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.
I’m not sure if we ever needed to return to Donkey Kong Country. The original series is so firmly a product of the Super Nintendo era, with its shiny, Toy Story look that is unique to Rareware, and pretty bad collision detection for a 2D platformer, I would have been okay with having rose-colored memories about my trips with DK, Diddy, and the rest of the forgotten gang.
But Retro Studios, apparently bored with resurrecting Metroid moneybags every few years, was tasked with bringing back the old gorilla in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Surprisingly, this was not another 3D incarnation that Retro seemed to excel at (Remember DK64? No? Good.), but a pretty straight enhancement of the originals. The world was still 2D, but with a bit more depth, and all the old standbys were there: bananas and letters to collect, barrels to get shot out of, and obnoxious boss battles.
Released in 2010, Donkey Kong Country Returns has already earned a prestigious 10 from Jonathan Ramundi, and while I would have written a review no matter how much I agreed or disagreed, I have a rather differing opinion about the game.
Tales of Monkey Island is my first foray into episodic gaming, but considering the season was finished nearly three years ago, I’m not exactly playing the game as it was originally intended. But considering plenty of people see blockbusters for the first time outside the theater, television seasons are consumed in two or three sittings, and classic rock albums are downloaded one song at a time, it should be expected that good media is good media no matter how it’s delivered.
Now that I’m used to the controls and inventory system, my experience with the second episode went a lot smoother. I’m still feeling a bit underwhelmed by the whole thing, however, but have come to the conclusion that the episodic delivery is a good mechanism for not only Monkey Island, but the point and click adventure genre as a whole.
Siege of Spinner Cay kicks off, unsurprisingly, right where Launch of the Screaming Narwhal ended. TellTale Games squeezed in a little cliffhanger at the end of episode one to remind you not everything is okay, and honestly, it immediately pays off.
Not this year. Kid Icarus Uprising is just about impossible to play on the go. I finished New Super Mario Bros. 2 in a weekend, enjoyable as it was. And the StreetPass novelty died after I went months without an exchange. It just wasn’t a worthwhile use of pocket space.
But then something unexpected happened: a little-known Game Boy game put the 3DS back in my pocket.
Growing up, playing a game cooperatively usually meant sitting down with a friend in front of my NES playing Contra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. The game was either made easier with a second player (twice as many bullets!), or twice as hard (fellow chipmunks can be used as weapons!). But as games have evolved from the living room to the internet, cooperative play has changed too.
Portal 2 was designed with two campaigns in mind, one for the single player and the other for multiplayer, specifically a cooperative experience with no traditional way to communicate available. Both sets of levels were brilliant in their own right, and excelled in creating a unique undertaking. On the other hand, the original Trine was made for local gaming only. Friends gathered in front of the TV or monitor and lead the trio of heroes on their adventure.
Trine 2 introduces online co-op for up to three gamers, fixes many complaints from the first game, and features some of the most gorgeous graphics I've ever seen in a video game. I finally got to tax my video card. Steve and I played through the entire game together online without voice communication, here are our thoughts.
After 2000’s somewhat disastrous Escape from Monkey Island, I was rather leery on returning to my beloved childhood point and click adventure series. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge was the first game I ever played in the genre, and The Curse of Monkey Island is still in my top 10 games of all time.
LucasArts wasn’t too excited on bringing back Guybrush Threepwood either, but in 2009 thanks to TellTale Games, began publishing the five episodes of Tales of Monkey Island, beginning with Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. TellTale Games is the most successful episodic gaming developer around, and they seem to thrive when given an existing IP to adapt into their release format. Tales of Monkey Island would go on to become their best-selling series at the time.
I’ll be reviewing each episode individually as if they were being released one at a time. There’s a few reasons for this: if an episode really sucks, will I want to play on? I like the idea of being able to quit at any time. Plus, I’m a big fan of getting my ideas down on paper sooner than later, and feel like I can give each episode the time it deserves by reviewing it immediately.
I like freedom in games. That being said, I love open world games-the ability to run around a virtual world, doing missions whenever I please, and I will give any open-world sandbox game a chance, from Toy Story to Saints Row. I fondly remember the “undercover cop” GTA rip-off True Crime series so ridiculous it was almost hard to take serious about ten years ago-yeah, the one that let you play as Snoop Dog. I soon found out that Sleeping Dogs, seemingly released out of nowhere this month, was the once-titled True Crime: Hong Kong, only having changed names due to legal reasons after switching publishers from Activision to Square Enix. While it may have once belonged in a line of True Crime games, TRUST ME- In no way, shape, or form is this anything like what I remember the True Crime series being like. (In a good way.)
With Square Enix’s reboot, remastering and renaming of the True Crime franchise, now Sleeping Dogs, they have tooled what could prove to be one of the biggest surprise smash hits this year with tight gameplay all around and with a story more compelling than most of Rockstar or THQ’s gangster tales have ever felt. Here is my review of Sleeping Dogs for Xbox 360.
Have there been any mainstream Jewish video games? Outside of Bible Adventures, I can’t think of a single religious game that even a small percentage of gamers might recognize. It’s interesting: there are quite a few popular religious films such as The Ten Commandments, and religious music and television has certainly found its niche, but there has never been a video game or developer that religious groups have rallied behind.
I could personally rattle off a dozen reasons why this might be the case, but it raises the question: does religion have a place in video games outside of being the caricatured bad guy in a game like Final Fantasy Tactics? Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games thought the answer was “yes” with his first paid point and click adventure game, The Shivah.
The Shivah stars Rabbi Stone in his short quest to uncover the truth about a recently deceased friend. It takes place inside synagogues and features a decent dose of Hebrew and Jewish themes. It isn’t heavy-handed in anything it does, this is simply the character and settings Wadjet Eye Games wanted to tell. Here’s my review of The Shivah, built in Adventure Games Studio.
Bastion made a huge splash last year when it was released on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam, reaping excellent critical reviews and huge sales, especially for an indie game. Developed by Supergiant Games and published by Warner Bros., the game’s iconic narrator and haunting soundtrack have cemented its place as one of the cornerstone independent games of this decade.
I was impressed by its first hour last November, but reading my thoughts on Bastion’s start indicates a trend that would hold throughout the game: while the art, music, and voice acting is stellar, the gameplay is just sort of there. It’s solid, but didn’t stand out amongst the great presentation.
It took a few months and many, many games, but I returned to Bastion, restarted my adventure, and finished the game in a half-dozen sittings. Here’s my review of Bastion for the PC.
I’ve been spoiled this year having just been introduced to the Blackwell series and publisher Wadjet Eye Games. Before Resonance, I bought four Blackwell games, Gemini Rue, and The Shivah. Point and click adventure gaming was one of my earliest gaming passions, but I ended up almost completely ignoring the genre for the last 12 years. Now it’s a passion again, and all courtesy of one publisher.
Developed by Vince Twelve and published by Wadjet Eye Games, Resonance is a multi-character point and click adventure game featuring an engrossing story, unique interface, and thankfully, basically free of all the crappy genre trappings that pushed me away from games like this. It was one of the few games I allowed myself to hype up a bit this year, and the developers delivered.
If Resonance looks interesting to you, definitely check it out, it’s only $10 on Steam. Then play all the Blackwell games which can be grabbed in a four pack for $20. Not a bad deal at all. The best part about these games is that they were made in the free to use Adventure Games Studio, I’m scared to think about all the other awesome games out there that were made with this tool that I’m missing.
Here’s my spoiler free review of Resonance.
Gemini Rue. Duality + regret. A remarkably thoughtful and fitting name for this game (and certainly much more pleasing than the original Boryokudan Rue). Another entry in the monstrous Wadjet Eye Games adventure lineup and primarily the child of Joshua Nuernberger, Gemini Rue has been very well received since its release in early 2011. The game takes place in a futuristic sci-fi world with some touches of cyberpunk thrown in. As with other recent Wadjet games, it is a full experience complete with voice acting and attempts to push the underlying Adventure Game Studio engine as far as it can. As a whole, their efforts greatly pay off, riding on the strength of the characters and overarching story.