lacking in character and did little to really pull me into the story. The cut scenes had some decent voice overs, but they were too lacking in number to help bring the score up much.

Gameplay – 8:

Some people picked on this game for not making use of the Wii remote’s capabilities – I personally have no problem with that design choice. Like a sports game or a shooter, the aiming mechanic draws you into the game. I don’t see waggling a remote at the screen to march my units around as a terribly immerse component. The menu’s are good, there’s no slowdown, and I never had trouble operating my units, so to me the game succeeded in what it was trying to do.

Intangibles – 8:

When you gain levels, the stats improved are random. There are class evolutions your characters can experience too. The battle maps felt so much more organic than anything I saw in Agarest War, where I felt like my 6 guys were dumped into a small, level battle field. Here there were houses, roads, paths, terrain elements, varying win conditions and unit allotments – it felt much more in-line with the actual story that was being presented. That said, the story was a bit odd – it was not the best story ever, but there are chapters where you change parties and perspectives, and that lends itself to seeing what could have been a horribly cliché storyline into something a bit more interesting due to the varied vantage points experienced. There’s no online or multiplayer to be had, though to be honest I would not expect those things from a game like this. You can save mid-battle too, which is not only a huge time saver, but a sanity one too since there are times you will lose someone to some unforeseen circumstance, and you’d otherwise be faced with the decision to start the level over, or press on without the lost character. I’ve read that you can import saved data from the Gamecube version – Path of Radiance. I didn’t get to test this myself, but if so that is a cool feature for fans of the series. There’s also a new game plus that lets you slightly alter the storyline at one point and enlist the help of a few more characters from what I read. There’s also slight variations to the end storyline depending on which characters have formed support bonds and if their score is an “A” or not.

Overall – 7:

The ending was pretty cool – it was nearly a 20 minute affair if you, like me, sit through the credits after a long, hard fought game. I dropped about 55 hours into it, according to the save data, though I’d guess I spent an extra 10 over that on replays from last save due to the annoying death of a character. I games like Shining Force or Vandal Hearts, you lose a character for a round – not the game. To me that’s always been a slightly harsh game mechanic and one that definitely caused me some frustration here. It’s a tough game, but deep and it rewards you for time, patience and forethought. It’s an older game, but one that I enjoyed more than most of the recent ones I’ve played from the genre.


Gaming News and Notes from 12-20-10

If you are, like me, anxiously awaiting news on the Nintendo 3DS (I have a stack of games awaiting trade-in), then you will be excited for the news… that is unfortunately not coming until Jan 19th. I wish I was kidding. Is it going to keep the ridiculous price tag they are going to pay in Japan? ($299) – wait 3 weeks and find out…

The Black Ops First Strike DLC comes to Xbox 360 first, and it hits Feb 1st. And yes, it's $15.

Dragon Quest VI is coming as a remake to the DS on Valentine's Day.

There's a ps3 remastering of the last few Tomb Raider games coming out in the future Don't knwo about this one myself. I'm pretty excited for the Ico collection, and thought the God of War collection was a solid idea. Still mixed on the Prince of Persia one - but these games are not that old and were released on these consoles already this generation. Feels almost like a double dip to me, but if it has a discount price, it might be worth a peek.

Does any MMO stand a chance to unseat World of Warcraft? Well, if there is - it might just be Titan - which Blizzard has announced as their next MMO project.

Fan of discounted Xbox Live games? I am - and Microsoft is hoping you are too as they listed a slate of discounted games starting tomorrow for an 11 day sale.

Super Meat Boy (800 MSP, normally 1,200)
Comic Jumper (800 MSP, normally 1,200)
Toy Soldiers (800 MSP, normally 1,200)
Banjo Tooie (600 MSP, normally 1,200)
Castle Crashers (600 MSP, normally 1,200)
The UnderGarden (400 MSP, normally 800)
Risk Factions (400 MSP, normally 800)
After Burner Climax (400 MSP, normally 800)
Borderlands: Claptrap's New Robot Revolution (400 MSP, normally 800)
Carcassonne (400 MSP, normally 800)

Several of these games have had good reviews, and I lucked out and snagged Carcassonne a couple years ago for free, but some games like Castle Crashers and Super Meat Boy in particular have been quite popular for awhile now and might be good buys.

Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 is looking good, and running on the Mass Effect 3 engine it seems.

Monday Night Combat - Xbox Live review

Monday Night Combat was an Xbox Live game I picked up with Limbo and the latest Lara Croft game some months ago. I played through Limbo a couple of times and posted a review on that, and still have to put some meaningful time into the Lara Croft game, but now that I’ve played some Monday Night Combat, let’s talk a bit more about it.

I thought I would try and preface my reviews a bit more talking about the modes and the overall game, and then break down into the actual scores at the end and see how I like the slight modification to format. Monday Night Combat is an over the top shooter where the objective in the protection of or taking out of a Moneyball, a target that is a glorified piñata with tons of cash in it. This is no Call of Duty or Halo, and you have a simplified objective that is more important than rattling off some headshots.

The Blitz mode is a cooperative mode where you (and some friends if you want them to hop in) fight off wave after wave of incoming bots. There’s defense guns you can set up and improve upon as well as your own powers you can upgrade, giving the game a sort of tower defense and 3rd person shooter feel at the same time. The better you do, the more money you earn. The more money you earn, the more turrets and upgrades you can afford.

Crossfire is an online versus mode that is a blast, but loaded with chaos too. Once again you have turrets and you can upgrade yourself as you attempt to take out the other team’s moneyball. Both games require that you be fast with your upgrade decisions while being a quick, accurate aim too. There’s a fair amount to do between matches too. You can make customized classes that have various ‘sponsorships’ or perks that give you some small bonuses while playing. The better you do, the more between-match cash you accrue. There’s also a ‘leveling’ system as well, which is kind of a fun addition.

Graphics – 8:

There’s a graphical style here that’s wonderfully cartoony. This game was not meant to compete with Modern Warfare or Battlefield, and the graphics help to give it a unique feeling that really works for the game. If they tried to be ultra realistic it might have come across as a weak, lightweight attempt, but by making things a bit more comically over-the-top it feels fresh. Animations are solid and the overall team color schemes are good, though I did see some slowdown during frantic online activity and the zones themselves do lack some visual variation.

Sound and Music – 6:

I’m going to hit this one a bit. Music’s okay I guess, not memorable but it doesn’t get in the way. The game’s sound effects are okay as well, though I never really noticed it feeling as immersive as those found in higher end shooters that make outstanding use of my surround sound. The announcer’s voice kind of grated on my nerves and he was really repetitive.

Gameplay – 8:
The menus are easy to navigate, and once you know what you want to do with your upgrades, it’s pretty easy to do them quickly. The actual combat mechanics are not as precise as some of the top shelf games, but they don’t quite have to be to function well. The classes all feel unique as well, which helps lend some variety to the action. Some of my online games, as I mentioned in graphics, can slow down a bit when the action really heats up, and that can be rather annoying. It can also take a long time to connect to matches, but I never had issues with having to drop out of a match once one started.

Intangibles – 7:

The leveling system is nice, and I liked the customization options. The different classes add some variety to the game and give you a reason to try different things. The online play helps out a ton, since the single player offline mode is okay, but not nearly as fun as the more chaotic co-op and competitive modes. The lack of maps and additional modes really hurt though, and the lack of variety in sounds and arenas do give a sort of ‘been there, done that’ vibe after awhile.

Overall – 7.5:

I enjoyed the game overall. It was fun, and there were goals that kept me coming back for more and tweaking my contestant. I mentally found myself thinking this was Smash TV for the current consoles, or at least a lightweight version of what a fleshed out modern Smash TV could be (I loved that game in the arcade). I came in to this game with modest expectations at the time, having decided to take part of an Xbox promotion at the time to buy 3 games. I picked up Lara Croft and Limbo and then waffled between Monday Night Combat and Castlevania for awhile, but finally opted for Monday Night Combat and definitely did not regret it. It lacks serious depth, but it fits my occasional need for a quick sit down and shoot something fix.


EA Sports MMA - Xbox 360/PS3 game review

Been a bit since I had any new reviews. Between the holidays and getting lost in a handful of very cool games, I haven't been at my cpu quite as much, but here's one that I've spent a couple of weeks on:

EA Sports MMA is a very different kind of fighting game. THQ’s generally well-received UFC game has been the sole occupant of the MMA space, and though I haven’t had a chance to play that game, I went more than a few rounds with EA’s MMA game and here’s my general thoughts on it.

Graphics – 8:

The overall motions look pretty smooth, and while I’d like to see a bit more variety in the styles overall, cosmetically there’s a lot you can do to give your fighter a unique look. The graphics and controls both reminded me of EA’s excellent Fight Night series as well. The replays look awesome and can be fun to save and watch later. The overall menus are nothing special, and the venues look okay at a glance but also don’t do much beyond that to impress. You can get bit hits in that have a nice disconcerting effect on the visuals and sound, which is nice. It might have been interesting to see physical development for your character, like a higher grade of muscle tone as they improve in certain areas, just to give the fighter a slightly more dynamic appearance over the 40 matches of your career mode.

Sound & Music – 8:

Plenty of good tunes make up the sound track, and the commentary and crowd sounds are pretty nice – though often repetitive. It’s a common trend with sports games – the commentary is very cool early on, but after awhile you’ve heard pretty much all of it. There’s not a lot of ring sound in and of itself, though. It seems like there could be some more in-ring sound effects to help vary things up, and I would love to see an extended commentary.

Gameplay – 7:

This was a tough one for me. I liked the overall scheme. The stick system was very reminiscent of the Fight Night games where you use variations of right-analog stick movement to make your strikes. Unfortunately sometimes it is just about impossible to pull off a specific move, no matter how many times you’ve tried. Most of the time the controls are good, but when they’re not responding the way you feel like they should, it can be very frustrating. The layout and pass system on the ground is pretty cool too. That said, the computer can be frustrating beyond belief during some of the training exercises, and it feels like people and the computer can somehow just button mash during the ground game. What’s disappointing is this game is not meant to be a button masher. The game is at its best when it’s experienced as a game with give and take, the fighting having a sort of ebb and flow – especially the wrestling components. The online connectivity was good – I almost never experienced any significant lag from it. Matches of al kinds seem short – it seems like either I win quickly or lose quickly, and the game does have a ton of load times. They could use some more load screens and dialogs, because you do spend a good chunk of your time staring at them.

Intangibles – 8:

The career mode was my favorite. They did a great job of making the training exercises something that once you get them perfected, or as close as you think you will be on one, you can then simulate them to get the full effect. In other similar titles, like Fight Night, you have to do the same repetitive training motions every time, and if you sim it you only get half credit, which is frustrating. This speeds up the affair a ton, which helps to compensate for the painfully long and frequent load times. The online mode has quite a few options to keep things fresh and the stable of fighters included is pretty solid as well. The accomplishments are by and large pretty easy to get overall, if that’s something of particular interest to you.

Overall – 7.75:

It’s a good game, but it could be better. For a first effort it’s definitely a series to keep an eye on, and with some additional polish to the career mode in particular, it will be a series that could gain popularity, just like the sport it is based on. The graphics, sound and commentary could use some touch up, and the presentation could use a bit more depth in the career mode (there’s a blogger of sorts who chronicles your progress with these big written posts. Not bad, but it feels like it could be a bit deeper on all fronts). I enjoyed it quite a bit and played it heavily for a couple of weeks, though the career mode and free fight did start to wear thin after that. The online mode helped to sustain the game’s value as well.


I'm still here :)

But, with the holiday stuff going on, and some extra business with work and all of that fun stuff - I haven't had quite as much game time of late, plus I've sunk in on a few games that are taking a good chunk of time to complete, like Fire Emblem. Older tactical strategy game, but I'm enjoying it so far. Anyway - I should have some reviews up this weekend, at least a couple of so. And well - then for Christmas? A whole lot more, so be patient and I should have plenty incoming soon. :)

Call of Duty: Black Ops Playstation 3/Xbox 360 review

The Call of Duty franchise is one of the biggest and best-known out there. I actually had not played the earlier ones, as first person shooters were never one of my favorite genres. But some buddies of mine got me into Modern Warfare 2, and I loved it. Then I started to play a few others and eventually got myself real excited about the recent Black Ops game. Obviously there were videos and stories leading up to its release, and these coupled with a good marketing campaign has led to an amazingly successful launch for the series. So, what’s my take on it? Here goes:

Graphics – 8:

I liked the look and feel better than Modern Warfare overall, but I ran into some odd glitching more often than I cared for, where textures would pop in and out, and lightning effects would mar the otherwise nicely crafted experience. Still, the expressions are often very good, providing good emotional values to the scenes while the environment were varied and in some cases, wonderfully colored and realized.

Sound and Music – 10:

The voice acting was excellent, and the dialog was great as well. It really helped to carry along the story, which I thought was a lot of fun. The music was also generally very good, and in some instances simply amazing in choice and context. There were a wide variety of sound effects that add to both the action and the feel of the storyline itself. This is a game that makes excellent use of my surround system, and is actually helpful in giving away things like footfalls and bullet direction. If I have a pet peeve with any of this, is I have the game on my PS3, but I don’t have a headset for my Playstation. As such, I find myself muting people constantly in the online games because I can’t talk with them – so I sure don’t want to hear them. I found that trying to globally mute other players was a popular question online when I Googled it, whereas it is quite easy to do on the 360 using your personal preferences in Modern Warfare 2 (and from what I read online, easy with this game as well).

Gameplay – 8:

The game controls well – aiming and movement are sharp, and with a quick twitch game such as this – especially with the online mode, that is a must to have. There’s a ton to do as well, and the menus are generally pretty easy to navigate around in, though there were a few control scheme options I think that got neglected. I’ve seen a lot of people online looking for how to unlock perk pluses and not realizing what button they needed to press on the unlocked base perks to see it. Also, the online connectivity is borderline maddening at times. With the online being such an integral part of the package, I’ve found my connectivity most nights being really rough – at least half of the time I try to play, the servers are almost unplayable. I’d think it was me or my connection but I can A) hop on Halo with my 360 and have no problems b) play other online ps3 games and have no issue and c) I’ve been reading about a lot of other people having trouble with it as well. I’ve heard that this issue is being looked into and I am hopefully it’ll be improved upon, but I have to knock off a point or two just based on this.

Intangibles – 9:

The story mode is amazingly fun – but ridiculously short still. This is a common complaint/observation I’ve heard about the series since at lead CoD 4 – and one I levied against Modern Warfare 2 myself. This mission was a bit longer I think, but not by much. Still, the story was excellent, with my older daughter having watched me play through about 85% of it. Why is this significant? A) she’s not a gamer b) she doesn’t have any interested in war movies – but she sat through almost all of this, fascinated with the storyline and even commenting several times that it felt, looked and sounded like ‘one of those war movies you’d watch, dad’ – so kudos to the team for that.

Online is where the majority of people will play this game, and for good reason. The maps are well made, the classes and progression are fun. Instead of relying completely on levels and accomplishments (like in the prior games) to unlock things, you play for ‘currency’ you can spend as well. So at a certain level you may unlock the ability to get a gun, but you still need the credits on hand to purchase it. I suspect this will drag out the game’s playlife a bit for people like me who like to unlike pretty much… everything. This mode is more rewarding for me than Halo: Reach’s rewards system, because there the upgrades are only cosmetic and here they affect gameplay. However, a huge demerit for this mode is the online connectivity issues that appear to be anything but an isolated problem only for me.

Zombie modes are almost starting to annoy me in games. Bad enough that there’s so many ‘zombie’ games out there lately (between the RE series, Dead Rising – even Plants vs. Zombies), and now it’s creeping in as a ‘mode’ in a lot of games (I just saw something on IGN about how the upcoming Yakuza game would have one). Here however, it’s still pretty fun running around blasting zombies with a shotgun while trying to earn credits and repair broken doors and windows. It is not stand-alone game material, but for an add-on it’s pretty solid.

There’s some other pretty cool stuff in here, including an online training mode, a Smash TV-like overhead arcade style shooter, unlockable intel, a zork text game (though playing it on that keyboard they provide you with seems like it would get old and fast) – and this secret thing you can do in the main menu to stand up and walk around to access a computer (and some of these features). There’s a ton of content here, and most of it is very well done. If I could go 2 or 3 weeks without bad online connectivity issues, I’d probably bump the score to a 9.5, and if the online mode had just a *bit* more variety from say, Modern Warfare 2’s online weapon loadouts and options, it would be a 10 in my mind.

Overall – 8.75:

The game feels great overall. I was a day-of-release pickup for it. There’s a handful of things holding it back from complete greatness – online issues, some areas that feel like they’re a bit rehashed and a very short single player campaign mode (I beat it in a day). But there’s a lot going for the game too – from fantastic production values to a variety of modes that really add to the game’s depth. It’s definitely not one for little kids – the violence can be scaled back, which is what I make my son due, but there’s a good deal of strong language to keep the violence company.


Random Odds and Ends

Interesting article on Yahoo! about the Onlive cloud system for playing higher end games on lower end computers. As someone with a fairly low-end cpu, the idea is intriguing - as someone with a 360, Wii and PS3, I'm firmly in the corner of having hardware that just plays games under optimal conditions. Probably not for me, but interesting all the same.

Got my Wii back. The first round of the process did not go so smoothly - my UPS shipping label never arrived, so after about 10 days I flagged them down. The next one got to me 2 days later, it was shipped out, repaired and back 3 days later. So that time the process ran about a week. Having picked up a handful of new Wii games, including one for the kids for Christmas, I'm rather hoping to roll out some Wii reviews again soon. Spent some time tonight playing Wii Sports Resort tonight with my son, rebuilding Mii's and fiddling around with Dr. Mario Online Rx. Good times. :)

Not sure specifically what was wrong with the Wii - they replaced the whole thing it looks like, so it must have been a fairly major failure. Still, $85 shipped, replaced, with a 1 year warranty isn't too bad - and I had heard horror stories about how ds's and wii's could be tough to get your downloaded games back onto. It wasn't bad at all, they associated the new machine with my old, and my prior downloads list was on there, so Mario Party, Ninja Gaiden, Final Fantasy, Pokemon Rumble and more simply had to be downloaded. Perhaps the biggest bummer was the loss of the save data. Makes me want to start using the SD card and see if that's a bit more reliable since between this and my daughter accidentally reformatting it this summer, we've had to rebuild our Smash Bros. and Mario Kart data for the 3rd time now.

NBA 2K11 Review for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3

I’ve already detailed in length about my interest in sports games, with the Madden series being a long-standing favorite of mine. NBA games however, have always come in at something of a close second for me. It started with the old Tecmo Basketball, which to my knowledge was the first time an NBA game had full seasons, stat keeping and playoffs. Later there were NBA games by EA Sports that captured more unique aspects of the players and their likenesses, and eventually they introduced franchise modes complete with the kind of player progressions that really hooked me into most sports games. EA’s brand was the strongest for years, but then the 2k series started to show up strong around 2k5 (back when my Pistons were on top of the league), and the sales and reviews began to swing in favor of the 2K series. This year, EA was going to scrape its prior recipe for the NBA games and release a new series called “Elite” – that unfortunately got derailed for reasons of timeliness and – according to some sources – quality. So with NBA 2k11 the only contender in the space, did they put forth an All-Star effort or mail it in?

Graphics – 9:

The animations are generally very smooth. NBA games are some of the trickiest of any sport to model. In football or hockey, you tend to be a bit further from the action, so face and hair models don’t generally have to be as precise. They also tend to be covered with bulky gear. Baseball games still show less of the players’ physiques and the number of animations really are not as varied either. People have a tendency to play in space by themselves. This makes what the 2K series’ graphics so impressive –they have to account for facial models, physical accuracy (and things like tattoos), as well as varying playing styles and work it all into the context of a game where these already difficult to manager characters are jostling around and interacting with each other constantly. Sure, it’s not perfect, sometimes slightly canned animations do odd things like have you step out of bounds when you shouldn’t be, and some faces really give you pause.

The arenas look great overall. Crowds don’t do much, but they fill space and look convincing enough. Lighting, floors – all of it just feels very authentic. I also need to give a nod to the replay features. The Sprite Slam Cams, Gatorade Moment of the Game, and Jordan Brand Player of the Game replays all look very slick (I love the player of the game one, which shows various cuts of action from the game, played out against various filters. Rodney’s Stuckey’s whirlwind layup in my last game looked amazing).

Sound and Music – 9:

There is a very good mix of songs that make up the music in this game. In what my wife and her friend once called the greatest invention in a sports game, years ago many games started adding actual songs to the tracklists (apparently my buddy’s wife and mine got tired of the same old music playing over and over and over for hours on end when we were tweaking our Madden or hoops rosters. Who knew?) Hearing The Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius" play when you first fire up the game and take control of Jordan as he enters the court was an amazing video game moment.

The announcing is quite good as well. Of course these games do tend to get a bit redundant. I wish they could work in more variety, and while the contexts are usually quite good, I could only stand to hear the same thing said about my team so many times. If you play as the Wizards, you’ll hear about John Wall a lot – which makes sense, but they have 2 or 3 canned dialogs about him, and odds are, you will hear them each and every game of his rookie season. I haven’t gotten through enough seasons yet to be sure, but I’m curious if they’ll still be talking about him as some hot prospect in 8 years on there or not. Still, overall, the graphics, sound and music bits work wonderfully to create a live TV game environment.

Gameplay 8:

Overall, it handles really well. The movements are pretty good, and it’s easy to navigate around the various menus. There are some quirks though that can get annoying. You take too many shots down low that tend to hit the sides or backside of the backboard, and some of the canned animations can have you stepping out of bounds even if you’re pushing away from the baseline the entire time. Also, there are way too many steals and blocks. I don’t mind tight defense, but using the Pistons I’m getting at least 8-10 blocks a game, and while my steals are only around 5 a game, my opponents pick off at least a dozen a game. If anyone but a guard is dribbling, or you try to throw an outlet pass or a cross court pass regularly, you will be lucky to complete 2 or 3 a game, which is a bit frustrating as I prefer up-tempo (as do most players, which is probably why they’ve added this artificial layer of defense). The post game however is solid – probably the best I’ve seen it in awhile.

In the create a player mode, there’s a lot to do, but the game judges your actions oddly. If my opponent scores a bucket, I can lose an entire bar of ‘grade’ – but if I score one I barely see an increase. And it encourages you to play somewhat selfishly. For example it comes up with 3 challenges for you each game, and when my 7-3 center is asked to take 4 jump shots in the game? That’s hurting my team because it’s not my style, but if I want those 100 skill points, I’ll go ahead and force a few up anyway.

Intangibles – 10:

The integration of Michael Jordan is amazing. I grew up a Pistons fan. As such, I grew up disliking the Bulls a lot. But over the years I’ve come to really appreciate what Jordan did for the game and just how amazing he was, and the Jordan challenges are very cool. The additional Jordan sneakers for completing certain things in game, and then being able to apply them to your create a person is cool too.

There’s a ton of drills and practice modes, and the online is solid too, though it can get a bit laggy at times, and I’ve always felt like it hurts the NBA games more than NFL, NHL and MLB titles just due to the constant action and motion. With timing on jumpers being so critical, any lag can really mess with you – especially if you happen to be playing a perimeter based team.

I really enjoyed the crate a player mode. I sunk a ton of time into last year’s version doing that, and I’m at it again this year. It’s addicting getting those few points to spend where you want them, and telling yourself you’ll get even more on your next outing. The various goals and achievements you can earn by hitting milestones can be cool too.

Most people will spend the majority of their time in The Association/Franchise mode. It’s a solid game of hoops there, with lots to do as both the coach and manager. And the computer seems a lot smarter this year too. I remember last year’s game when the Bucks wound up with something like 5 point guards and 3 shooting guards and were just unable to field a proper team. The trades from what I have seen so far in 2k11 are made with better overall team awareness – from both a positional standpoint and respecting a player’s potential to improve. The trade finder is a cool new innovation too, that can be a real time-saver when you’re trying to tweak your roster or draft picks.

In case this isn’t enough game for your buck, there’s also the blacktop mode with 3-point shootouts and dunk contests too. There’s also quite a few classic teams out there. You won’t run out of things to do any time soon.

Overall – 9:

There’s still a few glitches here and there, and when they happen they can become very frustrating. Overall though, they don’t happen very often and what you do get is a great game of hoops that is brought to you a lot of different ways that help to keep the proceedings fresh and entertaining. At first I was worried that the Jordan stuff would be minimal or gimmicky – just an excuse to slap him on the cover and get a few extra sales, but it really looks like they put the work in this year. If EA’s Elite is hoping to come to market next year, they better bring their best playoff game, because right now 2K looks like the reigning champ for the foreseeable future.


Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Xbox Live and PSN review

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World immediately reminded me of the NES classic River City Ransom – a game that I played through and beat numerous times about 15 to 20 years ago. Based on a movie that had a lot of video game elements, it seems the perfect fit for an Xbox Arcade or PS3 Network game – the question is, how does it hold up?

Graphics – 8:

The style is perfect for what it is. This game is a throwback to 8bit and 16bit beat ‘em ups, and the vivid colors, pixelized characters and blocky yet busy backgrounds fit the theme perfectly. If there’s a complaint to be made about it is if you have too many people playing at once, it can be hard to keep track of what you are doing – the characters are large and visually appealing, but with 3 or 4 players at a time, they take up a lot of the screen’s real estate too.

Sound & Music – 7:

The music and sound all fits – the sound effects are rather bland in my opinion but I thought the music was quite good. A couple of the tunes really stuck in my head afterward and they were lively and matched the often frantic gameplay.

Gameplay – 7:

The controls are simple, but that’s not a bad thing. The game tries very hard to be one of the old-school games that only used 2 or 3 buttons and a special attack. There are times though where I felt like it was not being quite as responsive as I would have liked, and I’d get knocked on my butt. The game’s not impossible by any means, but there are parts where you will die and they can feel a bit cheap, especially if you were trying repeatedly to take a swing at someone and can’t pull it off.

Intangibles – 8:

The nostalgia is hard to ignore, so for me that’s a big one. One of the most endearing things River City Ransom had going for it was your character progression. You bought skills, food, things like that to advance your character. Here, you do the same – you gain levels, new combos and can do things to improve your overall statistics. You can also use this same built-up character (there’s several to choose from at the start of the game) that you can bring in and replay the game with. This plus hidden shops really help the game’s replay value. The multiplayer is fun – my son and I had a great time with it, but there’s a few missed opportunities here too. You can’t drop mid-level it seems, so you have to wait to join in, and the most glaring omission is I don’t see any means of online cooperative play, which is almost baffling for a game that gets so many other small things right.

Overall – 7.5:

Not a bad way to spend some Microsoft Points or PSN wallet dollars, especially if you’re a fan of these kinds of games – which I obviously am (one of my other somewhat recent acquisitions was the Final Fight/Magic Sword release by Capcom in the interest of full disclosure – so this is clearly a genre I enjoy). There’s a few small things that they could have done better, and one or two large ones that just keep the game from being just about perfect, but the challenging achievements and character progressions mean that the replay value gives you pretty good bang for your buck.


Gaming News and Notes from 11-9-10

Been awhile since I've done one of these, but here goes:

Playstation 3 owners finally get to discover the Mass Effect universe - that's old news. but now there's some details released about how they plan to catch you up on the story and what you can expect to get with the Mass Effect 2 release.

Back Ops has been out and kicking butt in sales (while getting some good initial scores from critics) for about half a day now, and there's a secret mode that has already been revealed.

Interested in a Microsoft Kinect? Gamestop expects to be able to keep up with the demand, though one interesting thing I noticed on their online page yesterday when I was peeking at their weekly ad - my local Gamestop was listed as being out of the non-bundled Kinects already.

Anyone else out there a big fan of the Scott Pilgrim Arcade release? I was - and now here's a trailer about new content coming out for the game. Hoping to have a review out there on this game and EA's MMA soon.

Fallout: New Vegas released to pretty good reviews and sales - but was reported to have a ton of bugs including some that could ruin you game save. Yikes. Well, Bethesda has heard the complaints and are planning to release a very large patch for the game soon.

Last and... well, least in my opinion - there's some new games being confirmed - Naughty Bear 2 and Wet 2. Sales on these were okay if not great, and Wet had a lot of issues even getting released so this is a slight surprise, but good news to fans of the two games, which released to lukewarm reviews and sales, with Wet faring slightly better overall.

Halo: Reach - Xbox 360 game review

Halo has always been one of the more polarizing series over the last decade of gaming. It came to reflect the Microsoft Xbox brand in much the same way Mario has for Nintendo, or Kratos has for Sony or even Sonic did for the Genesis. Thing is – I never played the series. I owned a Playstation 2 at the time, and did not have the budget for multiple gaming systems. So I missed the first couple of Halo games, and never really jumped on board for the Halo 3 and ODST releases either. First person shooters were never really my favorite genre. However, while they still do not top sports and RPG games for me, Modern Warfare 2 did a great job of getting me into first-person shooters and the competitive online aspects of such games.

So, when Reach came out, and a few of my co-workers were getting very excited about it, I was interested. I had let my Xbox Live gold membership lapse back around May of this year as well, with no intention to resume it. Then, Microsoft offered some good deals, including something like a good % off if you signed up during the Halo: Reach launch, and Walmart had a nice deal going where if you bought Reach during launch week, you got a free $20 gift card. So, I combined these deals, did the math and (most importantly) got my wife to agree to let me drop a few extra bucks on it.

Now, this was right around the time I quit writing for my blog here. Halo: Reach was the start of some serious game playing over the last couple of months, plus the kids starting school, plus work getting very busy so… the blog lost out. Well, since then, I’ve spent a good chunk of time playing Halo: Reach and I thought I would share my thoughts on it.

Graphics – 9:

This is one of those areas I see mixed responses on. Some people really love the Halo art style, and others come away very unimpressed. Overall, I liked them though. I found the color palettes appealing, the look of the environments to be engrossing, and characters moved pretty well. An additional detail I liked was that the customizations made to your armor appear to carry over in every aspect, including things like cut scenes. There were a few moments of slow down during some of the more intense scenes, and that is always frustrating, but they are relatively few and far between.

Music & Sound – 9:

I’ve never played any of the other games, but I first fell in love with the Halo theme song when they released a version of it for Guitar Hero 3 as a downloadable a few years ago. Since then, I’ve gone and listened to a lot of the more popular tunes and I’ve come away very impressed. That doesn’t really change for me here – the score fits the often epic feel of the game, and while some of the voice acting is a bit stilted, most of it is pretty good and really helps to advance the story. The surround sound is used to excellent effect as well, as you can hear a laser going off to your right, or hear a gibbering alien coming at you from behind. Excellent stuff all of the way around.

Gameplay - 9:

It’s smooth stuff – and I mean that earnestly. There’s a few different control schemes you can choose from, but they are all pretty intuitive. I picked up the game immediately and dove into the story and then the online modes with no problem. Menus were easy to get around in, and there is just a ton to do. The armor effects were pretty slick as well. I read about these, and they’re all new to the Halo series – but whether you’re using armor lock, jetpack, camouflage – they are all useful in the right circumstances. In the large team battles involving vehicles I find armor lock incredibly handy. In headhunter modes sprint does me a world of good. You versus everyone? Going invisible (or Predator Mode as I like to call it) is super fun. Jetpacks and holograms of your character also add layers of depth (and deception) to the affair.

Intangibles – 9:

The game has a pretty decent single player storyline. I still recall Modern Warfare 2’s being awesome – but really short. I could get through it in about 6 hours. Not so here. There are a ton of multiplayer modes, and that always helps replay value. There’s some custom side games like Firefight to keep you entertained as well. There’s a ton of extra polish here also such as the forge – that has some nice map making/adjusting qualities to it, and theater which lets you save images and video clips to store to your hard drive or upload to the Halo servers (like my entertaining sticky grenade one. It was fun – a guy tried to get away from me, and he leapt up an air/elevator so I launched a sticky that clung to his leg as he neared the next level, and it blew him up. I’d say you had to be there, but you don’t – I’ve uploaded it!). Perhaps my single disappointment is with the customization. It looks awesome, but I found the online rewards for Modern Warfare 2 to be more rewarding. Some people disliked the system of getting new items and attachments, and that sort of thing in Modern Warfare 2 because they felt it gave an advantage to more experienced players who probably didn’t really need said advantage. To me though, it was a lot of fun going through and making several loadouts with customized attachments and perk sets. Halo does have a more level playing field, but some of the game modes restrict the weapons and armor abilities you can have. It’s not a game killer by any means, but it did leave me wanting a little bit more.

Overall – 9:

Easy score to add up, but seriously – this game was a lot of fun and it made me interested in earlier games in the series. My son bought the first Halo for the Xbox awhile back (it retro plays in the 360), and I’ve considered picking up the others in the series to experience them and learn a bit more about the storylines. Tons to do, and a well-made overall game in terms of control, graphics and sound? That’s a recipe for success. Most of the people I work with really enjoy it too. One thing I do find interesting is that for most of them, the game’s not holding as much long term appeal as Modern Warfare 2 did, and most of them are using Halo to tide them over until Black Ops comes out. I’ll be curious to see how many of them, myself included, let Halo slip by less played once that happens this Tuesday.


It's been quite awhile...

Since I posted. To be honest, I was strongly considering taking some time off from posting here. I may not match my earlier pace - time will tell, but I was trying to post quite regularly and then got very busy irl - and that mixed with the relatively small amount of traffic I get through here made it really easy for me to ignore my blog here. That said, two people emailed me in this past week just to check in and make sure all was well - which I really appreciated. And well, overall I do have a ton of new games to write up about.

I also had both good and frustrating news. I picked up some Wii games like Silent Hill and Metroid and then my Wii died a few days later. So now I'm waiting for my UPS package label so I can send it back - so hey, I can comment on how that process goes. So far? Not too well. We put in a request on 10/23 and finally yesterday emailed them and asked about the label I should have gotten. They agreed to send me a new one and said that I should get it in 4 business days, so if I count today as the first, hopefully I'll have it Wed - maybe Thurs at the latest.

So, that was the bad news. The good news? I won a Playstation Move set, complete with 2 Move controllers, 1 Playstation Eye and Singstar dance and some microphones to go with it. I still will probably want to spring for one of the $30 side-controllers for the move wands, but I'm hoping to get some detailed reviewing out in the somewhat near future. I want to get some time in on it with several games, that sort of thing.

I'm very curious about the Kinect. The release lineup has been getting better reviews and while the Move has always felt like a Wii HD, the Kinect has always felt to me like more impressive tech. Still, at $150 it's going to be a hard sell. Maybe I'll win one of those too. I'm curious if people have had a chance to use either yet and if so, what are your thoughts?

Hopefully I'll get a new review out tonight or tomorrow - I've had a handful of new games on hand: Dead Rising 2, Fable 3, NBA 2k11, MLB The Show 10 and EA MMA.

Limbo - Xbox Live review for the 360

What is Limbo? Well, here’s one set of definitions:

–noun, plural -bos.

1. ( often initial capital letter ) Roman Catholic Theology . a region on the border of hell or heaven, serving as the abode after death of unbaptized infants (limbo of infants) and of the righteous who died before the coming of Christ (limbo of the fathers or limbo of the patriarchs).

2. a place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date: My youthful hopes are in the limbo of lost dreams.

3. an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place.

4. a place or state of imprisonment or confinement.

That said, it’s also an Xbox 360 game that is part puzzler, part platformer and filled with more questions than answers in the end. My oldest daughter is not much of a gamer, and this is a game that caught her eye in one of my Game Informer previews, and then she has since sat and watched me play through about half of the game. It’s a almost disturbingly captivating experience that is far too short but deeply engrossing as well. Here’s my review of the game.

Graphics – 9:

There’s no color. The detail is not amazing, with loads of textures and flashy 3D effects. But visually this game is incredibly unique, and it’s deeply involving. I’ve included some screenshots and the usual video at the bottom. If this is a game you have any interest in at all? Do yourself a favor and check these out. There’s gorgeous play on shadows and light. Darkness and fog. It can be a bit disconcerting at times – a world of shadows and movements, and you will die wandering into the dark now and then. All the same, turn off your lights and play this in a dark room to fully appreciate the contrasting environment.

Music and Sound – 8:

Really almost no music to speak of, but honestly? You don’t miss it in this game. That’s because the environmental effects are so good. They don’t help you in the way that a surround system in Modern Warfare 2 does – you don’t hear a bullet striking near your back, left shoulder or anything like that. But there’s a wide variety of creepy sound effects, squeaking sounds and specific cues that not only effectively assist in presenting a spectacular atmosphere, but are useful in some of the puzzles as well (especially near the end where listening to the beats can help you navigate some very precisely timed puzzles).

Gameplay – 8.5:

The controls, like so much of the presentation, are both simple and yet beautifully implemented. You move your character around, and you have a jump button (that if you hold down can enact a sort of skipping animation that is rather nice) and an ‘action’ button that you press to interact with various things in your environment. That’s it. And while the control scheme itself may look shallow at a glance, its implementation is anything but. That same action button can pull crates, flip switches, activate levers and all of these things tie into the puzzles in their own way. Just when you think you’ve figured out what the game is going to throw at you, it tosses you something new. The difficulty of the puzzles scales nicely, from very simple early on to rather complex by the end of the game, but you very seldom get too frustrated. There were a few puzzles where I died a lot, but the game is very kind in that you respawn at the start of a new puzzle. Now, some puzzles are a bit longer to complete than others, so you may find yourself doing the same thing over and over again as you try to get your timing down, but the game doesn’t cheat – it’s your own fault and your own timing you need to perfect.

Intangibles – 7:

The game has amazing atmosphere. I was lost in it while I played, and it was almost jarring at times when one of my kids would ask me a question or if I had to get up to do something. There’s some unlockables that you can get which are kind of cool. For starters, the achievements are mostly based on finding ‘eggs’ along the way, and most of these are not in plain sight and easy to acquire. You can get a couple of items for your avatar though, if you enjoy changing those around on Xbox live – you can get a “Limbo” shirt (naturally it’s black with white lettering – simple yet fits the theme) for finding an egg, and another item you can get is a little critter as a pet. He’s a little black… well, critter, and you earn him by beating the game. It’s a small set of things, but it’s nice. The puzzles are varied and the game never really bored me. So why only a 7? It’s just too short. Short enough for me to recommend against it? Probably not – I’m very glad to have gotten to play it and I picked it up as part of the Xbox summer of arcade deal – having grabbed 2 other games and getting the bonus 400 Microsoft points. But the came can be beaten in about 3 or 4 hours. 5 if you die lots. In fact, there’s an achievement I haven’t gotten to try yet but plan to where you have to beat the game in a single sitting without dying more than 5 times. Taking a look around the internet and leaderboards, and it looks like quite a few people have done this. For roughly $15/1,200 points, that just doesn’t feel like enough game time. Make it 800 points/$10 and I think it’s a bit more fairly priced.

Overall – 8.2:

This is a very atmospheric game that is a fun blend of platforming and puzzling. It’s just short. Way too short. And without any kind of multiplayer and online, there’s really not much to encourage a 2nd playthrough other than looking for the achievements you missed the first time through. Also it should be noted that the main protagonist is a young boy. This young boy meets a variety of grizzly ends. You don’t see red blood splattered over the place, but you die often and to things such as spiders, buzz saws, drowning and even bear traps. The imagery may not be suitable to young children, especially those prone to nightmares. The game is like a single giant nightmare for a young boy, really.

And then there’s the story. Limbo – one of the definitions from earlier: a region on the border of hell or heaven, serving as the abode after death of unbaptized infants (limbo of infants)

The game starts with a simple cut scene. Keep in mind, there’s no voice narration or even long scrolling blocks of text to detail the story. When you reach the end it’s left a bit ambiguous. The developers have even said as much – that they are leaving it open for interpretation. I know how I took it, but it’s certainly not the way everyone else will – just looking up limbo ending discussion on Google returns tons of theories on it, and I will link these three here – each site/link is different for those curious about it – but it’s left open-ended by the developers for us to draw our own conclusions. It’s open-ended stuff, and there’s plenty of spoilers on those pages. What else can I say about the game? It's a bit too short for its price, but it's a hauntingly beautiful yet eerie one that certainly made an impact on me during and after playing it, and I'm glad I had to chance to do so.


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