day 11

New Super Mario Bros. 2

First Hour Review

new Super Mario Bros 2 CoverThe announcement of a new Mario title tends to carry some buzz. Gaming’s mascot has led enough revolutions that every new game seems to emanate with potential energy.

But the fanfare was light when two new Mario platformers were revealed at this year’s E3. Old Jumpman may be a victim of overexposure: assuming New Super Mario Bros. U launches alongside the Wii U this holiday season, that will make five Mario platformers released in three years. The five previous Mario platformers stretched from 2007 all the way back to 1992.

You’ll never hear me complain about too many Mario games. I loved NSMB Wii’s hilarious multiplayer, adored Galaxy 2’s imaginative splendor, and even enjoyed 3D Land’s muted creativity. But all I expect from New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the same old unassuming excellence that has come to define the word “New” on Mario’s box.

Stacking

First Hour Review

Stacking CoverWell, this has been a long time coming.

Stacking came out for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network in early 2011, and it immediately captured my interest. With characters based on the Russian stacking matryoshka dolls and the narrative devices of silent films of yesteryears, it was definitely a unique offering, though looking over Double Fine Productions’s history it’s clear that that’s their thing. Quirky mish-mashes: RTS and musical influences for Brütal Legend, Halloween outfits and RPG elements for Costume Quest, and summer camp and psychic abilities for Psychonauts. However, I just never got around to getting it due to my severe distaste for buying Microsoft Points, since the conversion rate of USD dollars to Space Bucks never seems to be in the buyer’s favor.

Flash-forward to July 2012, and the Steam Summer Sale has now concluded. I was able to snag this bite-sized adventure for a cool couple of bucks, as well as a slew of other titles. But for now, let’s play with dolls for an hour and see how things turn out.

Saints Row 2

First Hour Review

Saints row 2 CoverWithout Rockstar Games and Grand Theft Auto III, we wouldn’t have Sleeping Dogs, The Saboteur, and possibly dozens of other series, including Saints Row. But whereas Grand Theft Auto IV upped the realism to aggravating levels (managing relationships and awful driving are the worst offenders), Saints Row has descended further and further into insanity, basically delivering the same sandbox joy that GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas were known for.

I’ve never played the original Saints Row, and while Saints Row 2 seems to continue directly off from the first game, I’m guessing I’ll be able to jump into the gangster-filled world with ease. I’ve heard tons of great things about the third game recently, but the second one flew under my radar, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect.

Here’s the first hour of Saints Row 2 for the PlayStation 3.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

First Hour Review

Space Marine CoverI find it kind of amazing that I grew up as a geek and never experienced any of the Warhammer 40,000 gaming culture. This is a tabletop game that has expanded far beyond the living room, including graphic novels, movies, books, and lots of video games.

Released last September from Relic Entertainment, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine stars one of the more popular aspects of the lore: Ultramarines. Super soldiers in huge armor that are seemingly unmatched on the battlefield. To the Warhammer ignorant, they may look like rip offs of the COG soldiers from Gears of War, which is a rather unfortunate comparison considering Warhammer has been around since 1987 and has undoubtedly inspired dozens of video game universes itself, including Gears.

So it’s time for me to take my first steps into the Warhammer 40,000 universe with Space Marine on the PlayStation 3. In one hour, I’ll know whether or not I want to stay any longer.

Catherine

First Hour Review

Catherine CoverWe’ve played our share of unique games here at First Hour, but Catherine is in a league of its own. With adult-oriented anime scenes about love, marriage, and infidelity splitting time between fast-paced, psychological horror block puzzles, Catherine is... different. The game opens with a television show framing device, dives into our hero’s nightmares, and is apparently pursued by two women named Katherine and Catherine.

Developed by Atlus and released a year ago for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Catherine was well received by the press but noted for its oddities. These types of games often are not seen outside of Japan, but Atlus made a gamble which reportedly has paid off, with Catherine being their best North American launch ever.

As we move beyond our fifth birthday, I’ll be making some changes to my first hour review format. I’m going to cut most of the big “minute by minute” section which (sometimes tediously) detailed the happenings of the game. Instead I’ll call out the game’s strengths and weaknesses section by section much like Nate does. So without further ado, here’s the first hour of Catherine for the PlayStation 3.

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