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or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date: My youthful hopes are in the limbo of lost dreams.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


Gaming News and Notes from 9-17-10

Well, there's been a few interesting odds and ends this week, so here's what I found:

Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is expected to release in March.

The fairly new action MMO APB has already said they are closing down, though there's rumors that Epic may be interested in picking it up.

Team ICO has a release collection for Shadow of the Colossus and Ico (two very cool old school games) - basically getting the God of War collection HD update - with 3d graphic support.

Epic Mickey is expected for Nov 30th.

The developers of Demon's Souls have a new game in the works - and it won't be ps3 exclusive.

There's a new Devil May Cry. Disgaea 4, and Ninja Gaiden 3 all on tap with future releases.

And then for the big gaming elephant in the room, a humble little title called Halo: Reach rolled out this week - to the tune of $200 million in the first 24 hours. Of course not all is roses on this front, as there's been reports of some disc errors. Still, the reviews have been good from most of the critics and it sure seems like Bungie put out a ton of effort for this last release in the series (from them. No doubt Microsoft will keep sequels, prequels and spinoffs coming). Here's a brief article where Bungie discusses their interest in their new contract to work with Activion - largely due to Blizzard's standing as one of the top online entities in gaming. You can read about it here.

And in other Halo news - I too succumbed to it yesterday. A combination of good deals got me on board with it. First, Microsoft is offering 40% off if you upgrade from silver to gold this week - making it $30 instead of the usual $50. And the price goes up in a couple of months to $60, so if you're on the fence for this, it is not a bad idea to consider the upgrade. They are also offering some sort of a helmet/avatar throw-in that you get a code emailed to you in a few weeks. On top of that, Walmart is giving away $20 gift cards if you purchase Halo: Reach this week (one of my co-workers said he got the same deal through Best Buy as well). With it came a code for a helmet addon in-game and it had a nice free 2 day gold code I gave to my son for when he plays.

I haven't touched campaign mode yet - I logged about 5 hours of online last night though, and my impressions are quite favorable so far. I had a lot of fun, but want to dig into some of the other features before making a full post review of it. I'm also close to the end of Limbo and plan to write up a review on that as well, but wanted to beat it and grab a few of the achievements before sharing that review as well - so I should have a couple coming in a matter of days if time allows. Until then - take care.


Gaming News and Notes from 9-10-10

So, here's some stuff I've seen lately that caught my eye:

Valkyria Chronicles 2 for the PSP has been getting some good reviews (I need to grab this one still), and now there's some free DLC coming soon too - very cool!

I used to be a really heavy World of Warcraft player over two different periods of time, but I quit playing back around the new year. The monthly costs were just starting to get to me. The rather well-received Lord of the Rings Online game however just went free-to-play today. Reviews have been good in the past, and you can apparently download the core game that supports leveling up to 50, and you don't even need a credit card to start playing. You can however purchase in-game items with money if you so choose, and if you want the expansions you do have to shell out for that as well. Still, might well be worth looking into - I believe I will be soon.

IGN had a pretty cool retrospective on one of my favorite video game systems, the Sega Dreamcast. Not exactly new news, but a cool read if you too have fond memories of that ill-fated but well-made system. They did something similar for the Playstation 1, which is 15 years old now.

Apparently the new Xbox 360 has been selling very well of late according to this article.

For those Mac users lacking a PC or console system who have long craved some mayhem, the Grand Theft Auto 3-pack for the Mac may be just what you're looking for. Never been a huge fan of the series myself, but I know a lot of people are, so this may be worth a peek.

Good news of the Dissida: Final Fantasy game for the PSP (this would so very much include me, who is still grinding away at it) - There's going to be a sequel and a couple of characters have been announced. One of them is Lightning from the most recent Final Fantasy 13 game.


Madden 2011 - Xbox 360/PS3 game review

I sunk a lot of time into this year’s NCAA college football game before posting a review. Well, I probably doubled that for Madden 2011. I’ll start by saying I really like college football and in general, football games, but I am a huge fan of the NFL. I have anywhere from 3-5 fantasy football leagues every year that I participate in. I can name the starting qb and hb and #1 wr for pretty much any team in the league. My first real exposure to football was the dual-discovery of Barry Sanders on Sundays and early Madden and Tecmo Super Bowl games. I spent way too much time using the Lions and/or Buffalo Bills during the Tecmo Super Bowl game for my NES. I would rack up some pretty incredible single season stats. I’m also someone who tends to pick up Madden every year, despite the cries of those who feel that Madden is nothing more than a yearly roster update that should be offered for $10 or $15 downloadable content instead of a full $60 game purchase. So, I will try to look at this game and review from a few different angles, making comparisons to last year’s iteration and this year’s college football at times. I also kept quite a few stats from the majority of my first season of Madden, including comments and notions I jotted down. Basically, I made it a lengthy homework assignment. The aspect of the game I get the most mileage out of is the Franchise mode, but I will touch on the others as well. Here goes:

Graphics – 8.0:

This is sort of a personal preference, but I actually liked the look of NCAA’s player models better. Somehow they looked grittier to me, a bit more real. The Madden models seem so bright in some of their uniforms that they almost look cartoon-like at times to me. That’s not to say that they are bad – just sort of a personal preference/observation. The animations get better all of the time it seems, and this year was no different. Many of the tackling animations looked really good, and there were some really good catch animations. All in all, it looks really good, though I don’t know that it is a huge improvement from last year’s version on this front – but it is better. I did see some weird stuff going no with hands from time to time – but that’s probably to be expected. Still, every now and then you see hands going through a player’s body, or a ball ‘sticking’ to a hand that has some transparent space between them, which makes the fingers look oddly unrealistic as well. Still, this is nitpicking an overall great engine.

Sound and Music – 8.0:

The commentary is good. For those who follow the series, you know it started with John Madden and some of his Bang! and Pow! Maddenisms many years ago, and then over the years they began to layer on actual commentary in response to the action on the field. There have been some ups and downs in this area (including taking the voices overs out completely during the first year’s release on the current gen systems) – but the addition of Gus Johnson was a solid one I think, and I’ve always liked Chris Collinsworth in real life as well, so hearing these two talking about the action on the field is actually quite nice.

However, it’s probably time to update the system in some fashion. Basically pre-recorded ‘clips’ get assigned to the action on the field, and it doesn’t feel as fresh or ‘real’ as it did years ago. They did the same thing for Joe Montana’s talking football many moons ago – a couple of system generations back. Obviously this is much better, but maybe they can find ways to break up the pieces just a bit more and put them together a bit more fluidly. Because right now you hear most of the commentary the game has to offer in a single game or two, and I find many of the same things get said about the same guys over and over again. This is probably more pronounced when you do a franchise of some sort than say, online play where you might change the team you are using frequently, because you are using the same players game in and game out.

The music soundtracks they use are just fine – generally consisting of rock music that is a bit older like Crazy Train, but as that is some of my favorite music I can’t say I mind, and many of the songs compliment the game’s hard-hitting action. They primarily play during menu screens or between kickoffs – you don’t really hear it during the game action.

Gameplay – 8.5:

Madden has traditionally been a pretty smooth game to play. You won’t see a ton of innovation here on this front overall. Menus are still easy to navigate, your players control well. The addition of locomotion – using both analog sticks to control your ball carrier’s body a bit more precisely – feels good however. I love running the football. I probably have about a 60 or 65% run rate for my offensive plays, so this was a welcome if somewhat subtle change for me. Raising the game level in difficulty does tend to strain reality a bit once in awhile (watching a middle linebacker pull off a 1-handed stretching interception of a bullet pass on Madden difficulty is one of those blood pressure raising events that Madden has always been able to annoy me with). The blocking has been greatly improved as well. As a fan of pounding the run game down my opponent’s throat – that’s a nice, subtle change as well. Better yet, they seem to have addressed one of my biggest grips from Madden games of years past and even this year’s college football. The pancake numbers seem much more in-line between played teams and simulated ones.

In years past (all but 1 or 2 in fact, once they added/tracked the pancake stat, which is when an offensive player lays out a defensive one with a block), the simulated teams would get tons of pancakes. League leaders would get upward of 150 on the season. Meanwhile played teams might get 1 or 2 a game. 3 if you were really ramming the ball at them 70 or 75 percent of the time. This really affected your player’s development since you could not build up good stats in this area. Now? I’m finding that my mediocre Lions line’s best pancaker is finishing out the season well out of first place, but by a margin that’s a bit more realistic. At the end of year 1, my leading blocker had 6 pancakes. Not a great total, but the Lions line is very ‘meh’. League leader? 23. So the discrepancy is not bad at all. Of course, it may be a moot point if you consider that stats really don’t factor into development now, but I’ll go into that in a bit.

There are a lot of customization here as well – sliders for various aspects of the game for both the player and the computer, difficulty settings, volume controls, etc.

One of the newest features being plugged by EA has been Game Flow. This was a feature I was very skeptical of when I first heard of it. Basically, it’s a dressed-up version of the long-standing “Ask Madden” feature where it tries to select the play from your playbook that best suits the situation. I don’t always find myself agreeing with those choices, but most of the time they’re fine. It also does seem to speed up the game a bit (roughly 10 minutes per game), and does lend more variety to your attacks on offense and defense. This is also a handy feature for newer players, or so I would imagine. It saves having the player fly around the playbook frantically looking for a play that might work while being pressed for time. There’s also a bit of audio commentary with play selection that breaks down what’s happening on the field. I don’t really gain anything from it, but my kids seem to so it serves a purpose depending on your level of skill.

Intangibles – 8.0:

I love Franchise Mode. I take my poor beleaguered Detroit Lions to the Super Bow that they will never likely reach in real life, and watch as their young, high draft picks from recent years turn into amazing NFL superstars. But I don’t feel like there was much change to the franchise mode this season. If anything, some stuff got stripped out. They used to approach player progression in different ways years past. You could do drills before the season or during the week (depending on how far back in the annals of Madden you want to go) to give you some customized development of your young talents. In other years they offered improvement around every 4 weeks or so, based on your statistics. In other years they only did it once, at the end of the year, based on your season stats (in what other world could Joey Harrington become a 99 overall QB? In the one I play football in!). This year sort of strips all of that out though. I much, MUCH preferred the beginning of the year training camp drills with bigger boosts than the much smaller, incremental boosts that came with weekly training. Now? You get neither. Also, the only progression takes place at the end of the year, and from what I’ve seen, it has a lot more to do with their ‘potential’ rating than any impressive (or pathetic) numbers they hung up over the course of the season. I really preferred the every four weeks route myself with a smaller gain at the end of the season, but to have my stats mean little to nothing? It feels cheap, and there’s a lot of people online who insist that stats don’t factor at all – that it’s strictly potential-based, which would be a mistake.

Online Team play is something I don’t do much of, but it’s done pretty well this year. It’s the kind of feature I’d have used more probably in years past when my friends kept up on the current versions of Madden, but they tend to fall into the ‘it should be a yearly $15 roster update’ category. There’s mixed feelings about the ‘boosts’ you can get. For example if you play WR and play it really well, you will gain statistical ‘boosts’ when you play that position in future Online Team games.

Next up is the Superstar mode. This is probably my 2nd favorite mode. So that it, like Franchise Mode, doesn’t feel any different – that’s a pretty big disappointment to me, honestly. I like that you can import your Road to Glory player from NCAA 11 into the Superstar mode, but that’s not a new feature and I’d like to see it get a bit more attention sooner than later.

There’s a new Ultimate Team Mode – think of it as getting virtual football cards to help design a team to play against other teams. It’s a cool concept, but it doesn’t feel like it was fully fleshed out. It also feels like a bit of a money grab from EA in that you can spend actual money to buy more virtual cards. It, like many of the boosts you can buy for your teams (seriously – improved development, keep a player from retiring, etc?) – these are paid for features you can apply to your franchise modes – both offline and it looks like online. I have to speculate on this feature because there’s no way I’m paying more money just to improve my players, but there’s going to be people out there who do, and that’s doubly annoying in my mind, since your opponent may be getting better due to a credit card payment, not actual skill. I have a small complaint about the way Madden and EA in general have been handling these extra money grabs in general – I am a huge opponent to the idea of online passes where you have to buy the game new, or if you want online access you have to go online and pay for a code that grants it to you. I buy almost all of my games used. Madden is one of the few I actually do buy new, but on principle it gets me riled up as they apply it to more games like Mass Effect 2 and the Cerberus network. Anyway, end of rant, but that mode led up to it perfectly. 

There’s a lot to do and there’s a lot of ways to do it. That generally makes Madden a pretty good value. Here’s the question when considering intangibles – do you have last year’s game? If so, then it may not be worth it to you to pick up this year’s game. Most of the new changes are well implemented, but if like me you spend most of your time in a relatively untouched Franchise mode, you’re essentially getting a few general engine changes and a roster update. If you’re someone who likes to play online, then there’s a lot more mileage to get out of the game. If it’s been a couple of years and you have an NFL itch this year? Then you’re looking at a quality game that should keep you entertained for quite some time.

Overall – 8:

Overall, it’s a good game. Is it perfect? No. Is it a huge change and improvement over last year’s game? Not really. I took a lot of note on stats, things that happened, how long games took, etc – to give you an idea of some of the settings as well. I’ll put those down here in the Overall section, in case they’re of interest to you at a glance.

Game #2 of the season (pro difficulty):

Stafford had 17 completions for 357 yards and 5 tds. I had 96 yards running with no TD’s on my primary halfback. Both my TE and #1 WR had over 100 yards and 1 td’s. I won 62-3 and the game took 40 minutes to get through while skipping most of the replays while using Game Flow to make my play selections

Game #4 of the season (pro difficulty):

Stafford ha 8 completions for 239 yards, 5 tds, and my rb had 205 yards, 2 tds. The score was 70-31 and I called my own plays throughout instead of using Game Flow. It took 48 minutes to finish. There were 2 very cool animations in this game:

#1 – A TE tried to make a leaping sideline catch, bouncing up and down on one leg like a human pogo stick as he tried to stay inbounds to make the highlight catch, but was unable to get the 2nd foot down inbounds.

#2 – I threw a bomb to the endzone with a DB and WR jumping up for the ball and colliding in the air, hitting the nearby ref and forcing him to the ground to crawl away as they landed beside him. Cool stuff.

Next game was with all default settings – speed, using Game Flow throughout, watching the replays and Pro difficulty. The results:

I won 52-10. Stafford threw for 11 completions and 171 yards with 3 tds, though no receivers broke 60 yards receiving. My running back, Best, went off for 252 yards on 24 carries and 2 tds. The game took 51 minutes to complete. Some more observations I made while taking notes after the game:

I experienced an audio oddity – after a fumble recovery for a td by my defensive end, Collinsworth went straight from talking about how hard it is to scoop up one of those footballs and run with it, into talking about what a perfect route he ran for a touchdown catch.

There was a cool animation showing a WR getting hit after getting both hands on the ball, and then a 2nd defender came in to knock it out of his hands for the incomplete

Game Flow failed to recognize that the opposing team was doing an onside kick, lining me up for a traditional return, so I had to call a time out and manually call this one play.

Cool yet annoying animation when fielding a deep kickoff in my own endzone – but a would-be blocker motions for my returner to stay in the endzone and down the ball. It was neat-looking, but on the next play I came out anyway and this blocker was now way out of position.

Neat cut scene – it was Rams at Detroit, and there was a fan wearing a Rams’ player’s jersey (Jackson’s) – with 7 seconds left in the 4th during a dead ball. It showed the player wearing the losing team’s jersey shuffling toward the exit , visibly disheartened.

As I increased the difficulty, the scores certainly got closer. In Madden difficulty I had a few games decided by less than a touchdown, so that felt considerably more authentic than the default difficulties, which makes perfect sense really.


Kingdoms of the Lost - 10 year anniversary

So, I'm diverging just a bit from my usual posts - as is very evident by now, I am a huge fan of video games, but I also grew up on tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, etc. Along the way, I discovered text-based online communities called MUDs. I played a few on and off over the years, but then in August of 2010 my wife and I started our own called Kingdoms of the Lost. It's swords and sorcery fare, and we've met and worked with a lot of amazing people over the years. We're actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary at KotL

This type of game's obviously not for everyone. In the day and age of modern MMORGP's like World of Warcraft, Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online - MUDs have fallen off the map somewhat. However, right now we have 12 people on, and last night we had about 20 on - 5 years ago we had 60 on, so while it's dwindled, it hasn't gone away. To see who's on now, you can click here.

Still, it's free. It's a community. It's an opportunity to roleplay, meet new people, kill some time at work (if you're like me and lucky enough to have cpu access) or between classes - whatever. Anyway, there's a lot going on this week, so if you have any interest in taking a peek in, this is a good time to do so. We're giving away lots of free in-game stuff, we've just added a ton of new content and we've seen some of our old friends resurface lately on there as well. 10 years... It's been a long, fun ride.

How to play? Well, you need to connect, either via telnet or by downloading a client - I use GMUD - and directing it to port 2222

Here's some more information about the game:

Our website

Our community supported story archive

Our Facebook page

Our Forum

Some information about the game

Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment - Xbox 360 review

I remember playing the original Vandal Hearts a very long time ago and enjoying it thoroughly. As I commented recently as well, I really enjoy strategy/rpg games quite a bit, which is why even though I thought some of the aspects of Agarest War could have been better, I'm currently giving it a 2nd playthrough. Well, a couple of months ago there was a deal where you could buy Xbox 360 arcade games at a discounted price, and this game was among them.

Graphics - 4:

I realize it's an arcade game, so the bar tends to be a bit lower, but they are pretty bad here. The combat maps are at least more visually interesting than Record of Agarest War, with different levels and surprisingly expansive terrains. Now, for the cut scenes - what the heck? The disproportionate looking characters are odd to look at and it doesn't look very good either. When people speak, the picture that pops up is very average (at best) as well. At least I was able to appreciate the overall artistic direction of Agarest War. I'm not sure what direction they were going with in Vandal Hearts, but the result was very poor.

Music and Sound - 6:

The music's not bad - I especially like the somewhat chorus-like startup music. They make little comments with voice overs I can actually understand (unlike the Japanese laden voices of Agarest - sorry, I'm going to keep comparing these two as they're similar games I'm playing right now at the same time). There's some varied combat sounds to help keep things from getting too repetitive as well. Still, some of those combat sounds really got on my nerves - especially when you were hitting someone. My wife asked me why my characters were continually kicking dogs at one point, the wolves were making such a horrible whimpering sound every-single-time-I-hit-them. And if you have a spell that hits 3 or 4 guys at once, they all make a loud combined sound that had a tendency to be a bit grating. Plus, while it was nice understanding what my characters were saying, they didn't have a lot of variety in what they said on the map.

Gameplay - 7:

Not bad at all. It's mostly menu-driven stuff, but it is easy enough to navigate them and moving around the map isn't too hard. The camera angles were sometimes a tad bit annoying, but you can spin the camera and tilt the landscape to vary your view, though it seemed like on some maps I was doing this for every single turn, which was a bit annoying. Still, the combat moves along at a brisk pace and things like flanking, terrain types, height of terrain, etc - all of that is a factor, which is very cool.

Intangibles - 7:

I've only beaten it once, but I've heard there's at least 2 different endings so I'm giving it a 2nd play through now. Still, a built-in reason for an extra play is nice. There are questions along the way you are asked to answer - I'm curious to see if these actually change the story or just alter what's said right after - we'll see. The game's not terribly long, but there's hidden maps to find and the system used for character progression is kind of cool - basically the more you use a skill - melee, archery, magic - the better you get in that area, so you can customize a character if you want to, though some of them are predisposed to certain things so it's easier to just continue along that path.

Overall - 6:

The game could be a bit longer - and the graphics really hurt the score. That said, if you're a fan of this type of game, you're not in it for the graphic realism most of the time. It appeals to me the same way Record of Agarest does. Vandal Hearts is not as good - it's not as deep of a game. You won't be playing it nearly as long and there's not as much to do in it. That said, if you're looking for a turn-based strategy game, that's relatively inexpensive (I got it for around $8, and I believe the regular full price rings in about $15 on both Xbox and Playstation 3) - so it's still a pretty good price for what you are getting.


Gaming News and Notes from 9-1-10

I commented on the increase to Xbox live costs the other day, but on the other side of that coin Nintendo is lowing the cost of their DS Lite and XL's - the latter of which is kind of surprising given how little time it's really been on the market. There's been a lot of speculation about when the Nintendo 3DS will be coming out - with most of it saying early next year. Still, this reported price drop does have people wondering if perhaps Nintendo is aiming for a last moment push before the holiday season. Considering how the units being shown at the last few conferences have been fully functional, it would appear the hardware is there. Probably the biggest concern is the launch lineup and if it is ready to be put out there yet.

Borderlands was a very popular and well-reviewed game - and sadly one I haven't gotten around to playing yet. Still, this Game of the Year edition with all of the extra content may be just the reason to pick it up for the first time.

Castle Crashers is making its way to the Playstation Network. It's late to the game in arriving - it's been out on the 360 for quite some time now. But, this was a well-reviewed game and a favorite of my kids'. I've had a couple of playthroughs on it as well with my kids and overall it was a pretty cool game. If you haven't had a chance to play this one on the 360 yet, it may well be worth a peek if you're a ps3 owner.

Last but not least, the Playstation Move is a peripheral I've been curious about, and though I'm unlikely to pick one up, at least out of the gates, I have been watching for news on it. Well, IGN gave me a lot of news on it today. They've posted quick blurbs saying that they were using the device for a while now, but today they had a chance to actually review it and their launch titles. What were the results?

The hardware fared good, scoring an 8.5 - though I suspect it would get mixed results in my house because the camera would be pointed right at the window as a backdrop for the players, which could affect sensitivity.

Sports Champion came in at a decent 7.5 - not breaking any new ground, but as Wii has proven a variety of sports mini games can prove entertaining.

Eyepet was one that I thought would really appeal to 1 or 2 of my kids, especially my youngest daughter. With the 8.0 score it ranks as the highest of the release scores from IGN and looks to ooze cuteness if that's your thing.

Kung Fu Rider did not hold up nearly as well, getting a 3.5. The visuals scored well, but the controls and gameplay apparently were quite poor.

Racquet Sports did not fair much better, with it's 4.5 score.

Back to the 3.5 range for Tumble.

Then they dropped some preview impressions on High Velocity Bowling and a Tiger Woods game.

Overall, the technology seems decent, but the launch titles seem to leave a bit to be desired. One of my primary concerns with Move and Kinect are that they feel like addons. The Wii has the motion controls enabled for almost every game, and while they're not always well implemented by the developers, the developers know that every Wii owner has already got the potential to utilize these controls. This encourages development using motion controls. However, if the Move and the Kinect do not make big sales right out of the game, will developers make games for these peripherals knowing that maybe only a small percentage of the PS3 or 360 market can even play the game? That makes the launch titles very important and it would seem that the Move's launch set is very questionable. The next several titles that are released for the Move could very well make or break its early success, so we'll have to wait and see.


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