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The Magic Toy Chest

First Hour Review

The Magic Toy Chest CoverThe 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.

Lost Odyssey

First Hour Review

Lost Odyssey CoverLost 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.

Mutant League Football

First Hour Review

Mutant League Football CoverMutant League Football is a football game released for the Sega Genesis in 1993. This isn't your typical football game though, as the players are mutants, monsters, and skeletons, and the field has firepits, mines, and going out of bounds means getting sucked into space. Mutant League Football was developed by EA and released at the same time as the early Madden Football games, but you can tell the development team really had some fun with the game. A few of the team names are mocking real teams (Sixty Whiners instead of 49ers) and there are a couple of parody players such as Reggie Fright (Reggie White) and Bones Jackson (Bo Jackson).

This game really reminds me of The Rookie, a podcast novel written by Scott Sigler that I read last year. In that book, there's an intergalactic football league played by a variety of alien races and includes much death and destruction. A great listen. Let's get to the review now, oh yeah, this is my second post-apocalyptic game review in a row after Fallout, funny how those things run in streaks.

The World Ends with You

First Hour Review

The World Ends with You CoverThe World Ends with You is a new action RPG for the Nintendo DS released by Square Enix. Unlike their Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts series, The World is set in modern day Tokyo. Battles are fought at a fast pace and the game is ripe with Japanese pop culture, music, and style. This is a unique game and proof that Square Enix still takes chances now and then. It has rewarded them well too as the game is getting great reviews and I'm sure it is selling well. Enough talk though, let's get on with the review.

Grand Theft Auto 2

First Hour Review

Grand Theft Auto 2 CoverGrand Theft Auto 2 is of course the game that came before Grand Theft Auto III, one of the most important games of the last decade. I always wondered what kind of games GTA1 and 2 were, and after playing them, it's obvious the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. GTA2 is essentially a top-down look at the Grand Theft Auto universe. Much of the core gameplay we know and love today is in GTA2, just from a totally different perspective. It's a great representative of the change from 2D to 3D as somehow it feels I could be playing the exact same game if it weren't for the view.

GTA2 was released in 1999 on a peculiar variety of systems: the Playstation, PC, the Dreamcast, and Game Boy Color. Every major gaming company got a version of this game, but I will personally be playing the PC version. Mostly because this game is absolutely free from Rockstar Games themselves. Yep, you can go to their site and download both GTA1 and 2 for free, not bad if you ask me. If you're one of those poor souls (like me) who doesn't own Grand Theft Auto IV, well, this may serve as a temporary replacement in your heart. Let's get to the first hour review of Grand Theft Auto 2.

Another World

First Hour Review

Another World CoverAnother World (Out of this World) is a cinematic platformer released on just about every system back in 1991. Now the phrase, "cinematic platformer" gives me shivers because of its sheer potential of awfulness. When I hear those words I think of terrible gameplay and ugly, "realistic" looking graphics. The games are typically rotoscoped to give them a unique graphical style, which usually doesn't bother me, it's more the style of gameplay that makes me experience nasty flashes of nostalgia. If you've ever played the original Prince of Persia games, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Another World is known as Out of this World in the United States. Much like Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit, the game is renamed for some stupid reason that leaves people confused and wondering whether the stone is the sorcerer's or the philosopher's. Either way, the game supposedly influenced Fumito Ueda, who went on to create Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. So at least this game was good for something, but let's check out the first hour of Out of this World to see if it can properly defend itself and (in my opinion) the thankfully lacking genre known as the cinematic platformer.

I'll be playing the 15th Anniversary Edition for the PC released in 2006. The game features higher resolution graphics and more detailed backgrounds.

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

First Hour Review

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer CoverMystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is a new Nintendo DS adventure that is actually a port of a 1995 Super Nintendo game released only in Japan. Shiren's gameplay is based off the classic computer games Rogue and NetHack. This means randomly generated stages, turn-based gameplay, and harsh character death penalties. Games today are wussified to the point of being able to save anywhere and three hour long tutorials that wean you into the game, Mystery Dungeon is kind of a breath of fresh air. Even if it is a 13 year-old breath, it mixes up the portable scene a bit.

Not much left to say about Mystery Dungeon, I think the review and screenshots will explain the game pretty well.

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams

First Hour Review

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams CoverOnimusha: Dawn of Dreams is the fourth Onimusha game in the main series and was released in early 2006 for the PlayStation 2. I personally love the Onimusha series and find them some of the most satisfying games around. The games are heavy on katanas, demons, and blood, and Dawn of Dreams is no exception. I was introduced to the series after the second one came out and I've been playing them ever since. I even rented the crappy Super Smash Bros. ripoff, Blade Warriors. Back to Dawn of Dreams though, this game was actually kind of an unexpected sequel. After the third game was released, Capcom repeatedly said that this was to be the final Onimusha game, even though the game's own ending seemingly contradicts this. Thankfully though, this was an outright lie and the series went on.

Dawn of Dreams is a hack-and-slash game set in late 16th century Japan. Many of the heroes and villains are based on important historical figures at this time, just imbued with generally evil and demon-like powers. This makes for a really interesting alternate history game where the timeline kind of veers off onto a crazy path and eventually meets back up when things settle down. Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams continues to use completely 3D backgrounds, thus giving the player complete control over the camera (this opposed to pre-rendered backgrounds with pre-determined camera angles, the technique used for the first two games) and overall better control over your hero. You also have a second member with you most of the time allowing you to switch between characters for combos and using different powers. Capcom may not have originally wanted a fourth game, but it seems they had enough ideas to start the series anew. But let's play the first hour of Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams and see if they pulled it off.

The Lost Vikings

First Hour Review

The Lost Vikings CoverThe Lost Vikings was released in 1992 and was one of Silicon & Synapse's first games. Never heard of them? They are now known as Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of many, many good games that end in Craft. Anyways, The Lost Vikings was released on the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and various other systems throughout the years, and gives gamers nowadays a really interesting look at the early history of Blizzard. The game itself can be described as a puzzle platformer, where you have to use the different abilities of three Vikings to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and progress through the game's levels. My minute-by-minute update should help describe the game better. I will be playing just the first hour of the Super Nintendo version of The Lost Vikings, so let's get right to it.

In case you're a World of Warcraft veteran, you may recognize the three Vikings: Erik the Swift, Olaf the Stout, and Baleog the Fierce. They all make a cameo appearance in Uldaman, an ancient dwarven complex that serves as a mid-level dungeon. If you play as a Horde character you can even kill them for some unique items!

SimCity Societies

First Hour Review

SimCity Societies CoverSimCity Societies is the newest entry in the long and respected SimCity series. However, as you may or may not have heard, Societies is a radical departure from the traditional SimCity game. Gone is most of the micro-management you dealt with as being mayor and gone is zoning to lay the groundwork for your city. Now you are more of the city's grand architect and visionary. You decide what kind of city you want to run, whether it's a prosperous metropolis, a spiritual mecca, or an oppressed dystopia, it is all up to you. To dictate your direction, you lay down each building individually, from houses to ice cream stands to city hall, everything is under your control.

Now not everyone likes the new direction SimCity is heading, and of course this game is definitely not for everyone. Before I played the game, the entire premise reminded me more of City Life than SimCity 4, not necessarily a bad thing, just totally different than the games I grew up to know and love. I think as fans of the series we have to acknowledge that we will probably never play a new "classic" SimCity game, which is fine with me. The series peaked with SimCity 2000 and I still play that from time to time. But let's see if SimCity Societies renews the franchise or leaves me with a sour taste, let the first hour begin.

It should be noted again that my computer is not that great and doesn't even meet the minimum system requirements laid out by Electronic Arts (it requires at least an Athlon 2100 and I have an 1800, everything else meets or exceeds). I am still able to run the game okay with all the settings at medium or below though.

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