First Hour Reviews

  • Resident Evil

    First Hour Review

    Resident Evil CoverResident Evil is the original survival horror game.  It didn't invent horror, but it definitely laid some groundwork as far as the genre went in video games.  It was originally released in 1996 for the Sony PlayStation.  In 2002, it was released as a remake for the GameCube in a surprising deal that had the series on Nintendo's system and eventually led to the stellar Resident Evil 4.  It is the GameCube REmake (get it, RE stands for Resident Evil?  Ah, nevermind) that I will be playing.

    So what I want to know is this:  Is this game good, and is this game scary? I've played Resident Evil 4, and had a few good jumps, but overall it was just a moody action game (arguably becoming the basis of the modern third-person shooter).  The original (and remake) had a lot more focus on puzzle solving and exploring, and less on fighting.

    I'm going all out with this one.  I'm playing at night, while everyone else is sleeping, with the lights off.  Let's see if we can get a good scare out of this.

  • 3D Dot Game Heroes

    First Hour Review

    3D Dot Game Heroes CoverRetro revivals are all the rage nowadays. In the era of the low-budget downloadable games market, everybody's digging into their past to give a classic a fresh coat of paint or create a sequel with old-school flare. The former provides a proven template onto which shiny new graphics can be applied, while the latter guarantees interest from lifelong fans who long to experience that same magic like it were new again.

    3D Dot Game Heroes is a retro-styled installment in Nintendo's famed Legend of Zelda series, albeit one that was developed by a different company and published for a different company's hardware, and it would be slapped silly with copyright infringement lawsuits if the word "Zelda" appeared anywhere in it. From Software, known for its Armored Core series and the recent hit Demon's Souls, doesn't just take a page from Nintendo's book: the book gets Xeroxed from cover to cover. Almost everything in 3D Dot Game Heroes feels like it was stolen from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, from the plot to the controls to the stage designs to the items and everything in between.

    We tend to view knockoffs as inferior, bitter, envious versions of the genuine article. Does 3D Dot Game Heroes lack the essence of its explosively-popular inspiration, or does it manage to work a little magic of its own?

  • Aquaria

    First Hour Review

    Aquaria CoverIt's rare that we get to combine our love for games with charitable donations, and unheard of that we can feel like a smart shopper while doing both. Such a concoction of impossibility was made real when the Humble Indie Bundle experiment went live on May 4, 2010. For a limited time, five acclaimed indie games (Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, Penumbra Overture, and World of Goo) were offered as a bundle to gamers...at whatever price they were willing to give. For any price you name, you could have access to five games you may or may not love. A sixth game, Samorost 2, was even added to the bunch as extra incentive. You could even split your price between the developers and two partner charities, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play Charity, at whatever fractions you wanted. I gave $7.50 to the developers and $7.50 to the charities myself, contributing to the $1,270,000 in total donations contributed as of May 15. It's a great cause that also happens to be a great deal.

    Having only previously played (or even heard of) the fantastic World of Goo, I decided to go alphabetically and spend an hour with Aquaria first. Aquaria was created by Bit Blot, an independent game company comprised of Alec Holowka and Derek Yu, in 2007. An indie games festival winner known for its atmosphere, Aquaria is an underwater 2D sidescroller with a focus on exploration and puzzle-solving, in the same vein as Metroid.

    As I dive into Aquaria for the first time, I wonder if it's true what they say: is it really better down where it's wetter, under the sea?

  • Iron Man 2

    First Hour Review

    Iron man 2 CoverYou may have seen our recent article covering a conference call presented by Iron Man 2 developer: Sega San Francisco.  The First Hour was invited to take part in a small pre-release Q&A with two of the people involved with the production of the game.  I sat in on the call and submitted a few questions. It was a good conversation and lots of aspects of the game were touched on, so if you’d like some more insight into what went into making this game what it is, please check it out here. 

    Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I recently sat down with a copy of Iron Man 2.  To state the obvious, Iron Man 2 is the sequel to Iron Man. Both games were released to coincide with the movies of the same name. As most people know, releasing a game on a movies timeline can be... problematic.  It often leads to rushed development schedules and lots of cut corners in the final product.  Despite this situation, the first game was commercially successful. However, it struggled to win over most critics.  With an aggregate score of 45 on Metacritic, that’s probably an understatement.  However, I was one of the people who enjoyed the first game (while recognizing it’s many flaws), which is why I was chosen/volunteered to review the sequel.  

    Much like Greg’s recent review of Saboteur, this game is the final release of a studio before it gets shut down.  Sega San Fancisco, formerly Secret Level Games will close shortly after the release of Iron Man 2.  This does not bode well for the 3 other gamers besides me crossing their fingers for a Golden Axe: Beast Rider sequel.

    I went into this first hour with an open mind and reasonable expectations.  Having enjoyed the first game, more of the same with increased graphical performance, control tweaks and mission diversity would be a good start.  Let’s see if they were able to squeeze any of that into the first 60 minutes of Iron Man 2.

  • The Saboteur

    First Hour Review

    Saboteur CoverA few months ago I reviewed the first hour of Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction.  I enjoyed it, but had issues with the controls which really hampered my experience.  Fast forward to... now, and I'm about to tackle Pandemic Studio's final game, The Saboteur.  It's disappointing when a studio is closed down, and definitely scary considering EA bought them out at the same time as they did BioWare (can you imagine EA shutting them down?).  While I never really played any of Pandemic's games, the Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans series were always popular, sad to see them go.

    Anyways, the game!  You came here for some World War II open world action set in Paris, right?  Well, this is what you're going to get.  The Saboteur was released late last year on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows, and has you killing lots and lots of Nazis.  Everyone hates Nazis, and The Saboteur features a ton of different ways to execute that hate into physical violence.

    There's more to this game than just beating up baddies, but a city to save by raising their morale and will to fight.  If you're looking for a World War II game that isn't a derivative first person shooter, well this might be it.  Let's get into the first hour of The Saboteur.

  • Trine

    First Hour Review

    Trine CoverToday's first hour review is for Trine, a unique sidescroller brought to us by Frozenbyte. Having known nothing about the company before now, Wikipedia tells us that they are a Finnish developer, founded in 2001 and consisting of around 20. They previously made two games for PC, Shadowgrounds and Shadowgrounds Survivor (apparently FPS with RPG hybrid elements).

    Their latest game, Trine, was released in 2009 for PC and later PS3 (with 360 version seemingly cancelled). I became drawn to the game by a cheap price on Steam along with pretty screenshots and a bit of positive word-of-mouth.

  • XIII

    First Hour Review

    Xiii CoverBargain bins. Sometimes they hold treasures, other times just stuff better left at the bottom where no one can see. Still, I'm poor and always hoping for the best so I can't help but look around. Surprisingly, I found XIII in one of these dumpster dive sessions, and for $1.99 at that. All I really knew of the game was that it was cel-shaded, likened constantly to an action-fused comic book, and a FPS.

    A few weeks ago, Games for Lunch's Kyle Orland reviewed XIII's first hour. He died numerous times and was ultimately frustrated with the game's gameplay. Hopefully I'll have a better sixty minutes.

  • Assassin's Creed II

    First Hour Review

    Assassins Creed 2 CoverA few years ago, I had to opportunity to borrow an Xbox 360 along with a bunch of games when my friend was out of the country. Assassin's Creed was one of them, and while I was more or less satisfied after the first hour, the entire game left a lot to be desired.  I found it incredibly repetitive and full of crappy A.I. while lacking any kind of story framework.  It had its moments, like finding the lookout points around the city along with some beautiful graphics, but the game left a foul taste in my mouth.

    Fast forward more than two years later and this time Assassin's Creed II has fallen into my lap.  Everyone was raving about how much Ubisoft had improved the game over the original, but then again all those same people had lavished praise on the first one.  I'm not one to judge a game without giving it a try though, so here we are for another go around with the first hour of Assassin's Creed II.

    For a quick introduction, the Assassin's Creed series is all about third-person parkour in the past.  You play as an assassin who runs around the city doing what assassins do: finding out information about their target and then taking them out.  The first game took place in the Holy Land in the 12th century whereas the sequel is set in Italy during their Renaissance in the 15th century.

    Warning: Do not buy this game for Windows as Ubisoft wrapped Assassin's Creed II in some of the most awful DRM anyone could ever imagine: a required, persistent internet connection for a single player game.  Avoid this at all costs, don't buy it and don't pirate it for Windows.  Do not give Ubisoft any reason to justify what they did.  Two years ago, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia without any DRM whatsoever, ask them to return to those days.

  • Infinite Space

    First Hour Review

    Infinite Space CoverInfinite Space is a DS game published by SEGA as a collaboration between Platinum Games and Nude Maker.  Platinum Games previously developed Madworld and Bayonetta for SEGA, and Nude Maker comes from a background making... well, let's just say their name isn't just a bad translation.  However, these two teams had previously worked together on the XBox game Steel Battalion.  Yes, the game that cost $200 and came with a giant mech-dashboard controller.

    While Steel Battalion went over the top with its controller, Infinite Space seeks to go where no anime character has gone before.  The concept of the game is space exploration, and the building of a fleet to undertake said exploration.  And because we all know space is a very dangerous place, there will be battles; many battles.

    The producer of Infinite Space said this has been a long time dream of his, as he grew up inspired by science fiction.  He mentioned several influences, but if I list them here you will get the wrong idea of the game.  It's nothing like the influences he mentions.

    What is it like?  Well, I'll tell you, or at least what the first hour is like.

  • Red Dead Revolver

    First Hour Review
    red Dead Revolver CoverIt's easy to forget that Rockstar Games actually develops other series besides Grand Theft Auto.  With nine studios making up the Rockstar empire, it's seemingly unbelievable that the only games they've released since Grand Theft Auto IV two years ago is a new Midnight Club racing game, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the DS and PSP, some music game called Beaterator, and a few Grand Theft Auto DLC's.  So what are all the other studios working on?  Well, Rockstar San Diego is almost done with Red Dead Redemption, the sequel to our first hour focus today, Red Dead Revolver.

     

    Red Dead Revolver was released in 2004 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.  It plays like a Spaghetti Western film and follows a very linear tale of revenge.  The last Western game I played before Red Dead Revolver was Sunset Riders, a side-scrolling shoot 'em up featuring simultaneous multiplayer and a whole lot of fun.  I have some great memories playing this game on the Super Nintendo with my friends in middle school.

    April was originally going to be "Western games month" on the First Hour in what was sort of a celebration of the release of Red Dead Redemption and in honor of the many obscure and not-so-obscure Western games including Sunset Riders, Gun, Call of Juarez, Outlaws, Rising Zan (Samurai Gunman!) and maybe even Custer's Revenge.  But with the delay of Red Dead Redemption until May and the general annoyance of getting locked into theme months, we decided to skip it.  Here's what's left of it though: the first hour of Red Dead Revolver on the Xbox.
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