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.

  • LEGO Rock Band DS

    Full Review

    Lego Rock Band ds CoverRock Band 3 is due out very soon and I just read that there will be a Nintendo DS port of the game. Unlike Guitar Hero: On Tour, there will be no bonus peripherals used to control the game, just the regular buttons. If this sounds odd to you, well, the experience is already available! Harkening all the way back to Harmonix's first game, Frequency, released in 2001.

    After Frequency and Ampltude grew a cult following, the rhythm music game world exploded with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. No more would we press mere buttons on a controller, but now we will press buttons on a plastic guitar (not hating, I love the Rock Band series)! I thought we would never see the classic button pressing gameplay ever again, but gaming history likes to repeat itself, and I recently discovered that Harmonix has brought it back with Rock Band: Unplugged and LEGO Rock Band DS.

    Seeing as I don't own a PSP, I sat down to the odd combination of LEGO and Rock Band. Released about a year ago alongside its PS3/Wii/Xbox 360 big brothers, the DS version was hampered with a smaller soundtrack and no downloadable content, but it is available on the go. And of course, if you're a fan of Frequency and Amplitude, then it might be time to return home.

  • Limbo

    Full Review

    Limbo CoverTheologically, limbo exists as a state of divine neutrality, a residence between heaven and hell. Limbo by Playdead Studios displays this fuzzy pseudo-reality in its presentation, but with a sinister twist. This limbo can be cruel, grewsome and even downright evil. Bear traps randomly lie on the ground, forever waiting just for you alone to trigger them. Giant spiders hide in caves, hoping you'll wander close enough for them to skewer with their giant legs. In Limbo, ghost children satisfy their concept of play by setting up guilottines and buzzsaws to shred you. This game is in no way particularly kind.

    However, that cruel nature only adds to the atmosphere as the player must remain constantly aware of the presense of death in this bizarre, mysterious minimalist world. In this world and state of existence, death is the norm. Beginning as a stylistic proof of concept by a disgruntled game artist named Arnt Jensen, the concept soon flourished into a full game as Jensen subsequently co-founded Playdead Studios with Dino Patti to develop his idea. Originally planned for a PC release, Playdead was able to procure Dutch government grants and investor support while eventually deciding on an Xbox Live Arcade release, likely to avoid piracy worries and possibly for 360 exclusivity bonuses provided by Microsoft. The game eventually released this summer on July 21st during the 360's "Summer of Arcade." So, how does the final product match atmosphere and action? Does the constant presence of death help or hurt player mood and motivation? Let's take a deeper look and try to decide.

  • Split/Second

    Full Review

    Split Second CoverHaving just finished Split/Second last night at the midnight hour, I’m ready to talk about the experience. It was an intense, blister inducing ride that brought great joy and frustration to this veteran gamer. As I mentioned in my first hour review of the game, I’m not a fan of realistic racing games, but arcade racers like this and the Burnout series have a very special place in my heart (and on my game shelf). The first hour of the game blew me away, even though I played it almost two months ago, I remember the evening vividly. Split/Second was going to rock.

    I just reread Ian’s full review of Split/Second (we received a copy of the game from Disney, the publishers, and have been passing it around the writers here - look at the perks for writing for this site!) and I really have to agree with almost every single point he made. It’s a really fun game but can be incredibly frustrating at times. I wouldn’t go as far to say as there’s all out NFL Blitz style rubber band A.I., but the computer is a very challenging opponent, and there are seven of them out there on the track with you.

    There’s a list of things I found wrong with the game, but I’d really like to start off by saying that this is a really good game. If you like arcade racers like Burnout, you will enjoy Split/Second. If you like unique genre-mashing experiences, this game might be worth a try. Here’s my full review of Split/Second for the Xbox 360.

  • Borderlands

    Full Review

    Borderlands CoverSo it's been a while since I've written about games. It's actually been a while since I've played more than a few minutes of one. A crazy summer of children in the hospital, surgery, putting our dog to sleep after a nasty month-long illness, and planning a family reunion has meant that gaming has taken a back seat to lots of other things the last few months. My wife and I have made a name for the summer of 2010. It is, “The Summer of Suck”.

    So that explains where I've been. But what is the reason I'm back? Well, to write a Beyond the First Hour review of course! But what game could be significant enough to get me out of my pitiful stupor of gamelessness? That game would be a little FPS that takes place on a planet called Pandora. That game would be Borderlands.

    If you've been around The First Hour long enough, odds are good you've seen me comment on Borderlands, either from my First Hour review of the game, or via the comments section where we've discussed it several times. If you haven't, let me get you up to speed; I really enjoyed it. Ok, sure, that's a bit of a spoiler of the review you're about to read, but at this point in my life, I'm willing to do that. The reason is because the fourth and final DLC installment was just released on Sept. 28th.

    I've been waiting for this ever since I finished the 3rd DLC back in March. So enough about me, let's get to the review.

  • Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

    Full Review

    Professor Layton and the Unwound Future CoverHere we are back for the third year in a row with another Professor Layton game. The series has definitely become an annual event that I look forward to as the games are enjoyable to play and chock full of challenging puzzles. I’ve compared the Professor Layton series to the Phoenix Wright series before, as both sets of games offer unusual types of gameplay on an annual basis. But some other similarities are starting to creep in, and that’s the feeling of staleness.

    The series hasn’t evolved a lot in three games, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the puzzles are great and the stories always intriguing, but it’s starting to feel like I’m playing expansion packs instead of brand new games. I awarded the first game, Curious Village, a 9/10 and its sequel, Diabolical Box, an 8/10, and I’m about to hand out a 7/10 to Unwound Future. I put a lot of value in mixing things up and trying something new, and the Professor Layton series just isn’t going anywhere. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my 20 hours with Unwound Future, but I’d really love for something more.

    If this is your first Professor Layton game, you can expect a point and click style story-driven game with tons of unrelated puzzles to keep you interested. There isn’t any prior knowledge required to play Unwound Future, so it’s definitely a series someone can jump into at any point. Here’s my full review of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. If you’re curious, I also have a half-hour handheld review up too.

  • Trine

    Full Review

    Trine CoverTrine is the kind of game you can't help but wish came along more often, as a rare legitimate platformer. Frozenbyte (along with certain notable indie developers) shows us that 2d platforming is in fact not dead and can be pushed as far as you'll willing to take it.  Perhaps most impressively, Trine is in elite company as one of the few download-centric titles that could be mistaken as a traditional retail release.

    For example, check a screenshot of some random game. You likely see an area with a background, or maybe walls or repeating buildings. Perhaps an enemy or two are in the frame and an interactive objects of note. Now take a look at random screenshot of Trine. You see a struggling forest that has been encroached on by both technology and a plague of death. The foreground partially hides you in sparse blades of grass, a handful of flowers, and a large warped tree root. In the background, multiple metallic gears are encrusted into the hill, which is itself overlooked by a towering mountain. The sunlight beaming from above onto wild mushrooms is nothing but welcoming as your knight just escaped from the cave and is heading to a well-constructed but still wobbly bridge up ahead. While one could say such lush descriptions could be extrapolated out of any image; to me, the difference is clear. Trine tries to feed your imagination and create an organic, living environment. While the experience does not stay fully fresh the entire way, Trine has more than enough creativity and character to deserve a second look, as noted in our earlier first hour playthrough.

  • Metroid: Other M

    Full Review

    Metroid Other m CoverMetroid has never been one of Nintendo's big money-makers, but that hasn't stopped the franchise from garnering some very devoted fans. It's not uncommon to see Super Metroid or Metroid Prime sitting atop the list of favorites from hardcore gamers, and for good reason. Super Metroid provided a sprawling, interlacing realm of disquieting alien dangers and secrets, and Metroid Prime translated that experience into 3D with incredible audio-visual design and some interesting world-building mechanics built right into the gameplay.

    Though there's certainly a base blueprint from these two trailblazers, no two Metroid games feel exactly alike. Even so, I've found something to love in each and every one of them (except for the antiquated debut NES game, which admittedly I just played for the first time days before Other M's release). The tension of being hunted in Fusion, the sudden shifts in power at Zero Mission's final hour, the thousands of text logs scattered through the Prime series...as far as I'm concerned, it's all great stuff.

    It's only natural that the formula would see some alterations and evolutions over a quarter of a century, and Metroid: Other M is the latest and most radical experiment to come out of Nintendo's R&D labs in quite some time. Featuring third-person 3D action gameplay and a heavy emphasis on cinematic storytelling, the curiously-subtitled Other M certainly feels very different from its predecessors. It seems to take after Metroid Fusion the most, with a bit of Metroid Prime in there as well, but Other M's additions and adaptations certainly make it feel distinct, for better or worse.

  • Caelum

    Full Review

    Caelum CoverWhat would you think when told of a game combining elements of pachinko, Arkanoid and Puzzle Bobble?  Like me, you'd probably be a bit confused.  Probably something involving balls being shot and bounced around.  The concept was interesting enough to try when we received a request to review the Caelum by ApGames.  The upstart Swedish developers recently released their self-proclaimed "addictive physics-based arcade game."  So let's get right into it and see how the unique gameplay combinations measure up.

  • Mafia II

    Full Review

    Mafia II CoverSince Grand Theft Auto III was released in 2001, there has been a new expectation of open world video games. Along with a story, there needs to be dozens of extra things to do that usually have little to do with the actual plot, such as driving a taxi cab, delivering pizzas, or putting out fires (that you started!). Now what if we had a game that featured an open world, but was story driven and linear? Seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what Mafia II is.

    Mafia II was released in August on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. Reception has been good but for a game in development for over half a decade, some gamers and analysts were expecting better. Mafia II is all about recreating that favorite mobster movie of yours and putting control into your hands. While it isn’t my favorite genre of film, I can appreciate a good mob tale when I see one.

    Our copy of Mafia II was provided to us by 2K Games, this review is for the Xbox 360 version.

  • Gears of War 2

    Full Review

    Gears of War 2 CoverThere's a bit of a parallel with the games I've been playing lately. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Gears of War 2 are both sequels to games released this generation, and at first glance, appear to be essentially re-releases of the first game with a new shine. Where the parallels end though is that while Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a ton of new features, Gears of War 2... does not.

    I'm honestly surprised, a bit blown away actually, by how little Epic Games bothered to improve on the original Gears of War game. Gears of War 2 supposedly added five weapons, but only one really stands out. There might also be some new enemies, but as they're all so butt ugly and A.I.-dumb it doesn't really matter. There are a bunch of new locations, but everything is still all brown and gray with some city levels and underground levels.

    Gears of War 2 is really just Gears of War 1.1.

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