Full Reviews

Full game reviews as we beat them, there will be a balance of both new and old games reviewed. We review the basics of the game and deliver scores in a few categories and an overall score out of 10.

  • Mount & Blade: Warband

    Full Review

    Mount and Blade Warband CoverI enjoy medieval RPGs. I mean, the majority of games I play - fantasy or not - are based in that setting. There's just something about slicing my enemies up with swords that's just completely satisfying. So when I got to play a few minutes of Mount and Blade: Warband, I knew I'd desperately want more.

    What? You haven't heard of this masterpiece from Taleworlds? That's okay, there wasn't a whole lot of advertising, and the original Mount and Blade was made by a married couple virtually by themselves. It's not exactly common that things like this happen.

    I played the original briefly, and it was fun, but the overhauled Warband made vast improvements over its predecessor.

    So, what is it? Well, it's massive and somewhat complicated, but I shall attempt to explain. Mount and Blade: Warband is a medieval role-playing game that puts you into the world of Calradia, a land filled with several kingdoms, all wanting to unify the land under their rule.

  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

    Full Review

    Golden sun Dark Dawn CoverThe Golden Sun series and I go back to 2001 when the original Golden Sun was released. I played through the game slowly, and forced myself to finish it when Golden Sun: The Lost Age was on the cusp of its release. This was one of those rare titles that let you import data from its prequel via a very (very) long code. This code contained all your party’s information, ready to continue on in their next adventure.

    I spent more time inputting that code than actually playing The Lost Age, and that was that, I forgot about Golden Sun from 2003 until 2010 when Nintendo announced Golden Sun: Dark Dawn at E3. Since my progress had stalled for months on Dragon Quest IX and I was finished with Infinite Space, I decided to pick it up when the game was released in late November.

    The reviews have been pretty solid for Dark Dawn and I’m sure sales are swift (almost every Nintendo published title is successful), but how would my return to Weyard fare? It’s been seven long years and my interest in the series is minimal. Here’s my full review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for the Nintendo DS.

    For those interested, we also have a first hour review of Dark Dawn written by a huge Golden Sun fan, Jonathan Ramundi.

  • Fable II

    Full Review

    Fable 2 CoverThis was not a great way to kick off 2011, Fable II is a below average action RPG that exhibits all the same qualities of nearly every other Peter Molyneux game: far too much ambition in a totally lackluster package.

    Fable II was released in October of 2008 to much hype, praise, and handfuls of cash. I'm apparently in the critic minority by not enjoying Fable II as it has a Metacritic rating of 89 and received Game of the Year award honors from outlets X-Play and Joystiq in a year that featured Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Metal Gear Solid 4  (if my respect for G4 could have gone any lower, it just has). But that is their opinion, and this is mine.

    I'm going to try and keep my full reviews a bit shorter this year, I spent an extraordinary amount of time writing them in 2010 (what with there being about 30 of them and all), and I would like to focus my efforts back to the first hour reviews where it belongs. Speaking of first hour reviews, here's Fable II's.

  • Donkey Kong Country Returns

    Full Review

    Donkey Kong Country Returns CoverIn case you hadn't noticed, in the last couple of years, the Nintendo Wii has been subject to the revival of a number of key franchises in the company's portfolio; franchises that have either strayed far from their humble beginnings or simply haven't been seen in many years, if not both. The beloved Donkey Kong franchise is the latest to follow this trend—in the footsteps of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and even, to some extent, Metroid: Other M—with its newest incarnation, Donkey Kong Country Returns. Interestingly, the game's developer, Retro Studios, is the same company responsible for the reimagination of another classic Nintendo franchise, in the form of the Metroid Prime saga. However, this time—as mentioned—the company was tasked with bringing a series back to its roots, rather than taking it (quite literally) to another dimension. It's been 13 years since we've seen the Kong family in 2D platforming fashion. In fact, the game's titular character hasn't been played in this form since Donkey Kong Land for the Gameboy back in 1995. Well, as the name suggests, he makes a return in DKCR. And what a triumphant return it is.

    I previously wrote a first hour review of the game, and now, after spending much more time with it (and considering Retro's history with Metroid), I'm of the opinion that Retro should be given full responsibility over all major Nintendo IPs henceforth. This game is—and I'm trying really hard not to oversell it—perfect. Okay, well, maybe not perfect, but about as close as you can get. I kind of had trouble writing a review because of this. I didn't know exactly how to convey the sheer brilliance of this game, but, at the same time, I know words can only go so far. Only after playing will you understand why everyone's going ape over this—and hopefully, if nothing else, this review will get you to do so.

  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

    Full Review

    Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers Cover"Some of this game is fun...is that enough for me to keep playing?"

    Ever had that feeling? Maybe you trudged through an RPG with a terrible battle system just because you liked a few of the characters. Perhaps you put up with a broken sports game just because the presentation was TV-true. Or maybe you played any of the open-world Spider-Man games recently, swinging joyously through the boxy Manhattan skyline, full of texture pop-in and framerate dips.

    Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is kind of like that. Except where the fun elements of these previous examples are woven into the overall progression of the game, FFCCTCB never actually shines the spotlight on its best feature throughout the otherwise lackluster adventure, leaving it merely as a side attraction.

    I was hoping the game would improve after its first hour, and it did...but was it too little, too late?

  • Borderlands

    Full Review

    Borderlands CoverIn my December blitz of full reviews, this is my last one of the year. I'm not going to say I saved the best for last, because that falls to either Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Mass Effect 2 at this point, but Borderlands is certainly way up there. Like Mirror's Edge, Borderlands paves its own genre and does it beautifully. The mash-up of first person shooter and RPG with a zillion guns tacked on for extra destruction gels perfectly. The classes feel distinctly different, four player online co-op just works super well, and the game features over 30 hours of content on just your first playthrough (and you will play more than once).

    Borderlands was released in October of 2009, so it's been out a while and is very cheap if you want to get into it now. The team is currently developing Duke Nukem Forever so there's no fear of Borderlands 2 coming out for at least a year and a half, I would think. I plan to continue writing about Borderlands well into next year as I still have three sets of downloadable content to review after just covering the first one, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. But as the end of the year is imminent, I really feel like I need to get my thoughts on the main game out on the table.

    Mike has gone into great detail already on what makes Borderlands so great, and after re-reading his review, I honestly don't have a lot to add. This is one of my favorite games of the year and I'll detail why I personally liked it so much below, but if you're looking for an in depth review I would recommend you check out Mike's.

  • Mirror's Edge

    Full Review

    Mirrors Edge CoverThink about your favorite part of any platformer game, it probably has something to do with excellent level designed coupled with you being in the zone and cruising through the stage on a perfect run. Like in Super Mario Bros. 3 where you bounce from goomba to goomba and take off in flight as Raccoon Mario.

    Now think about the worst part in any platformer, for me, it's when a platformer stops being a platformer and tries its hand at something... less than adequate. This might mean boss fights that require more luck than skill or high action sequences that seem better at home in a much different genre.

    Mirror's Edge is a prime example of a game where excellent platforming level design collides with obnoxiously out of place non-platforming. Thankfully, the highs outweigh the lows in this ambitious first person platformer. The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2008 and was planned to be the first game in planned trilogy. Sales apparently weren't good enough for Electronic Arts and no word of a sequel has been announced. Though in classic industry PR, they "haven't not not" announced Mirror's Edge 2.

    This is the First Hour's second opinion on Mirror's Edge along with my conclusion after playing its first hour earlier this month. Here's my full review of Mirror's Edge.

  • Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

    Full Review

    Zack and Wiki Quest for Barbaros Treasure CoverI don't think I've been this disappointed in a video game since Assassin's Creed. Zack and Wiki started off great, but then some realizations start to sink in, and then everything falls off the track. To say I didn't have fun with Zack and Wiki would be a lie, but there are some major problemms with this game.

    Before we get into the review proper, Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure was released in 2007 by Capcom. I admitted in my first hour review of the game that this was the first non-Nintendo published title I was actually interested in playing. Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are incredible, but I was having a lot of trouble finding something that interested me on the Wii beyond those. Zack and Wiki had been nagging at me for a while and received great reviews, seemed like it was the right way to go.

    I understand that my opinion probably differs quite a bit from the normal reviewer, it makes me question whether they actually played the entire game or if expectations of Wii gameplay has really changed this much over three years? But if I wasn't honest in my review, what's the point in writing?

  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

    Full Review

    Mario vs Donkey Kong Mini Land Mayhem CoverI've been on a puzzle kick lately. I attribute that to playing the 60 hour epic Infinite Space and having to take just as many hours coming down from that high. What I love about the Nintendo DS is its instant on/off and games like Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming or Picross 3D are perfect for jumping in and out quickly. Next up on my list of puzzlers to try was Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, the fourth game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series that began on the Game Boy Advance.

    I actually thought that this was the second Mario vs. Donkey Kong game, believing that the DSiWare game, Minis March Again, was the first. Surprise surprise, there were two previous: Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the GBA and March of the Minis on the DS. I think I missed out on all these due to me not reading Nintendo Power for a few years, how else do you hear about these curious yet under-the-radar kind of games?

    Mini-Land Mayhem pits, just like the name says, Mario against Donkey Kong in an epic struggle to rescue Pauline, Mario's original crush. Mario doesn't feel like getting his hands dirty though (being a plumber and all), so he sends a bunch of robot mini Marios to do his bidding. But they're dumb, like Lemmings, and simply walk in a straight line until they hit something and then turn around. They'll climb the first ladder they run into or trod up stairs, but that's about it.

    Can Nintendo really publish four titles with this basic premise in the span of just six years? (haha, of course they can, they're Nintendo) Here's my full review of my first experience with the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series in Mini-Land Mayhem.

  • Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming

    Full Review

    Harvest Moon Frantic Farming CoverOnce a series becomes too large for its own good, spin-offs and genre breaking games are inevitable. The success of these tangents rests on many factors, including the potential new genre and charisma of side characters now carrying their own game (Wario did this particularly well). When someone thinks Harvest Moon, their mind is probably drawn to the obvious farming or dating aspects. The pace of the games are slow and require hours upon hours of playing for the player to feel immersed in their new agriculture world. When the series is focused on this, the games can be very good. They even managed to spin off the Rune Factory series successfully after injecting some action RPG elements into the somewhat stale formula.

    What you can't imagine them spinning off though is a fast-paced puzzle game set in the Harvest Moon world, but they've tried twice already. Natsume's first attempt was Puzzle de Harvest Moon in 2007, a game I played for about 20 minutes before getting bored. The game was received poorly, I guess there just aren't a lot of gamers begging for a mediocre puzzle game based on crops.

    Well, they tried again in 2009, this time with Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming. From what I can tell, it seems to be almost the exact same puzzle game as we played a few years prior, but this time wrapped in a text heavy story featuring the brain dead characters of Sunshine Islands. Yay... Here's my full review of Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming on the Nintendo DS.

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