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2o2p Game Review | The Blackwell Series

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 13:59 — ErinAS

Blackwell Deception from Wadjeteye Games made headlines this fall with a Halloween promotion gone awry. A promotion that once again showed why the internet can’t have nice things. The indie developer tried giving fans a free copy of the game on Halloween together with Steam keys. The Steam keys featured a one per IP limit which the internet promptly found ways around. The result? More than 30,000 copies extracted in mere hours causing the developer to cancel the promotion. The silver lining (if there is one)? The gaming press picking up the story probably got the studio more publicity than the initial free game. So thanks jerks I guess…

But what of the actual game itself and the rest of the Blackwell series? Where do these fall on the scale of adventure games? Should you play through the first four before the final installment is available in 2104? Well, I’m here as your adventure game spirit guide to provide you the answer.  Just take hold of this tie…

Blackwell Legacy

The Blackwell series began back in December 2006 with Blackwell Legacy. In the game you play as Rosangela Blackwell (Rosa for short) and her spirit guide Joey Malone. Rosa and Joey help ghosts find their way into the afterlife after they are trapped on earth and fail to realize they’re dead (Bruce Willis surprisingly does not make a cameo). 

See video

Legacy was Wadjeteye’s second game after The Shivah. It features a great story and really sets the tone for the series. Rosangela is a quirky, introverted freelance journalist while Joey, a sort of a Bogart-esque leading man, provides sarcastic commentary at its finest.

All of the episodes follow basic adventure game mechanics. Each game has a series of locations you can visit to uncover clues and objects. You can switch back and forth between the main character and the spirit guide to accomplish different tasks. You have an inventory and can look stuff up on the internet (though sadly the first few games are all set in pre-smartphone days so you have to go home to do so).

The subject matter is definitely dark (some of the ghosts committed suicide) so its aimed for teens and up. Overall, Legacy is a solid adventure game I highly recommend!

Blackwell Unbound

Unbound, the next game in the series, is actually a prequel and follows Rosangela’s aunt Lauren who is referenced in the original story. Joey is also her spirit guide and together they help ghosts to the other side. I played the games out of order so I knew a bit more of the backstory going into this game. There are definitely some common threads but playing out of order didn’t didn’t reveal any major spoilers or hinder my progress in other games.  

Unbound introduces a recurring “villain” known as The Countess. It actually worked well for me meeting her in a later game and then returning to the back story. Unbound is very loosely based on real life characters Joseph Mitchell and Joe Gould. It’s definitely interesting in both fact and fiction versions!

My biggest complaint about the series is the dialog puzzles and this game featured some irritating dialog puzzles. It’s not often obvious that you have to keep talking to the same person. I already asked them three different things but the puzzle won’t really unlock until you finally get to the fourth thing. Usually I figure out what the fourth thing IS but it doesn’t exist in the game until I have the conversation. While dialog puzzles are definitely my least favorite adventure game mechanic, Blackwell’s stories are good enough that I eventually get over my seething rage after cheating and discovering I was mostly right.

One “bug” I found amusing in this game was Lauren’s apartment. It has about a bazillion ashtrays in it but she only seems to ash on the welcome mat by the door...

Blackwell Convergence

Next up in the series is Blackwell Convergence. Convergence again messes around with the timeline and returns to just after Rosa meets Joey. I played this game last.

Convergence was probably my least favorite. It features a great story arc that comes together nicely but I found most of the game’s individual characters annoying and unlikeable (in the game’s defense most of them were supposed to be unlikeable). Somehow this game just wasn’t really fun to play and, at this point, I was also sick of The Countess.

Blackwell Deception

Deception was the first I played and probably my favorite. It again follows Rosa and Joey but doesn’t feature any other direct connections to characters from the other stories (at least as revealed in this game). Rosa gets a smart phone in this game so, woohoo, not as many trips home!

As with all the Blackwell games Deception has the same dialog puzzle issues. Additionally, the new smart phone search is a bit anal about exactly what you type. It reminded me of some of the old school text adventures and the hours of my life lost to Sierra’s Goldrush getting the exact phrasing of “Put Chains on Wheels” correct.

See video

Deception features great storytelling and voice acting. The graphics are somewhat updated but still fairly old school. It ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger so I can’t wait to see what the final installment of the series brings us in 2014!

Final Verdict

The reason why I played the series out of order is the older Blackwell games in the AVS engine don’t work in Steam Big Picture on my PC. I either get sound or video to work but never both at the same time. My system is complicated with a 52 inch TV going through receivers, HDMI, 7.1, etc. I received some troubleshooting help from the studio and the AVS forums with no luck. Ultimately, I gave up and eventually played on the 27 inch monitor with my regular desktop PC instead of the one hooked up to the TV.

Overall, I highly enjoyed these games.The strong story telling makes up for annoying dialog puzzles and dated graphics. I am really looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up in the final installment due out this year.

2o2p Game Review | OlliOlli

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 09:34 — TwizdFred

Released by indie developer roll7 exclusively for the Playstation Vita, OlliOlli, is a side scrolling skateboarding game with plenty of tricks up its sleeve. The game features over 50 levels and 250 challenges to achieve that will have your thumbs doing can-cans and knack-knacks in your sleep!

 

   

   

First Impressions  

How can I describe OlliOlli without downplaying how great it is? In a time when everyone is looking for the ultimate HD experience, OlliOlli is both simple in design and graphics. That is not to say that the simple design takes away from the game in any way, in fact, I appreciate the simple design. I enjoyed not being bombarded with flashy explosions and a soundtrack that boasted the latest Top 40 which apparently passes for music nowadays. This game is a nice break from HD, 3D, and all the other “D’s.” 

 

     

 

Gameplay

OlliOlli features a tutorial that gives you the gist of how to play this game. You’ll perform simple tricks, grinds and combos which will eventually bring you to the first stage: Urban. Each stage features a few challenges to accomplish while you try to string together all the tricks you can before the end of the stage. Using only a combination of the left stick, left and right bumper and the X button you execute your tricks and grinds-trying to land them perfectly to achieve the highest score possible and complete each stage’s challenges. Be warned though, should you wipe out, you must start the stage over. Completing an Amateur stage with a combination of challenges and high scores unlocks the next Amateur stage in the level. Should you complete all the challenges in an Amateur stage, you’ll unlock the Pro stages in that level providing you with even more challenges to complete. Each mode of play: Career, Spots, Daily Grind and Rad Mode features their own unique challenges and game play, giving you an abundance of opportunities to perfect that Frontside, Shove-it or any of the other tricks in the “Tricktionary.” Want to challenge your friends or others? OlliOlli’s Daily Grind mode gives you all the practice attempts you want but only one chance to run the course to prove your skills against others.

 

 
      

Final Verdict

Personally, I enjoyed playing this game, and while I still have to hone my skating skills, OlliOlli gave me the opportunity to practice to achieve that high score. It brings back the nostalgia of Paperboy or Castlevania. Ahhh...the good ole days of 8-bit graphics! One side effect of playing OlliOlli, the unrelenting need to go out and jump on a board and shred some concrete, I unfortunately became acquainted with again! Word of advice, if you're over the age of…hell what am I saying, most of us at 2old2play should know better than to try to ride a skateboard at our age, emphasis on “should!” Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go nurse my scrapes. Seriously, I highly recommend this game, dude.

2o2p Game Review | Ryse: Son of Rome

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 09:30 — SarcasmoJones

In Ryse: Son of Rome, players are introduced to Marius Titus in epic fashion as he is guided through the dramatic last stand of Rome, fighting his way through the swarming barbarian horde with a single purpose: get Emperor Nero to safety. Marius, being the competent soldier that he is, accomplishes his objective and delivers Nero safely to his panic room, but the intentions of Nero’s savior and sole protector are in question as Marius starts to tell his tale.

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The tale of Marius Titus starts as he returns home just before being dispatched to join the 2nd Legion in Alexandria. The elder Titus, a former soldier and evidently a big fan of foreshadowing, presents his son with the Blade of Damocles, regaling Marius with the tale of Damocles’ betrayal and ultimate revenge. This happens literally seconds before his entire family is murdered by barbarians, spurring Marius into an unquenchable bloodlust and on the path to revenge. Vitallion, a respected general and friend of the Titus family, gives Marius his chance for revenge by pulling him out of the fruity 2nd Legion and placing him in his own 14th Legion, destined for blood in jolly old England, where his heroic ferocity in battle and natural leadership abilities get him promoted to Centurion on the first day of combat.

See video


Unpacking my Adjectives

Ryse is both epic in scope and beautifully rendered. The CryEngine, which was behind one of the most realistic and beautiful games of the last generation, Crysis 3, utilizes the Xbox One’s remarkable power, producing one of the most realistic and visually engaging games I have ever had the good fortune to play through. Fire, hair, and water, the notorious graphical stumbling blocks, have been deftly overcome by the Crytek development team. Combat is very fluid, and even in the grandest battles there is virtually no framerate stutter. The superb voice acting is perfectly synchronized with the characters speaking the lines, resulting in some very convincing character performances.

handshake

The story itself is very well-written, exciting to play, and steeped in both history and mythology, incorporating a bit of the mystery and mythical with the more visceral aspects of Roman soldiery. There was never a moment that I felt that Marius was acting out of character: he acted exactly as I would expect a soldier of his caliber, loyalty, and morality to act. Had Ryse been a CGI movie, and not a video game, it could have been the greatest computer-made movie ever.

See video


Multiplayer

Multiplayer is an online-only cooperative affair inside the ever-changing environments of The Colosseum. Multiplayer takes advantage of special co-op combos and finishing moves. The environments themselves are very dynamic, with new elements and environmental dangers being constantly introduced into the arena. Despite the lack of head to head or local co-op, Ryse multiplayer is a lot of fun, albeit not very competitive.

See video


What Went Wrong

First, despite the fact that the story is engaging and well-written, the writers went to Maximus Decimus Meridius, Bruce Wayne, Ezio, Connor Kenway, and Death Wish for motivating their protagonist to revenge: killing his family. I’m not saying that murdering an entire family isn’t a viable way to motivate a game character, but it’s been done...a lot. The writers also went a little heavy on the foreshadowing. I would like to have experienced the progression of the story without the writer spoon-feeding what was going to happen later.

The biggest problem faced by Ryse is the constrictive linear environments. Every level is point A to point B with no deviation and no room for exploration. You take the path that was written for you, complete your objectives, then move on to your next cutscene. No lollygagging. Oh, and why do all the Romans have English accents? Thanks, Monty Python, you’ve officially ruined Latin. Romani ite domum.

See video

 The repetitive nature of the combat and enemies is enough to steal a full star from Ryse’s final rating. Marius will fight the same five or six barbarians throughout the entire game, using the exact same strategies, then finishing off with special moves. Finishing moves were cool during the first couple of levels, but after using them on absolutely everybody that I killed, I started to get sick of them.

See video


Sarcasmo Says

Ryse does a lot of things right: the story is immersive, the environments felt authentic, and I could genuinely empathize with Marius and understand his motivations. Co-op is a blast and the single player story is the very best currently extant on the Xbox One, with ACIV running a very close second. Kinect integration is smooth and natural, the graphics are stunning, but I often felt like I was muddling through the repetitive combat just to get to the next cutscene so I could progress the story, instead of playing the game. Gameplay should never come second to the story in a video game, and I feel that this was Crytek’s greatest error: they made such a great movie that they forgot we were playing a game.
 


Final Verdict

Ryse: Son of Rome is not a bad game, but neither is it a great game. There is virtually no replay value to the single-player campaign, but the co-op may extend the life of this title a bit. You’ll definitely want to finish the game to see how it all ends, but actually picking up the controller to get there will eventually seem like a chore. Pick this one up on the cheap.

2o2p Game Review | Forza 5

Thu, 12/05/2013 - 15:43 — SarcasmoJones

There is a large, loose affiliation of gamers who meet each night, across several different online lobbies, to drive digitized representations of real life cars around digitized tracks all over the world. Some of the races are a casual affair for fun, some have a semblance of organization to them, and some have rule books the size of a small dictionary. Regardless of how many rules, laps, or players are involved in these races, they all center around one name: Forza.

The first Forza game released in 2005, on the original XBox, with a modest roster of 235 cars and a mix of real world and fantasy tracks. The fifth installment of the series (Horizon doesn’t count), the appropriately titled Forza 5, launched on November 22nd, in support of Microsoft’s third console: the inappropriately name XBox One. Fans of the Forza series have alternately supported and condemned changes that Turn 10 has made to the Forza series over the years, but the new Forza game may be the most controversial in franchise history. Did Greenawalt and crew go too far this time...or not far enough?

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Promises Promises

Dan Greenawalt stood up on a stage at E3 2013, next to a McLaren P1, and told the gaming world about Drivatars. These digital clones of Forza players would learn their respective players’ driving habits and, through the power of cloud computing, theoretically reproduce avatars that possess both the skills and habits of the players who trained them.

See video

At E3, and the months that followed, Turn 10 talked about Drivatars, the new physics engine, paint, reflective surfaces, new tracks, and the “hundreds of cars” that would be present in Forza 5. We were promised a beautifully realistic Forza game with realistic avatars of the folks who are our racing friends. Turn 10 delivered on half of that promise: the cars in the game are the most beautifully rendered vehicles of any racing game on any console. The tracks were laser scanned and look exactly as they look on TV. This is quite possibly the closest to real life I have ever seen in a game. The new physics engine is supposed to be more realistic, and the cars certainly feel right on the track. I found that I lost a considerable amount of grip between Forza 4 and Forza 5, and I had to alter my tuning adjustments to make up for that loss of grip. It is much easier to lose control of a car in this game than in previous entries, especially bone-stock models on street tires. If you don’t know how to tune, now is a very good time to learn.

                                                                Cooter’s smiling because you’re about to crash.

Drivatar

“The end of A.I.” Did Drivatar deliver on simulations of real-life players, actively reproducing their driving habits through the magic of the cloud? No, it did not. What we got instead was lobotomized versions of ourselves aggressively smashing into our friends and stupidly braking on apexes. I actually witnessed Gizzie’s Drivatar brake on a fucking straight with no one in front of him and no corner in sight: Gizzie does not drive that way in a race...I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him apply his brake. He may not even be aware that they provide one in the game. 

A driver is so much more than cloud-based mathematical computations. I know which of my friends are going to stupidly run into the back of my car on a corner because they can’t seem to remember that muscle cars or luxury sedans need to brake earlier to make a turn than the exotic with full aero that they are driving. I know which friends brake late, who uses FWD, who is going to reciprocate if I bump them, who will make a mistake if I put the pressure on them, and who is going to drive off and not be seen again until the start of the next race. I received messages, both through XBL and Twitter, complaining about the aggressiveness of my Drivatar. I can be a bit assertive, but never to the point that someone felt obligated to message me to tell me I drive like a dick. So much for cloud computing: the Drivatars are not as accurate as advertised.

 

The Tracks

Turn 10 continued their long standing tradition of omitting tracks to make way for the newness. The game contains 14 tracks, at launch, and I hope that some of the omitted tracks make their way into the game at some point down the road. Tracks from previous games that made the Forza 5 cut are:

  • Bernese Alps: 6 configurations
  • Catalunya: 3 configurations
  • Indianapolis: 2 configurations
  • Laguna Seca: 1 configuration
  • Le Mans: 3 configurations
  • Road Atlanta: 2 configurations
  • Sebring: 3 configurations
  • Silverstone: 3 configurations
  • Top Gear: 7 configurations

 

The Bugatti circuit at Le Mans, introduced in Forza 3 only to not return in Forza 4, was added back to the track roster. Silverstone underwent some changes in track configuration and starting line placement, with only the National Circuit remaining nearly the same as before.

Australia’s Bathurst, with its crazy straights, elevation changes, and suicidal turns is probably the worst track in the world to race V8 Supercars, but why would that stop the Aussies? I feel fairly certain that a good portion of this track was the inspiration for the Blue Mountain track in the first Forza game. Players may want to resist the dual temptation of Mount Panorama’s two long straights and bring a car that can handle the wicked turns in the hills instead of a straight-line monster...but only if you’re interested in leaderboards or actually winning races.

See video

Hollywood loves Prague, with its crazy mix of Medieval and Renaissance architecture, arches, plazas, famous statues and bridges...lots of bridges. XXX and the first Mission Impossible were both, at least partially, shot in Prague. Forza 5’s Prague track reminds me of Positano with legs. Racers should expect a fair amount of bricks and cobblestones, cable car tracks, elevation changes while turning, and several sweeping turns. Bring a balanced car with good brakes and acceleration, and just enough grip to hold sweepers. Four configurations.

See video

Belgium’s Spa is one of the most player requested tracks in Forza history. Spa sports a good mix of long straights, elevation changes, chicanes, 90s, and sweepers, and starts with a very acute hard right at turn one. Acceleration and a fair amount of grip are required to keep it clean at Belgium’s Gran Prix track.

See video

Yas Marina in the United Arab Emirates was obviously designed with Formula racing in mind. Two nice, long straights with some very tight turns and wicked chicanes to break up the monotony of oval racing. When not driving a Formula car, bring something with a shitload of grip: the straights mean nothing if you’re blowing turns. Five configurations.

See video

The Test Track Airfield is set at an abandoned airport somewhere in the Mojave. The single track configuration is a very tight course that runs through hangars, a parking lot, and around the outside of buildings. This track combines the imminent danger of hitting a building with a light-post obstacle course...bring something grippy that you don’t mind smashing up.

See video

A great deal of the controversy surrounding Forza 5 centers around the tragic loss of tracks. Let’s have a moment of silence for the former Forza tracks that didn’t make it to the new game:

  • Pacific Shipyards
  • Tsukuba
  • Mugello
  • Sidewinder
  • Amalfi Coast
  • Positano
  • Rio De Janeiro
  • Tokyo
  • Blue Mountains
  • Fujimi Kaido
  • Sunset
  • Infineon
  • Sedona
  • New York
  • Odessa Test Track (Benchmark)
  • Ladera
  • Camino Viejo
  • Hockenheim
  • Alpine
  • Road America
  • Nordschleife
  • Nurburgring GP
  • Motegi
  • Iberian
  • Suzuka
  • Maple Valley

 

Cars

At launch, Forza 5 had 213 available cars for those who pre-ordered the Limited Edition. It included another ten if, unlike me, you’re the type who buys Day One DLC. Here’s the deal about that Day One car pack...most of the cars that are in it were already in other Forza games. Does Turn 10 seriously think that players are going to lay down ten bucks for fucking cars that they already had? What kind of dickhead publisher charges for downloadable content on the day the game comes out? EA, that’s who. If you’re following the insidious business model of one of the most hated companies in the world then you should probably brace yourself for some negative feedback.

The cars looks great, and there is very little fat on the roster. There are no shitty hybrids, no Pintos, no PT Cruisers, and very few dipshit daily drivers. What we are left with are the very best offerings from the respective manufacturers, and only Audi and BMW are seriously over-represented with different year models of the same car. We may be racing with fewer cars this time around, but we are also racing with better cars. However, once again, a new Forza game launches without a single Porsche in the game. Other glaring omissions include NASCAR-style stock cars, Bentley, Wiesmann, Morgan, DeTomaso, Devon, and many others. My favorite muscle car, the XXX GTO, is also a no show. Base models are also a thing of the past. If you want a Gallardo, you get the Superleggera. If you want a Veyron, the SS is your only choice.

 

 

The PI system was overhauled again. The new car classes are D, C, B, A, S, R, P, and X. D is the new F, A is the new S, S is for supercars and V8 Supercars, R is Hypercars and the GT equivalent, P is Indy and Formula car territory, and X is suicide prototype territory.

 

Rivals

Rivals mode is about the same, with the exception of leaderboard integration. This is good news for hotlappers, who can now pick and choose their track and class and be rewarded with experience, affinity, and Forzabucks while testing tunes or chasing clean LB laps. Affinity no longer rewards players with discounts on upgrades, instead it increases monetary rewards incrementally as a percentage. The more affinity you have with a manufacturer, the greater the percentage boost on pay day.

 

Forzavista

Autovista makes an unwelcome return, but is now available for every car. Players are now able to prowl around inside, around, and under the hood of any car in their garage, without the superfluous Clarkson commentary. I don’t really give a shit about this feature. Why would Turn 10 devote developmental assets to this useless feature when they could have been laser scanning Nordschleife or a 67 GTO? Fucking ponderous.

 

Auction House

There isn’t one.

 

Storefront

Also conspicuously absent from Forza 5. Players, however, are free to donate tunes and designs to the public, and maybe get paid if enough people like your work.

 

Car Clubs

Gone. Good thing you’re already in a clan and have folks to race with.

                                                                                       Do I look pleased?

Multiplayer

Never in the history of online racing has multiplayer been such a pain in the ass. Players can only join a private match after accepting a party invite. Why do you have to be in a party to join a fucking race with friends? This was never a prerequisite in previous games. The lobbies themselves are still problematic. I was having audio issues at one point, but don’t know whether to point the finger at Turn 10 for the game or Microsoft for the console, so I’ll just flip both of them the bird. I also experienced lag and rubber banding in online lobbies...and there were only a couple of other guys in the room with me. Another race dropped a guy from the race, but replaced him with his Drivatar...while he was still in the party.

See video

The loss of the ability to cherry pick which of my friends’ races I wanted to join, and then join that race without the hassle of fishing for a fucking invite is the harshest blow of all. It’s far worse to me, personally, than the lack of cars or tracks. After the annoyance of having to ask for a party invite and race invitation, jacking around with the party settings once you’re there, I find out the the room does indeed include the friend I wanted to race with, but the guy who dropped me off his friends list is also there as is the guy I kicked off my list because he belches into his mic every thirty seconds. At this point I feel obligated to remain for a few races just because it felt like work getting there.

The inability to share designs and tunes with people on your friends list is the final unforgivable sin. The guys in 2Old4Forza are talking about setting up a spreadsheet to share tunes amongst the clan. A fucking spreadsheet! Are you fucking kidding me? Did I just go back in time to 1995? Why can’t we gift tunes? For a developer that claims to be community minded you’re working awfully hard to alienate the community. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of community, the hub of Forza Motorsports, forzamotorsport.net, has the absolute shittiest and most argumentative fucking forum moderators of all time. Some mod named TG (testicle glutton?) Wormburner banned a 2o4f member until the year 2165...literally without explanation. If this is the hub of Turn 10’s racing community, then I am so fucking not impressed.

 

Final Verdict

Forza 5 is a beautiful racing game and an awesome single player experience, but the inept implementation of key features, the inclusion of unnecessary fluff, the loss of tracks and cars, multiplayer aggravation, and the complete and sudden disregard for the social side of the game left a very bad taste in my mouth. It feels unfinished or rushed. If I could go back, I would buy a used or deeply discounted copy of this game instead of forking over 80 bucks for the Day One LE. I’m disappointed, but playing anyway. Finish your fucking game, Turn 10.

2o2p Game Review | Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Tue, 11/19/2013 - 09:14 — SarcasmoJones

The pirate image and legend has left an unmistakable and lasting impression on the world. Much like the cowboy, pirates are often vilified and romanticized as hard drinking thrill seekers with a deadly reputation, and it was only a matter of time until someone developed the next great pirate game. Ubisoft Montreal released Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in the last week of October, 2013. Does the new AC have what it takes to dethrone Sid Meier’s Pirates for the “Bane of the Briny” crown?

 
 
 
 
The Setting
The death of Desmond Miles in AC3 forced the modern day Templars to salvage what DNA they could from Desmond’s remains in order to claim worldwide dominance or something. The Templars tasked the entertainment branch of their dark empire, Abstergo, with exploring the memories contained within these DNA samples using paid talent plugged into an animus. The player is tasked with exploring the character of Captain Edward Kenway, a privateer during the heyday of Caribbean piracy, father of Haytham Kenway, and grandfather to Connor.
 
 
See video
 
 
A Pirate’s Life
Through the animus, we find Edward washed ashore after a particularly destructive ship battle along with a turncoat Assassin. Edward kills the Assassin, assumes his identity and sets off to Havana, on a merchant vessel, to collect the traitor’s reward. Once in Havana, Edward discovers that the Templars are looking for a supernatural Observatory and the only key to unlocking the place is a “sage” by the name of Bartholomew Roberts. However, Edward, disappointed by his paltry reward, decides to interrogate Roberts on his own, as Edward believes that this Observatory is his key to fame and riches. However, Roberts has been liberated, Edward’s ruse is discovered, and he is sent away in chains for a short drop with a quick stop. Kenway escapes his date with the gallows and steals a ship, which he names “The Jackdaw,” thus promoting himself from pirate to pirate captain.
 
Although booty is gained in the traditional pirate fashion, Edward’s storyline is driven towards finding the Observatory, and his growing relationship with the Assassins as well as the pirates of the time: Blackbeard, James Kidd, Calico Jack, Charles Vane, and Black Bart. Aside from looting ships, money can also be made by completing assassination contracts, digging up buried treasure (you may need a map for that), robbing warehouses, looting corpses, and sometimes collecting shit that is just floating around in the water.
 
Money can be used to upgrade the Jackdaw: bigger and more numerous broadside cannons, hull plating, mortars, ram strength, crew and cargo capacity, chain shot, fire barrels, sails, wheels, and figureheads. Edward’s personal armor and weapons can also be upgraded.
 
 
Edward the Pirate
Ubisoft considerably expanded on the best part of Assassin’s Creed 3: the ship battles. Players start out with a modestly outfitted Jackdaw, and upgrade it as they see fit. The bulk of the money gained in the game must be taken from other ships, usually in the form of sugar or rum, and traded off at a harbor master in any port, or from the Captain’s Quarters on the Jackdaw. The harbor master is also the guy to see about upgrading the ship. Pirates start their careers by ripping off schooners, eventually upgrading their ship and crew enough to take on Galleons and “Legendary Ships,” with accompanying legendary booty: the larger and better armed the ship, the better the take. 
 
 
See video
 
 
Since the goal is to plunder the enemy ship, not to sink it, firepower is directed at enemy ships to incapacitate them, grapple, then board. This method requires a crew to storm the deck of the target ship, so maintaining the largest crew possible aboard the Jackdaw gives the player an advantage. Surrendering vessels can either be dismantled to repair the damage done to the Jackdaw during battle, used to reduce the Jackdaw’s wanted level, or added to Kenway’s fleet for side missions. Ubisoft indicated that if enough interest is shown in naval battles, they would consider adding it to multiplayer.
 
Naval fortresses protect quite a few of the shipping lanes in the Caribbean, so if players want unrestricted sailing, premium fast travel locations and access to all of the assassination missions and points of interest indicated on the world map, then these fortresses must be taken and claimed. Other naval activities include diving for sunken treasure, hunting sharks and whales, which are important for upgrading Edward’s gear, and buried treasure hunts, which often unlock elite upgrades for the Jackdaw.
 
 
Edward the Assassin
Edward begins his journey masquerading as an Assassin. It doesn’t take long for him to learn the tools of the trade and gain enough proficiency to warrant a meeting with the real deal and at least one of Kenway’s associates on the pirate nation of Nassau can lubricate that process. Exploration of Edward’s Assassin career is vital to plot progression, as Abstergo is interested in the Observatory, so players will spend roughly half of their play time on dry land. 
 
The turncoat Assassin’s contribution to the Templars, for which Edward was so poorly rewarded, is a map with locations of all of the Assassin Bureaus marked on it: Bureaus that players should take the time to defend if they want the set of Templar armor and to set things right with the Assassins. Assassination contracts can either be delivered by carrier pigeon, or given directly to Edward by a representative. These contracts are moderately rewarding, often including a bonus for avoiding combat, but they can also be the most repetitive part of the game.
 
 
See video
 
 
Edward proves to be a formidable assassin and his bag of tricks certainly puts him on par with Ezio. Edward can dual wield cutlasses, carry multiple firearms, throwing knives, rope darts, smoke bombs, blow darts coated with either a sleeping poison or berserk potion, and of course, employ his trusty retractable Assassin’s blades. Edward can engage multiple enemies simultaneously by attacking, blocking, parrying, disarming, or throwing enemies off balance.
 
Ascending and synchronizing high altitude viewpoints unveils points of interest and opens up parts of the map and is followed by the signature Assassin leap of faith. Edward possesses the “Eagle Vision” to mark and differentiate his targets.
 
 
Multiplayer
Manhunt is a hunter versus prey affair. Hunters must search for unarmed prey who are blending in with similarly dressed NPCs. Killing prey gives hunters points, killing bystanders freezes the scoring temporarily. Locking onto prey for a longer amount of time rewards the hunter with a more brutal death animation and a better score, as do aerial kills. Prey score points by remaining anonymous in crowds or hiding. Prey possess the ability to stun their attacker, but this gives their location away to other hunters, even through walls. 
 
CoD players will find Domination very familiar. Two teams of four Assassins each fight to dominate three key areas in a map. The team that dominates one of these keypoints has the ability to use deadly force to protect it while trespassers are only able to stun dominating opponents, much like playing as prey in Manhunt.
 
Deathmatch pits eight Assassins together in a free for all. Each Assassin is assigned a target while avoiding the same fate from their pursuers. Only the target may be dealt deadly force, all others can only be stunned, and this includes any pursuers that may be stalking the player. This is a timed match: whoever has the most points at the end of ten minutes is declared the winner.
 
 
 
 
Sarcasmo Says
AC IV has a lot of good things going for it. The naval battles are a fucking blast, especially the naval fortresses and Legendary Ships, which require a fair amount of tactical ability to come out on top. Weather was a nice touch and an added threat to the Jackdaw, as rogue waves and waterspouts can damage the ship and decimate the crew. At times the plot would cross over into absurdity, but I never lost interest in discovering what was next. I felt equally formidable as both pirate and Assassin, but given the choice I would prefer pirate.
 
The part that kills every Assassin’s Creed game has found its way into this one: the modern-day Templar agenda. Why does this series have to be grounded in the modern day when all the good shit that ever happens is far into the past? I was glad when Desmond got his ass killed. I was hoping that the next game could be centered completely in the era of interest without the immersion-killing piece of crap animus pulling me out every time shit started to get real. Kill the animus bullshit and just set the game in the past. What’s so fucking hard about that?
 
 
Final Verdict
Despite my aggravation at the animus, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is not only the best AC game I have played, and I have played several, it is one of the best games I have played all year. In a year that gave us new Bioshock, Tomb Raider, and GTA entries, that is no small statement. AC IV gets a perfect score and due consideration for GOTY.

2o2p Game Review | Batman: Arkham Origins

Fri, 11/08/2013 - 08:08 — SarcasmoJones

Lots of developers tried their hand at making a worthwhile Batman game over the years, and most of these efforts to place players in the Dark Knight’s boots failed. At least that was true until Rocksteady brought us Batman: Arkham Asylum back in 2009. Asylum was the “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever,” according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Arkham Asylum got the voices right, gave us the gadgets, the Batman look, the moves, and gave us the fearsome reputation to make the bad guys shit their pants! Batman: Arkham City gave us a little more city to play around in, a few more villains, and more puzzles and fetch quests.

See video
 
 
Sleigh Bells...and a Touch of Smilex
 
For those who are unaware, Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel to the other two games, taking place only two years after Bruce Wayne returns from his “sabbatical.” Batman is still considered a vigilante in the eyes of Gotham’s finest, and police corruption is the norm, rather than the exception. It’s Christmas Eve, and Black Mask and Killer Croc took Police Commissioner Loeb hostage inside Blackgate Prison, giving him a tour of the facilities that culminates with a demonstration of the execution chamber. Batman arrives shortly after the break-in. Although Batman misses the opportunity to save Loeb, his interrogation of Killer Croc and recovery of some evidence tip off the fact that Black Mask hired eight assassins to kill Batman for 50 million dollars, but only if they can accomplish the feat on Christmas Eve. The rather hefty prize understandably captures the interests of all eight assassins. The message intercepted by Batman was sent to Deathstroke, Copperhead, Silva, The Electrocutioner, Firefly, Bane, Dead Shot, and the aforementioned Killer Croc.
 
 
 
 
In addition to assassins swooping in from all directions, Batman must also deal with Anarky placing bombs all over Gotham for “the greater good.” Enigma trys to start his own version of a virtual apocalypse, Penguin passes out space-age weapons like they’re fucking Halloween candy, the Mad Hatter kidnaps “Alice” for some psychedelic fun, Black Mask places large capacity drug cannisters all over the city, and everyone’s favorite psychotic clown leaves a trail of dead bodies all over Gotham City. It’s going to be a long night for the Bat. Why does everyone pick Christmas Eve to start this shit?
 
 
See video
 
 
The Newest Thing in Gotham
 
Warner Bros handed the development reins over to its in-house Montreal development team, so Rocksteady is out of the picture for this title. Arkham Origins is relatively kid-friendly...somewhere around a PG-rating if it were a movie. Mark Hamill does not reprise his Joker role in this one, but the new guy does an admirable imitation of the Jedi’s voice work.
 
Batman doesn’t feature many new tricks this time around. He develops a glue grenade that acts in the identical capacity as the freeze blast from the last game: plugging steam and making rafts. Batman obtains a spear shooter from his encounter with Deathstroke that can be used as a high-wire in situations where the Bat cannot grapple. Fast travel via the Batwing is probably the most useful new addition to Batman’s arsenal, but is only available to the individual boroughs that have been cleared of Enigma’s tower scramblers.
 
The highlights of the game center around Batman’s assassin battles. Each boss possesses an individual fighting style and weapons and no two encounters are the same. Deathstroke is a capable fighter, so effectively countering his attacks is a necessity. Copperhead uses a deadly poison that causes hallucinations, Deadshot will shoot at you, Bane will try to Venom-crush the Bat, and the Electrocutioner possesses some shock gloves that might be useful if he could be persuaded to part with them.
 
 
 
 
Deja Vu
 
From the moment I started playing Batman: Arkham Origins, I felt like I was playing DLC for the last game. Nothing much has changed. Players swoop down and fight the same group of guys from Arkham City, using the exact same moves, to obtain nearly identical upgrades. The city looks the same, the enemies are still numerous, repetitive and monotonous, and the animations, like spraying explosive gel, prying ventilation shafts open, and ledge takedowns, are identical to Arkham City. No wonder the development cycle on this game was so short: the cutscenes are the only new feature in the game. I often felt like I was playing a game that I had already finished...and was sick of playing. The only real advancement in this game was an enhancement to Detective Mode, which has a real “who gives a shit” aura about it. I don’t really need to know the exact trajectory of a bullet to know that it was fucking Deadshot, and I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that we are going to cross paths later anyway. You don’t necessarily have to be the world’s best forensics guy to be the world’s greatest detective. 
 
All the little side shit from Arkham City also returned in a big way. Knocking out Enigma’s relays, interrogating his goons, and collecting his data packets was an unwelcome chore...especially when some little puzzle must be solved in order to obtain the packet or shut down the relay. I never finished Riddler’s stupid side-shit in the last two games, what makes him think that I give a shit this time around. Go ahead and broadcast your blackmail data, I’ve got assassins to deal with, Nerd Boy.
 
Final Verdict
 
If you haven’t played one of the Rocksteady Batman games, then getting this game is a no-brainer. If you’ve played through the other two games, then this is going to feel like too much of the same too soon. Wait for the price to drop.

2o2p Game Review | The Wolf Among Us

Wed, 11/06/2013 - 12:05 — CapnMikeM

The Walking Dead by Telltale games took the video game industry by storm when it was released in 2012. Whether it was gamers or journalists, the game was very well received and earned many Game of the Year awards. Having changed the landscape of the video game industry, Telltale went back to work on their often delayed graphic adventure game which is based on Bill Willingham's Fables comic book series. After many delays and a name change, The Wolf Among Us has now finally been released.

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As soon as one starts playing this title there are certain things that will quickly become apparent. Telltale has taken their familiar brand of graphic adventure gaming and upped the quality tenfold. No small feat for a company who took home many accolades in the past. The game starts off with alerting you to the fact the choices you make during the game will have an effect on the outcome of the story. The mechanics that are used to make these choices are greatly improved. There should be no complaints about controls this time around as they feel smooth, accurate and very intuitive. There is a bit more action in this title than in The Walking Dead series and thus it was essential that Telltale nail down a control scheme that makes it easy to bounce back and forth between action and decision making.

Maybe it is because The Wolf Among Us, in this writer’s opinion, has a better subject matter and location than The Walking Dead, but visually this game looks downright stunning. With the hand drawn characters and signature New York City aesthetics, the seedy underbelly of NYC has never looked so good. The use of color and neon coupled with the nighttime lighting really makes each scene pop off your screen. Murder isn’t so bad when dressed to kill.

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The Wolf Among Us’ story doesn’t take a backseat to anyone or anything. It has what should be familiar characters to really anyone that had somewhat of a decent childhood. The roster in the first episode includes such names as the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, The Woodsman, one third of the Three Little Pigs, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Beauty and the Beast, and more. These childhood characters once lived freely in their make-believe world. However, something has happened which has forced them to leave their world and now they are tasked with living in our world. In order to protect their identity and assimilate into an ordinary lifestyle, they must purchase a spell called Glamour, which according to one famous toad, has seen a dramatic increase in price but with decreasing results. Fabletown, which is now part of New York City, has it’s fair share of inner city problems. All of which fall under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf.

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In the first episode, which is roughly two hours of gameplay, Fabletown experiences their first murders. Snow White, now a clerical assistant for the Mayor, discovers the first murder victim and quickly alerts Bigby. The victim, a Fabletown resident turned prostitute, was a recent acquaintance to Bigby as he just saved her from catching a serious beating at the hands of The Woodsman, a nemesis to the Big Bad Wolf. From here Bigby and Snow White set out to find The Woodsman, the victim’s husband and more importantly, identify the identity of the victim.


Final Verdict

The Wolf Among Us no longer has to stand in the shadow of The Walking Dead. In the first of five episodes, Telltale has laid the groundwork for a series that once again breathes fresh air into an industry that can quickly grow stagnant and repetitive. From the well developed characters and gorgeous artwork, coupled with the mature subject matter, Telltale proves that a murder suspense can be just as intense and riveting as any Zombie hack and slash. After completing this first episode, you will be on the edge of your seat anticipating episode two, Smoke and Mirrors.

2o2p Game Review | Grand Theft Auto V

Thu, 10/03/2013 - 13:00 — SarcasmoJones

The Grand Theft Auto series has been one of the most profitable and consistently highest rated game franchises in the history of console gaming. San Andreas was the highest grossing game on the PS2, and folks on my friends list were still playing GTA IV up until the moment when they left the house to stand in line at midnight to get the new game. GTA V is already considered a blockbuster, selling 15 million units and sporting a metacritic score of 97-98, but does the game match the hype once it’s spinning in the disc tray?

 
 
See video
 
 
The game centers around an unlikely trio of friends with only one common factor: their individual proclivity for criminality. The backbone of the single player experience are the heists that the player gets to plan and then perform. Some of the preparatory set up missions proved to be as fun as the heist itself. When players are not preparing for a heist or progressing the story, they can involve themselves in several leisure activities, like watching a movie, running a triathlon, street or off-road racing, dabbling in real estate or the stock market, yoga, golf, or tennis. The map fills up with activity icons very quickly and there is always something for the three amigos to do in Los Santos.
 
 
Michael
 
 
 
 
Michael De Santa, formerly Michael Townley, is an aging thief currently living the posh life in an unofficial witness protection program. Michael cut a deal with an FIB agent on his last robbery in North Yankton. He sold out his accomplices, Trevor Philips among them, and used the take to live out a life of comfort with his family in Los Santos, located in the sunny state of San Andreas. Michael is a bit soggy in the middle, his wife and kids despise him, and he currently sees a psychiatrist to help him deal with the ghosts of his past. 
 
 
Michael is the unofficial ringleader of the group. When Michael is not robbing banks or ripping off jewelry stores he enjoys playing tennis, dabbling on the stock market, golfing, and yoga. He is also an old movie buff and aspires to become a movie producer.
 
 
Franklin
 
 
 
 
Franklin Clinton meets Michael during the “repossession” of his son’s SUV, and it doesn’t take Franklin long to realize that life could be a lot more profitable under Michael’s tutelage than slinging dime bags and boosting cars. Franklin possesses remarkable driving skills and is usually the designated getaway driver. He is quite ambitious and eager to lose his gangbanger reputation in favor of something more professionally criminal.
 
 
When not shaking cops off his tail after a heist, Franklin enjoys participating in illegal street races, driving a tow truck to cover for his crackhead cousin, playing fetch with Chop, and making a little money on the side by reducing the city’s population one person at a time.
 
 
Trevor
 
 
 
 
If there has ever has ever been a single character solely responsible for a game receiving the “M” rating, that character is Trevor Philips. During the first two hours I played as Trevor he sodomized a biker’s girlfriend while watching the local news and then curb-stomped the biker to death. He pushed an arms dealer’s trailer into a river, defended his meth lab from an armed attack, destroyed a competitor’s lab, farm, and family, and sticky-bombed an entire trailer park. Trevor is clearly psychotic, extremely violent, and delusionally ambitious. Trevor’s specialty is aviation, so he will be your man in the sky for missions that require a birds-eye view.
 
When he’s not airlifting valuable and ill-gotten loot from their rightful owners, Trevor enjoys cooking meth, mass murder rampages, running weapons, and kidnapping.
 
 
 
 
Improving on a Successful Formula
 
 
Rockstar did an admirable of improving almost every aspect of what makes the Grand Theft Auto series solid fun. The most notable improvements are the vehicles in GTA V: they’re actually fun to drive, as well as customizable. Vehicles feature drastically improved physics and individuality. Rockstar definitely brought a Midnight Club feel to the game’s driving segments and traveling all the way across the map is still time consuming, but no longer tedious. The map is huge with lots of places to go, tons of properties to own and manage, and chock full of side activities which are often character specific.
 
 
See video
 
 
The group dynamic is an interesting addition to the series. Previously the character ran around, like Niko or Tommy Vercetti, while interacting with outside people. In GTA V, the main characters are constantly interacting and conflicting with each other: they don’t always have the same goal in mind. I found myself playing differently with each character: I kept it clean and classy while playing with Michael, unnecessarily violent and over the top as Trevor, and Franklin was a mix of the two. The story is fairly solid, for a videogame, with multiple branching plot lines and talented voice acting. The length of the SP campaign is satisfyingly lengthy, with over 100 hours of stuff to do. The addition of GTA Online will only improve the longevity of this title...if Rockstar ever manages to get the fucking thing to work.
 
 
The centerpieces of GTA V are the heist missions, which are fun as shit to prepare for and pull off. Players are involved in nearly every aspect of each job: surveillance, recon, procurement of the necessary vehicles and equipment, personnel choices, and execution of the score. The jobs range from jewelry store rip-offs, the theft of military hardware, and rural bank robberies-all culminating up to the “big one.” Smaller jobs include paparazzi missions, boosting cars, assassinations, and expanding the Trevor Philips International business. The FIB also “recruits” the trio to pull some dirty jobs for Uncle Sam as well.
 
 
See video
 
 
GTA V is also the best looking game in the series. Rockstar obviously applied some of their LA Noire techniques to the facial expressions in this game. The water looks great, especially oceanic undulations while racing boats or jet skis. However, hair, especially long hair, still looks like shit and at one point Michael pours himself a whisky made entirely of molten plastic...I literally laughed out loud when I saw it.
 
 
The Most Overrated Series of All Time
 
 
While GTA V is a great game, it does suffer from some of the same problems faced by its predecessors. First and foremost, some of the time-killing side stuff is just plain boring. Playing tennis, running a triathlon, or driving a tow truck just isn’t that much fun. Character development is a bit on the shallow side, and most of the NPCs, as well as our three protagonists, are simply not likeable or relatable. The map is large, but filled with false storefronts that cannot be explored, similar to the movie sets that Michael is so fond of. 
 
 
I have a few more gripes with the game: the online portion of the game was not available at launch, the weapons are basically the same as they have been since GTA 3, and the mission difficulties are often uneven in their execution. Oh, and all of the aircraft drive like shit.
 
 
Rockstar is working on a glitch where cars and upgrades are disappearing from players garages, so don’t upgrade your stored rides, or disable the autosave, until the patch hits.
 
Final Verdict
 
 
Despite its flaws, GTA V is the best in the series, and the most fun I had with a GTA game since Vice City. The inclusion of Trevor to the roster allows players to explore a darker side of gaming not generally provided, and certainly not rewarded, to players who don’t necessarily wear a white hat when they game. I never thought I would say this about a GTA game, but I am sincerely looking forward to playing online. Grand Theft Auto V gets a perfect score and a GOTY nomination.

2o2p Game Review | SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (3DS)

Tue, 10/01/2013 - 09:18 — CapnMikeM

Hailing from Sweden, Image & Form were a relative unknown developer prior to the release of SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. Up until this point, they released SteamWorld: Tower Defense on Nintendo's DSiWare and an iOS game called Anthill. What they didn't know, but secretly hoped for, was that their next title, SteamWorld Dig, would be their breakout hit. And boy is this a case of dreams come true! When I spoke a few weeks ago with Brjann of Image & Form, for my interview with him on the GamersInBeta.com podcast, he told me the game was in development for eight months (October 2012 to May 2013). His team of 11 worked longer and harder on this title than any other previous title, even taking an extra month at the end to add some last minute polish. Certainly, their hard work and dedication paid off as SteamWorld Dig is a joy to play from beginning to end.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Like most great things, simplicity must be a key component. In this case, the story is pretty, well, simple. Rusty, an energetic steambot, landed in Tumbletown to inherit a mine left by his Uncle. Armed with a simple pick axe, Rusty makes his initial descent into the first of three mining areas. Immediately upon arrival in the mines, players start digging their way around to collect gems to trade in to purchase better axes, ladders, lighting, power ups and other odds and ends. The constant reward of loot along with power ups is a driving force behind why this title is so addictive to play. The more you explore, the more you find and the quicker Rusty becomes the most powerful steambot Tumbletown ever laid eyes (retina displays?) upon.
 
 
Welcome to Tumbletown
 
 
 
 
The first two mining areas feature a very linear approach. There are usually red arrows directing players where to dig next. This approach, while appreciated by the gamer who has very little time, can limit how much of the mine is explored. Just like the games it has been influenced by, Metroid and Dig Dug to name a few, there are secret areas to be found, which often contain health, water and light so you can progress to the next area. The last area isn’t as linear and requires the player to dig, navigate small rooms and essentially solve a puzzle to determine where they must go next to advance the story. Think of the levels as a difficulty meter. The first is easy while the last is hard. Nothing in life is free, so you should expect to work at the end to solve and ultimately beat this game.
 
 
The overall level design changes from area to area, requiring you to buy stronger pick axes along the way. The first mine is a warm up act for what follows. Expect to learn how to dig down so you can dig your way back up. If players are not equipped with ladders or can't find a transport beacon, then they should expect to self-destruct and start their quest over again. Usually, play resumes not far from where Rusty met his demise so committing suicide is not all that much of a setback. Power ups and in some cases, dynamite, are essential to move forward in this game. What powers steam? Yes, water is needed to power your Power Ups! Whether it is the Power Punch or the Power Jump, you need a little H2O to get from point A to point B. There are many areas throughout the mines to fill up on water. Don't forget to upgrade your backpack too as this allows you to carry more gems and water. Exploring, collecting, and upgrading make up the core of this game.
 
 
OMG, Zombies!
 
 
 
 
Expect to find a few enemies in the mines as well. Sprinkled throughout there are robotic three eyed bugs-some small and some very large. There are also zombies-some of whom are asleep and some of whom are large and like to throw nasty objects your way. While most are a slight nuisance, there are some who need to be dealt with or else you won't advance far. There are also objects, in the later areas, that can be moved. Dig carefully and you can use them to your advantage, don't dig carefully and you could end up on the wrong side of things.
 
 
The game is not free of criticism, as no developer is perfect. Gameplay is on the short side as it should roughly take you around five to six hours to complete. Also, once you beat the game there isn’t a “new game plus” feature, which I know many in the community have asked for, myself included. Also, without trying to give any spoilers away, the ending is rather abrupt and features gameplay that maybe was less prevalent in other areas of the game. Yes, the classic boss fight makes an appearance.
 
 
Final Verdict
 
 
Overall, SteamWorld Dig is a fun adventure puzzle platformer that should appeal to any gamer. It scratches the nostalgic itch of gaming from a simpler time yet puts a modern twist on it. Gameplay is smooth and responsive which is essential for a handheld game. This game is not a port, it was made for the 3DS from the ground up and it shows. Levels pop out at you and you quickly forget that you're holding a portable device. A few weeks ago, SteamWorld Dig was number one on the Nintendo Download Charts in many countries. It is currently, number three on the US Charts, which means it is currently ahead of the wildly popular Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Quite the feat for a company of 11, who as I mentioned before, were relative unknowns prior to this release. Because of their recent success, Nintendo and Image & Form are happy to announce that a new SteamWorld game will release on the 3DS next year. If it plays as well as SteamWorld Dig, then they should have another hit on their hands.
 
SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt was developed by Image & Form. It was released August 8, 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS at a price of $8.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.

2o2p Game Review | Star Wars Pinball (WiiU)

Thu, 09/26/2013 - 08:17 — ErinAS

Being 2old2play’s resident pinball expert (I own three pinball tables) and WiiU owner, I was tapped to review Zen Pinball’s Star Wars Pinball tables for WiiU when 2o2p scored a review copy. Are the tables worth it for either hardcore Star Wars or Pinball fans? Read on for my take.

 
 
 
 
I dusted off my WiiU and was immediately reminded of its slow and terrible interface. After I entered the DLC code, I couldn’t find any indication anywhere that it was downloading or tell what the heck was happening. Eventually, about 20 minutes later, an icon just magically appeared on the menu. Way to boost my confidence in cloud gaming Nintendo!
 
 
Zen released three tables in the first pack at a $9.99 price point with plans to add more. The tables included were Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars; each with their own layouts, rules, and toys. All were original virtual table designs and weren’t based on any of the handful of actual Star Wars pins you might find in arcades.
 
 
During game setup you must choose either the Galactic Empire or Rebel Alliance side of the conflict which factors into online leaderboards and gaining points for your side. I wasn’t ready to play for team dark side but enough tilts and its probably best to keep me away from the younglings just in case! I found the whole thing kind of hokey but it's easy enough to just ignore.
 
 
                                                                   Okay so it wasn’t quite as hokey as this!
 
The Tables
 
 
The first table I played was Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I was HORRIFIED when they narrated the scrolling yellow text out loud in the intro movie. Isn’t it a cardinal rule of Star Wars that you read, not listen to, the scrolling yellow text?! The table was decent and sort of reminded me a bit of the actual Data East table with the original trilogy theme from the early 90’s. It features stages that unlock scenes from the movies and then aims to replicate pieces of them on the table (which was a neat mechanic). It also features a giant lightsaber that moves the ball across the table which was cool the first time but mostly annoying after that.
 
 
My favorite of the three, Boba Fett, was up next. I liked the theme (bonus points for the use of the jet backpack to fly around the table and Han Solo in Carbonite!) and the layout of the table. This table was the easiest of the three to follow where the ball actually was without it jumping around too much.
 
 
See video
 
 
Last up was The Clone Wars. This theme surfaced long after I gave up on the Star Wars franchise so I’m not really familiar with it. The table was decent but definitely the one I played the least. It seemed short on space and it was difficult to follow the ball around.
 
 
Why WiiU?
 
 
The WiiU version promised integration with the touchpad controller so I was curious what that brought to the table. Compared to a PS or XBox controller, I do like the shape and size of the WiiU controller better for pinball simulation but none of the other special integration features really did much for me.
 
 
 
 
You may also choose to play on either the TV or the controller as your main view. It’s nice if you want to play on the controller and have a receiver and someone else wants to watch TV. As far as being a closer simulation to actual pinball, I like the view of the table at arms length as opposed to across the room. I usually play video games with my husband and we’d swap rounds with games like Star Wars Pinball. I was annoyed that if we switched to the controller as the main view all it displayed on the TV screen was the menu background. What’s the point of that?! The menu backgrounds also tended to be somewhat annoying with a lot flashing and motion that drew your eye towards it.
 
 
Another integration feature is the dot matrix display area and other messages for each table would pop up zoomed in on the gamepad while playing on the TV. I could never find a way to look at the TV and the gamepad at the same time. Although I also have a hard time watching actual dot matrix displays on real tables too.
 
Final Verdict
 
 
If you want to play pinball on a console I’d say go for the WiiU. I like both Zen and the WiiU controller for virtual pinball. In general, I played other Zen tables I liked a lot better than these. I also enjoyed playing on my phone and the MOGA android controller better than with a console setup. For me, it’s the whole focus on the “table” in front of me versus being in a big room with a big distance and a big TV. It just doesn’t quite feel right for pinball to me.
 
If you like Zen Pinball and want more tables, these new tables are decent, especially if you are a Star Wars fan (I am, though a lot less so after Episodes 1-3). If you are on the fence you can probably wait for a sale.
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