Resistance: Burning Skies Not Quite a Bullseye [Review]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 8:00 am
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Let's just cut straight to the question everybody is asking concerning Nihilistic's Resistance: Burning Skies for the PlayStation Vita: Was the developer able to successfully translate the first-person shooter experience to a portable console?

The short answer is "absolutely." I was pleasantly surprised with how good it felt to play RBS on Sony's new handheld. I spent much of my time torn between two mindsets; one that kept geeking out over how cool it was to be playing this kind of a game without the need of a Sixaxis controller, the other arguing that just because it's a portable game doesn't mean some offenses should be too easily overlooked.

If what you're looking for is a half-decent FPS adventure that will supply you with a good six or so hours of single player action and a bare bones online offering, then Resistance's trip to the Vita is going to leave you one happy camper. If, however, you've come to expect a bit more out of your shooters (specifically in the content department), you could be in for some disappointment.

Burning Skies actually improves on the Resistance formula in several areas and is clearly designed by a group of people who know and understand the universe. Quite a few rough edges and little attention paid to the portable nature of the console, though, keep this from being a must-buy.

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An Enjoyable 'Ride'

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

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Joy Ride Turbo is an enjoyable, inoffensive time waster, and if you enjoy Xbox Live avatar-centric games, then you'll likely find this one a pleasant addition to the catalog, with its cars of all stripes, colorful, different environments, and a stunt park area that offers up an entertaining alternative to the car races that form the meat of the game.

While your avatar pilots the car of your choice (sport, truck, or muscle), you race around tracks that start off basic, and get somewhat more complex, sometimes with crates in the way, other times with roller-coaster styled twists and valleys. When you hit brightly lit panels, your vehicle will rapidly accelerate, and if you hit a ramp, you will zip off into the sky, allowing your Avatar to perform skateboard-styled tricks on top of your car, of a sort, while your transport wibbles and wobbles to the tune of your joysticks. As you hit the ground, you will resume the action alongside your seven opponents, all of whom want you out of the way, but in a rather polite fashion, other racing games considered.

The game feels like a bizarre amalgam of Tony Hawk ProSkater, meshed with a gentle, friendly version of Twisted Metal, but in a good way.

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A Classic Comes to XBLA [Dragon's Lair Review]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm

By my count, there are roughly 70 different versions of the original Dragon's Lair, so asking why the world needs another one is a fair question. The answers, of course, are easy. First off, it's a classic, a true innovator that was unlike anything else when it was released in 1983. It was hugely influential, introducing the video game world to Full-Motion Video (for better or for worse). And finally, the new Xbox Live Arcade version shows that there are still ways to add new features to a game that's been around for decades. 

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Make Your Mark [Minecraft XBLA Review]

Monday, May 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm

In Minecraft, one person can change the world.

I am lost, and night is falling.

With only a shoddy hide tunic to protect me from the evils that emerge once the sun has set, I head back toward home -- the home I built myself from wood, rock, soil and sand. At least I think I'm heading that way. With the daylight vanishing and unfamiliar terrain greeting me everywhere I look, fear takes root. What if I'm wandering away from my stove and my bed, and instead I'm stumbling blindly into the hands of my enemies?

And then I see it, beyond the top of a row of trees, distant but unmistakable: Stonefort.

I built a tower atop a hill near my modest house. It's a tall, glass-crowned cobblestone tower, made only because I wanted to erect some big, bold statement of my existence in this world. I named it Stonefort (which I imagine is the same name I would have given it if I'd built it in the sandbox during pre-school). It never served any purpose until this moment, but now it is my compass. I make my way back surely, oddly prideful, keeping my eye on that grey-white parapet.

If you're a veteran of the PC version of Minecraft, you've had experiences like this one. And with the release of the XBLA version this Wednesday, May 9th, those of us who are console-bound will get a chance to experience the much-hyped, cube-heavy game for ourselves.

I had, of course, heard of Minecraft before, and I'd seen the YouTube videos of amazingly detailed user creations ranging from insane roller coasters to replicas of movie sets. But otherwise I was a complete newcomer to the whole thing. It's difficult to sum up my reactions to Minecraft briefly, but I realized that this game is about human instinct... but in a very different way than other video games are.

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The Walking Dead Game Questions My Moral Compass [Review - Episode One]

Monday, May 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Think back to the second episode of season two of AMC's TV series The Walking Dead. There's a scene in which Shane saves his skin - and ultimately the life of a boy - by shooting his ill-fitted partner and leaving him to a mass of undead walkers. He feels awful about his action, yet he feels it is justified in a country overrun by zombies. It just comes with an intangible cost.

What would you do, knowing zombies were seconds from gnawing on you? I wish I had the right answer. I don't have it for Shane's scenario, and I don't have it for the scenarios of Telltale Game's newest game, The Walking Dead. Like the TV series and the eponymous comic book created by Robert Kirkman and company, it presents a blood-stained world, namely the towns of Georgia, which are ravaged by a zombie infestation.  The events therein give rise to split-second survival instincts, catalysts for what might otherwise be known as immoral, illogical behavior. But unlike the show and comic, the game gives us control over those instincts, asking us to navigate a never before seen character and his group to promising futures - really, solutions to an apocalypse. Plus, it's a departure from Telltale's time-honored line of puzzle-heavy games, most of which lack violence and expletive-laden dialogue. This contains both.  

And that's why one of several reasons why it's unforgettable.

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For Fable Fans Only [Fable: Heroes Review]

Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 10:00 am


Drawing new fans into a franchise can be a challenge, and establishing excitement for a new project is equally so. While radical redesign and presentation draw the eyes and offer amusement, Fable: Heroes is a game strictly for already established fans, or those looking for a new party game.


Simple to control and engagingly colorful to look at, 'Heroes' certainly isn't boring, but each level is short, with two possible endings for each (a minigame or a boss), and it's possible to beat the entire game in about 2.5 hours, if you are playing solo as I did. The bosses do provide a nice challenge in an otherwise easy game, but even if your little puppet dies in combat, you'll still keep fighting away as a ghost. It's a nice nod to 'Fable II' & 'III' where your player character never actually dies, but the game is filled with little clever nods to its parent franchise like this one, as well as a minigame involving exploding chickens and a hobble costume that can be equipped from random chests.

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Trials Evolution is a Motorcycle Freakout [Review]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm
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RedLynx's XBLA Arcade game Trials Evolution gears up.

RedLynx's Trials Evolution has revved up a few memories I have of motorcycle video games. In the NES' heyday, I was overheating my Excitebike, with its awesome in-game editor, and when Sega came along, I was showing off my Road Rash, fighting cops and fellow racers on crotch rockets while enjoying a grungy, Soundgarden-laden soundtrack. Both, which I played for countless hours, resonate in the landscape of my gaming experience.

And I expect Trials Evolution will, too, if it holds up. It takes cues from motorcycle games of yesteryear and puts a unique spin on the genre. Yes, it's an evolution - perhaps even a revolution - that isn't running out of gas any time soon.
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StarDrone Extreme Spins Vita Right Round [Review]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:00 am
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While big, blockbuster games from established franchises will certainly be a welcome boost to the PlayStation Vita's growing library; I'd argue that it's going to be the smaller, cheaper titles that take advantage of the hardware's unique input methods that will help set the portable console apart from the competition.

StarDrone Extreme is one such game. Sporting a $3.99 price tag and around 70 levels of gameplay that mixes the antics of Angry Birds with physics-based racing (sort of), it's a game that offers plenty of bang for your buck, shiny graphics, a decent soundtrack and a hard focus on touchscreen controls.

From Beatshapers and Orb Games, StarDrone Extreme is an updated version of a PSN title with several new bells and whistles thrown in for good measure and, despite a few nagging complaints, a fast and furious brand of gameplay that works well in short bursts.

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Bloodforge is Pure Arcade [Review]

Monday, April 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Bloodforge -- sound and fury.

When I play a game as a reviewer, I try my best to take the game on its own terms. I have a tendency as a consumer to expect certain elements to be present in the games that I play, regardless of whether or not these elements are necessary. For instance, when detailed information came out about the upcoming Game of Thrones RPG, I was actually miffed that it didn't look like I'd be able to create custom facial features for the playable characters. I'm a big fan of the universe of A Song of Ice and Fire, so I was really hoping for the opportunity to insert my own creation into the midst of all that lore and intrigue. But that was not an entirely reasonable expectation. To reiterate: I was mad that the main characters of the game were going to have faces.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I'm usually not huge on hack-and-slash action titles, but in reviewing Bloodforge I did my best to see the game without prejudice. Bloodforge, a new XBLA barbarian killfest in the style of God of War, does not have dialogue choices or profound back-story, but it shouldn't be adjudicated based on that.

When all goes to plan, this genre does some things irrefutably well, and we can judge Bloodforge based on those things. Strong atmosphere is a big requirement of a good hack-and-slash: it takes great design to keep the player in that sweet spot between not pumped enough and too pumped. Gameplay composed of pure inertia is also key -- in the best cases, you feel as though you're orchestrating a symphony of gore, moving fluidly from one kill to the next. And finally, variation is a big must-have for action titles. If you want me to crack skulls for hours on end, it helps if you give me a couple options on how to crack 'em.

So does Bloodforge succeed based on these criteria?

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Intelligent Design [Fez Review]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 10:00 am
In Fez, it would appear that you own your space. Within the realm of the game, only small, black squares of anti-space and gravity can kill you, and even then the penalty of your fate is a short animation of death and a return to solid footing. It is an exhibition of design, with a main character motored by simple piece collecting and the mystery of what's just beyond, guided by the player's ability to shift perspective. Following each new discovery is a more sophisticated, more thoroughly layered level. Fez shows off its conceptual architecture by existing as a 3D world explored in each flat frame. 

But the exploration is walled inside tightly constricted levels, governed by a very specific set of rules. Each static space is actually four different perspectives, with no single frame given depth, and a dimensional connectedness that calls up MC Escher's series, Impossible Realities. In short, it is wholly open, though each level is jigsaw-pieced together to create a limited series of navigable planes. The openness comes from how you proceed to discover.

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Tags: Fez, Review