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.

  • Hot Springs Story

    Full Review

    hot Springs Story CoverGame Dev Story was kind of a perfect storm video game for me. It combined my love for deep simulations with game development and threw in some lovely pixel art to top it all off. Hot Springs Story is Game Dev’s successor, and while I have been in hot springs in Japan, I had little interest in managing one. But since this is Kairosoft and knowing how much I enjoyed developing games within a game, I had to jump at it.

    While I originally played Game Dev Story on an iPod Touch, I played Hot Springs Story on an Android EVO 4G. It has a much larger and better looking screen, which is great because Hot Springs Story does a much grander job taking advantage of all the screen real estate available.

    Let’s get into my review of Hot Springs Story, developed by Kairosoft for Android and iOS.

  • Musings on L.A. Noire, and gray areas in game design

    Full Review

    la Noire CoverOne of the fun attributes of film noir is that, while often filmed in a stark black and white style, the characters and situations aren't so easily sorted. Good guys can keep bad habits, damsels in distress can turn femme fatale, and the line between cop and crook gets muddy. Black and white is the look, but gray is the tone.

    L.A. Noire, Rockstar's latest critical smash, pays tribute to film noir's unclear nature not only in style but also in its design. A vast open world is the stage for a linear story. Modern gunfights and street races play nice with adventure game relics and intuition simulation that should prove to be the game's lasting legacy. And, given the task, I'd place L.A. Noire somewhere in the spectrum between pretty good and almost great.

    But to be honest, that's not really what this piece turned out to be. It's not quite a review, but not really just a critique, either. Want a review? Here: "L.A. Noire isn't a bad game by any standard, but it's more an interesting experiment than it is a great experience." I'll even throw a number at you. "7." Bam, reviewed.

    With that addressed, the following is a look at a few of the ways L.A. Noire straddles many seemingly opposite design elements. Sometimes this leads to nagging issues, others to surprise delights. But more often than not, it's hard to say either way.

  • Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio

    Full Review

    Angry Birds CoverAbout a month and a half ago I bought my first smartphone, the EVO 4G. It's an excellent phone with a huge screen and lovely graphics. Being a device paid for and intended for work, the first thing I did with it was download a bunch of games. I gave my wife an iPod Touch a year and a half ago so I was pretty familiar with the mobile gaming scene and have posted reviews on various games including Plants vs. Zombies, Dead Panic, and Bad Cube.

    Right now I would say that the Android gaming scene is doing just okay. Most of the games are simply ports from iOS and the original games aren't incredibly original. The platform doesn't really have that single iconic gem that is Android's and Android's alone. I'm sure it will come in the future, but for now, we'll have to be satisfied with seconds.

    Today I'll just be covering the Angry Birds games, but I plan to write more about the Android gaming platform in the future.

  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars

    Full Review

    Ghost Recon Shadow Wars CoverVery few titles available at a system's launch are ever worth the price of admission. Thing is, they don't have to be: early adopters don't have any other choices, and they certainly aren't taking home that shiny new box with nothing to play. If a launch window game isn't a glitchy, feature-stripped port of a last-gen game, then it may just be the best of the bunch.

    Ubisoft in particular doesn't have a great track record when it comes to launch games. They were the first third party to reveal their Wii hand with the ambitious and roundly disappointing Red Steel, threw straight up shovelware at the DS, and didn't exactly set any precedents at the dawn of the HD era, either. For the 3DS, Ubi's launch day contributions took the forms of Rayman 3D, Asphalt 3D, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, and Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars.

    It doesn't surprise me, then, that Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is a technical mess. The visuals wouldn't turn heads on PSP, slowdown is common, and everything just feels rough around the edges. Oh, and then the game freezes every now and then. Sometimes you'll get the black screen of death, other times the audio will stop and the display will just fade out. In the time I was playing, Shadow Wars crashed on me a grand total of ten times.

    What surprises me is that, despite these glaring technical issues, I will still recommend the game to 3DS early adopters.

  • Bit.Trip Runner

    Full Review

    bit Trip Runner CoverThe era of digital distribution has been good to many smaller developers. One needs to look no further than the Minecraft success story to see just how fruitful the budget game market can be.

    Even on Nintendo's meager WiiWare service, some have found the opportunity to shine. Gaijin Games, a small studio founded by a former LucasArts employee, has found acclaim with its Bit.Trip series. With six games in the series released within two years, each Bit.Trip title is built on the same foundation of rhythm and psychedelic retro aesthetics but offers a different gameplay hook. Beat, the first title, is like the love child of Pong and a laser show. Core is more like a tricky Guitar Hero with a D-pad. Void is an avoid-and-collect using the nunchuk's control stick. Fate is a rail shooter utilizing the Wii remote's pointer. And Flux, the final chapter in the Bit.Trip saga, returns to an experience similar to the choreographed Pong performance that birthed the series in Beat.

    I recently acquired Bit.Trip Runner, the fourth game released (and the third I've played, after Void and Beat). It happens to be the one that generates the most buzz in the gaming community. Runner certainly sounded appealing to me when I was introduced to it as a "rhythm-based platformer." My experience with the game, however, came somewhat short of my high hopes.

  • Portal 2

    Full Review

    Portal 2 CoverAs the sequel to my 2007 Game of the Year, I had high expectations of Portal 2, and so did the developers Valve, and everyone else mildly interested in video games. This was a milestone release, and Valve has been rewarded with many accolades and undoubtedly excellent sales numbers. I was able to sit down with Portal 2 for Windows and beat it in three extended gaming sessions over a few weeks.

    That last sentence might be rather revealing, yes, the game took me weeks to beat. I took on the original Portal in one sitting. Of course, Portal 2 is longer than the original, and I have two kids now instead of none, but I’ll say right off the bat I felt like some kind of spark was missing.

    So let’s just dive right into my review of Portal 2. This review will probably be shorter than usual simply because of my personal pact to spend less time writing full reviews this year, so hopefully I can more succinctly say what needs to be said.

  • World of Goo

    Full Review

    World of goo CoverAs one of the forerunners of the modern indie game movement (along with Braid), World of Goo demands to be played.  Created almost entirely by two individuals on a miniscule budget (2D Boy), it has since gone on to spawn several ports while receiving numerous accolades.  I'm a bit late to this party, but its resumé speaks for itself.  With incredibly high 90%+ aggregate scores, it has been universally praised as a near-flawless game.  Greg has given it a similarly stellar 9/10.  PC and Wii first claimed the game in October 2008, followed by OSX in November, Linux in early 2009 and iOS in 2010.

    All that's left to do is try it out for myself, two-plus years after the fact.  Could my personal thoughts and feelings for the game live up to its lofty accolades?

  • Dragon Age: Origins

    Full Review

    Dragon age Origins CoverI don't like to give up on a game I'm invested in. I'm fine with quitting after an hour, and maybe even a few hours after that I can safely move on without second thought. But when the clock strikes double digit hours, I'm in for the long haul, or I have to make the usually difficult decision to stop for my own sanity. Back in January 2010, I made the bizarre decision to start playing Dragon Age: Origins immediately after I finished Knights of the Old Republic and just three weeks before Mass Effect 2 was released. Suffice it to say, I didn't get very far, and the call of Commander Shepard was too strong.

    Almost exactly a year later, I finally returned to Ferelden to finish job. I booted up my old mage and rediscovered the hilarity of my party members and utter deepness of the gameplay. I'll admit right here and now, the first thing I did was crank the difficulty down to Casual. I wasn't playing again to make some sort of statement to nobody that I was any good at this type of game, I just wanted to experience everything Dragon Age: Origins had to offer... in terms of story and world building.

    I was actually pretty hyped for Dragon Age before it was released, I read the first book, The Stolen Throne, and Grant and I checked out the web-based spinoff, Dragon Age Journeys. My first hour review of the game went decently well, but the origin story of the Dalish Elf was kind of dull which encouraged me to try another origin when I was ready to play for real. And while it took way too long to finally beat the game, it was well worth the wait in the end.

    Here's my review of Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360. While I would normally write a many thousands of words on a BioWare game, I'm going to try and move at a bit swifter pace. If you're interested, Ian also reviewed this game a few months ago, this is strictly my opinion.

  • VVVVVV

    Full Review

    Vvvvvv CoverNot often will games come along and surprise you these days.  In our age of information, developers and publishers go to great lengths to push their products.  Specifically, they hope to get fans hyped enough to buy the game day 1 as well as keeping the title in the public mind for continued spontaneous purchases of their product.  This is why we're rarely surprised and blown away by a game.  For me, VVVVVV was that type of game.

  • Monster Tale

    Full Review

    Monster Tale CoverI love genre mashing, and Monster Tale is certainly a special case of mixed, but excellent heredity. We have the popular and super combination of Metroid and Castlevania, plus monster training that mixes Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and E.V.O.: Search for Eden. Excellent genes also bears the burden of high expectations, however, can Monster Tale possibly meet them?

    Released on the Nintendo DS late last month, Monster Tale was developed by DreamRift and published by Majesco. It pairs up a young girl and her monster that evolves and grows throughout the game. Trapped in a world ran by children who think themselves royalty, our young heroine is a bit like Dorothy in Oz, just with Chomp for companionship.

    I originally meant to write at least a half-hour handheld review of Monster Tale, but I kept playing and before I knew it, the game was over. Here is my review of Monster Tale for the Nintendo DS.

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