Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is an adventure game released in 2006 for Xbox and Windows. It's the sequel to The Longest Journey, a straight point-and-click adventurer released seven years earlier. Dreamfall takes advantage of the beefier hardware and features fully navigable 3D environments that plays more like Shenmue than Syberia. This may very well be the evolution of adventure games right before our eyes.
I never played the original Longest Journey, well, I take that back. I played the demo for a few minutes then turned it off. So much for the first hour of a demo, huh? There's something to be said about starting in the middle of any story driven game, it usually doesn't work. But that's The Longest Journey, and this is Dreamfall! If you're curious about the game after the review, it's readily available on both Steam and Xbox Live Originals on the 360. Check it out, after we check out the first hour of Dreamfall.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a 2007 third-person shooter for the Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3. You control an amnesiac soldier named Wayne on the frigid planet E.D.N. III. Earth has supposedly been devastated from its own problems so humans decided to head out into the galaxy and find a new planet to mess around with. E.D.N. III must have been the only semi-habitable planet they found because there's no way they would have picked this world if they had known better. It has an average temperature of -100 degrees and is filled with horrible, nasty, giant bug monsters.
The game's creator, Keiji Inafune, has an absolute crazy gaming history. The guy helped design Mega Man, worked on the original Street Fighter, and has produced every major Onimusha game. Don't forget that he also worked on Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, one of the best side-scrollers ever. But how did he end up writing a game like Lost Planet? Turns out he used The Thing, the classic John Carpenter movie as inspiration. Not a bad place to start. Neither is the first hour of a video game, so let's get into Lost Planet: Extreme Condition's.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a turn-based role-playing strategy game for the Nintendo DS. It is the eleventh game in the popular Fire Emblem series, but is actually a remake of the original Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragons and the Blade of Light which was released in 1990 only in Japan. Turns out this is really the second remake of the first game, but still the first time gamers outside of Japan have experienced it.
So that's a lot of history just on one story, but you might be wondering what Fire Emblem is in the first place. The series has always pretty much played the same way all these years as a turn-based strategy game. A set of heroes takes on a band of bad guys on a grid-based map. You move all your guys at once and then the bad guys go. There's a twist in Fire Emble though, every character on your team has a name and profile, and if they're killed during battle, they're gone for good. That means you either don't get too attached to your characters, or you reload a level a lot.
All right, let's get into the first hour of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.
The Magic Toy Chest is a PC puzzle game that clearly has roots in The Incredible Machine. Developed by indie Graduate Games, Toy Chest is soon to be released and features over 100 levels with a variety of items and a level editor. I grew up playing The Incredible Machine and was excited when the devs approached me to play this. Physics based puzzle games are generally awesome, just look at the World of Goo last week. Of course, like The Incredible Machine, the Magic Toy Chest is more about solving puzzles like you have the mind of Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist who would draw complex mechanical solutions to simple everyday problems. What's not to like about that?
The Magic Toy Chest takes place in a young boy's house. The style of the graphics and simplicity of gameplay in the first hour definitely lends itself to be a game directed at kids. This isn't a bad thing, but as you'll see there's not much of a challenge to be had early on. Let's just get right down to it, let the first hour of the Magic Toy Chest begin.
World of Goo is a 2D puzzle game for the PC, Mac, Linux, and WiiWare released last year. It was independently made by 2D-Boy and has been a huge hit across the board. The goal of the game is to get the required number of goo balls into each level's pipe. You use the goos to build bridges, towers, and anything else you can imagine and construct. The game's impressive physics are really its highlight, but it doesn't slack in any other areas either.
World of Goo is available in a box, as a direct download, and even over Steam. As you'll see, this game's first hour is so good you'll want to go right out and buy a copy, so don't complain when you can't find it anywhere!
Kudos 2 is a computer game made by indie developer Positech Games. Easiest way to describe it is as a turn-based Sims. You create a character, and balance their stats and needs as you live their life. That's really where the similarities end though as we'll see. In some ways, Kudos 2 seems to have even more potential than the Sims series.
The game is available for both Windows and Mac (just released the other day!), and features absolutely no DRM. One guy, Cliff Harris, makes his living off making video games. I think that's pretty awesome, honestly. Full disclosure, he gave me a review copy to play. This is the first time anyone has ever done that, indie or not, and I feel a bit honored. At the same time, I'm suddenly thrust this new and worrisome responsibility: will the free review copy somehow affect my score of the game? Will it adversely affect the score because I'll be trying too hard not to give it a good score? I will try to be as honest as I possibly can. Now let's get to the first hour of Kudos 2.
Braid is a time-manipulating 2D platformer for the Xbox Live Arcade. You control Tim, a young man trying to get the girl back that he lost... or is he? Either way, the game was independently made by Jonathon Blow and released last year to quite a bit of acclaim. Hailed for its extremely original platforming experience, Braid was the first game I bought for my Xbox 360 after I got it. This is the my experience at playing Braid's first hour for the first time.
February is First Hour's unofficial indy game month, and Braid is just the first of four straight independently made games featured.
Lost Odyssey is an Xbox 360 role-playing game from Mistwalker, a development studio formed a few years ago by the creator of the Final Fantasy series. This is their second console release, the first being Blue Dragon. Lost Odyssey was released about a year ago and got pretty average reviews, but hey, the game spans four discs. I haven't played a four disc game since Final Fantasy IX, but those were CDs, not DVDs. This makes the game a bit intimidating to even try, but I'm guessing most of the data is taken up by the voices. The game supports five spoken languages! Well, enough about this nonsense, we'll only be playing one hour, and let's get into it.
ActRaiser is a 1990 platformer/simulator for the Super Nintendo. No, it doesn't simulate the platformer genre, there are two distinct (very distinct) modes of gameplay in this game. You essentially play God, and are attempting to win back control of the world from the Devil. Of course, this translation never made it outside of Japan, but it's pretty obvious when you play it. I never played ActRaiser before this review, and really had no idea what to expect. First you play a pretty typical platformer, and then all of sudden you're building an ancient city while shooting arrows at demons. It's weird, but as you'll find out, fun.
The game has been released on the Wii Virtual Console, so there's definitely an opportunity to play ActRaiser still today. Let's start playing the first hour of Actraiser for the Super Nintendo.
Kung Fu Panda is the video game based off of the recent movie hit. For Christmas I received an Xbox 360 and packaged inside was Kung Fu Panda and Lego Indiana Jones. Now, I've already reviewed the first hour (and beat, but didn't 100% complete) Lego Indy for the Nintendo DS, so I'm just kind of ignoring it at the moment. You may be in my position, you have this movie-based game about a bunch of animals that do martial arts, and you're really not sure if you should even bother unwrapping the plastic from it. So let me help you out, let's play the first hour of Kung Fu Panda together and see if it's worth playing.