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.
A few weeks ago, I acquired Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Cthulhu Saves the World, and all three episodes of Penny Arcade Adventures for eight bucks on Steam. It seemed like a steal at the time: five brief RPG comedies for less than I spend on my daily commute.
I dropped Breath and Cthulhu after a few hours. Zeboyd’s nutty tributes to ‘80s JRPGs had their moments, but not enough to excuse dull battles, random encounters, and big empty dungeons.
The first two Penny Arcade games weren’t much better. My disgust for their fetch quest campaign structure smothered my fondness for the Mario RPG-style battles.
So when I saw that Penny Arcade’s Whatever 3 was the result of a Zeboyd/Penny Arcade team-up, I braced myself for some whole new amalgam of repulsive game elements. It turned out to be a roundly enjoyable seven-hour adventure, one that almost excuses the twelve hours I slogged through the other four games in the bundle. Almost.
VVVVVV and NightSky both featured great musical soundtracks to back their platforming efforts, but Bit.Trip Runner is essentially a rhythm game with the platforms serving the soundtrack. Developed by Gaijin Games and released on WiiWare in 2010 and Windows in 2011, Bit.Trip Runner attempts to marry the sounds of Guitar Hero and the auto-running of Canabalt.
Nate originally reviewed Bit.Trip Runner last year and deemed it the “anti-rhythm game”, he awarded it an average score and went on to call it stressful. Steve chimed in in the comments section a few months ago and agreed with Nate’s assessment, but for whatever reason, I decided to play it myself.
I didn’t actually beat Bit.Trip Runner, but I made it to the third to last level before finally giving up, so I feel like writing a “full” review is still legitimate, either way, full disclosure.
NightSky sells itself as an “ambient action-puzzle game”, which is an excellent description for this unique platformer. Most of the time you’re rolling a ball from the left to the right to reach the far side of the screen. Each level is typically three screens, with the third screen serving as a visual addendum to the previous puzzle. I’d like to say it’s a deceptively simple game, but there really isn’t much more to it than rolling a ball.
Outside of games like Eufloria and Dear Esther, few video games have delivered a truly relaxing experience. There’s very little urgency in NightSky with only a couple of timed puzzles, and if your ball rolls into the abyss, you’re simply plopped back to the beginning of the three screen set. You can save and quit at any time without losing progress, and there isn’t even really an acknowledgement that you beat the game. Everything is designed to elicit as little positive or negative emotions as possible, developer Nicklas Nygren would probably deem it a success if you instead drifted off to sleep in your chair.
Breakout and Arkanoid and similar paddle games never resonated with me. Maybe because their Atari heyday ended before I started playing games, or maybe because I disliked the loose shot control. Whatever the case, the genre’s most polished and inspired entries still manage only a passing fancy.
So I’m flummoxed by my lingering affinity for Wizorb, a three-dollar, three-hour curiosity. I completed the brief game in a weekend fling and have no real desire to revisit it, yet it’s still on my mind. I do relish the lively lo-fi style and RPG window dressing, but the game is still a pretty standard brick breaker at its core.
I’m not terribly impressed by this new appstore era, this flood of amateur developments selling for less than a vending machine lunch and rarely lasting as long. But Wizorb is one of the few $3 games that’s more filling than its price tag and play time imply. A few thoughtful little gameplay functions that address the genre’s weaknesses are what make it shine among its Breakout-clone peers and its bottom-dollar indie competition both.
I’ve been on an indie game kick this year, playing some really excellent platformer and adventure games. In a somewhat random string of events, I ended up playing three pretty different types of platformers over the course of a few weeks, and in preparation for our recent five year anniversary celebration, all full reviews were put on the back burner.
The first of these three is VVVVVV, developed by Terry Cavanagh and released in early 2010, VVVVVV is a short but challenging open world platformer. Our hero, Captain Viridian, suffers some kind of accident to his spaceship and his crew is scattered across a new dimension. The controls are simple: all you can do is move left, right, and well, flip the gravity at your whim.
The next two platformers you’ll hear from me about are NightSky and Bit.Trip Runner, and while they’re all technically rather distinct, they can, after all, be boiled down to 2D platformers at the core.
I was never any good at The Incredible Machine. It was one of a handful of games available in my elementary school's computer lab, and it was the only one that stumped me every time. I knew the Oregon Trail like the back of my hand, and my SimCity could withstand any disaster, but the motors and pulleys and cheese-seeking mice never quite registered for me.
So it was with some hesitation that I downloaded Amazing Alex, the next game by the Angry Birds folks. It has all the friendly colors and streamlining of Rovio's money-printing slingshot game, but Incredible Machine's spirit clearly lives within. And I didn't think I had the Rube Goldberg skills to finish it.
But I did. I finished all 112 stages and collected the three stars in each. And it was the most fun I've had with my smartphone yet.
Casual observers must be baffled when they watch someone play through tough old-school games. They see the tense hands, the parched eyes, the tight scowl; they must wonder, why would anyone subject themselves to this? Is it a determination to succeed, or a desire to suffer?
Sometimes, even the player doesn’t know. When the deaths start piling up, frustration can obscure the distinction between a worthy challenge and a cheap wringer. For some, it doesn’t matter: if the game can be beaten, they will beat it.
I once had that unshakable tenacity, but I won’t put up with cheap traps anymore. I’m learning how to spot the dirty tricks that games use to torture players. And Contra 4 is a hell of a teacher.
I’ve played a fair amount of video games in my life, and I’ve been playing shooters since I was five or six. This isn’t a challenge of “Yeah, well, I started when I was four!” Don’t start, that’s just annoying. My point is, I’ve been around the block a few times. Here’s a list of the shooters I played online regularly in chronological order: Quake, Team Fortress Classic, Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike: Source, America’s Army, Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
That’s really not that much, but it became impossible to keep up with the audiences. You want to play the most popular games (or at least popular games) so you actually have other people to play against, but once there was a new shooter coming out every freakin’ year, I just gave up.
Until one night, when my friend came into town for a visit and explained to me he had another copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and said it was mine if I wanted it. I thanked him and declined at first, but finally caved and accepted the offer. What the hell, it’s a free game, right?
After playing Penumbra: Overture, everyone knew a sequel was on its way. The ending leaves scores of questions unanswered and perfectly prepares a follow-up. In 2008, Frictional Games released Penumbra: Black Plague, and in many ways, Black Plague does make the original feel like a mere overture. Frictional well heeded feedback following Overture's release and significantly tuned up their product in regards to pacing, controls, physics, and character interaction. All while continuing the fantastically creepy atmosphere and adding significant new elements to the story.
The Diablo series is the most important series in my life. While I missed Diablo, I caught its sequel by the throat on release day and was hooked for a good…well, I’m still off-and-on addicted. So sue me. Diablo II was everything I wanted. It was fast paced, exciting, the gathering of objects was awesome, leveling was fun, playing through the game more than once was fun.
I love the Diablo series so much, that when Diablo III was announced, I called every friend I knew that ever played it and told them to check the website so they could experience the surprise. I was SO happy.
I waited 12 years for Diablo III. I got it at the midnight prerelease and tried playing the game, and we all know of the infamous Error 37. I thought about writing a first hour review of just “error 37” every minute for an hour. But anyway…
But I expected servers to be destroyed…I mean, it IS battle.net. But you know what? Despite being more than happy to wait for the servers to be available to me: I wish I had never bought it.
The truth is, this game disappointed me in almost every way possible. Let’s talk about why and what.