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The Shivah

Full Review

the Shivah CoverHave there been any mainstream Jewish video games? Outside of Bible Adventures, I can’t think of a single religious game that even a small percentage of gamers might recognize. It’s interesting: there are quite a few popular religious films such as The Ten Commandments, and religious music and television has certainly found its niche, but there has never been a video game or developer that religious groups have rallied behind.

I could personally rattle off a dozen reasons why this might be the case, but it raises the question: does religion have a place in video games outside of being the caricatured bad guy in a game like Final Fantasy Tactics? Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games thought the answer was “yes” with his first paid point and click adventure game, The Shivah.

The Shivah stars Rabbi Stone in his short quest to uncover the truth about a recently deceased friend. It takes place inside synagogues and features a decent dose of Hebrew and Jewish themes. It isn’t heavy-handed in anything it does, this is simply the character and settings Wadjet Eye Games wanted to tell. Here’s my review of The Shivah, built in Adventure Games Studio.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 CoverI’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?

Diablo III

Full Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe 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.

Mega Mall Story

Full Review

Mega Mall Story CoverAs I reflect on Mass Effect 3 before I attempt to write its full review, I’ve been catching up on games in mobile land. Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope: Experiments were just released, but I’ve sort of grown into a Kairosoft fanboy over the last few years so they beckon even stronger. Mega Mall Story is my latest go at their games after Pocket League Story, and it brings some new ideas to the “Story” series and merges some of their existing ones, as well.

In Mega Mall Story you run, well, a mall. In lots of ways it feels like SimTower, the Maxis published simulation where building up was just as important as fattening your wallet. But it also feels like a traditional Kairosoft title, with all the charm and number crunching seen in some of their more sportier titles, plus the layout challenge founded in Hot Springs Story.

Mega Mall Story is available for both Android and iOS for a few bucks, I played it on my HTC EVO 4G phone.

Cave Story+

Full Review

Cave Story CoverIn the last few years, I’ve had trouble focusing on beating games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve built up such a huge backlog from Steam sales and Humble Bundles, that I was getting closer to owning more games that I hadn’t conquered that had. This was personally my big reason for green-lighting the new Indie Impression feature: it would give me an easy way to at least try out lots of games without necessarily committing even an entire hour.

Having recently featuring Cave Story+, I quickly plowed through it after finishing up my impressions. It is one of those games you hear about for years as being great, and it keeps getting re-released with newer graphics on more platforms, once Cave Story+ hit Steam the time was right.

My initial impressions were positive, viewing the game as a pretty solid Metroidvania with tight controls, let’s see if I found the rest of the game as appealing.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Full Review

Uncharted CoverI was disappointed in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, I’ll just put that out there right away. The game received near universal acclaim upon release (it scores an 88 on Metacritic), but I’ve heard rumblings in the recent years that the game has problems. This isn’t uncommon, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released two years later to even higher scores (96 average!), so people discover things to gripe about as time passes. But I haven’t played any other Uncharteds, though the game is over four years old, maybe I’ve just soured on it in other ways.

Released in 2007 and quickly labeled as the year old PlayStation 3’s best game, Drake’s Fortune kicks off the Uncharted series that has gone on to sell millions of copies on both the PS3 and PSP, and is headlining the recent Vita launch. It stars Nathan Drake as the supposed ancestor to real treasure hunter Francis Drake, and combines cover-system firefights with Assassin’s Creed-like climbing.

I recently published my first hour review on Uncharted, along with the complete video of its opening. If you watch it, you should definitely be able to see why I was so excited to keep playing: it has action, intrigue, and witty writing, along with a cast you can’t help but love. But problems eventually plague all aspects of the game, let’s get into them.

Dungeons of Dredmor

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Dungeons of Dredmor Cover_0Riding on the excitement of The Binding of Isaac, I decided to dive right into another roguelike, this time from indie developer Gaslamp Games. But unlike Binding of Isaac, Dungeons of Dredmor is a more traditional, turn-based dungeon crawler, complete with character classes, skill trees, item forging, and the hack and slash-style fun one would expect from classic franchises like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate. Well, maybe not that traditional. Dungeons of Dredmor is perhaps best described as a spoof of classic computer roll-playing games; nothing takes itself seriously...

Three other writers here posted their impressions of Dungeons of Dredmor last week in our new series: Indie Impression. You may consider these my extended impression that turned into a complete review.

Tower Defense Standoff - GRave Defense HD and Fieldrunners HD

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Fieldrunners CoverI’m pretty new to the tower defense genre, I missed out on the first few waves of games including the massively popular Desktop Tower Defense, and first experienced it with Plants vs. Zombies, which is probably a sub-genre of its own. But since buying my Android phone, I’ve been exposed to a lot of games I couldn’t imagine myself playing even a few months ago. Two of those are tower defense games.

Fieldrunners HD and GRave Defense HD are great examples of two distinct approaches at the tower defense genre. Both are easy to pick up and play for 10 minutes, but are amazingly effective at grabbing you in for over an hour. However, that is where the similarities end, and it is their differences that really define them.

Both titles are available right now for under $3 on the Android Market, and Fieldrunners is also available on a wide variety of devices including iOS and the Nintendo DS. Here’s my short reviews of Fieldrunners HD and GRave Defense HD.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Full Review

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition CoverI first played The Secret of Monkey Island about 20 years ago. This was an era of launching games from DOS, Commander Keen, and wheel spinning copy protection. I played the game with my cousin, who would frequently lose the Dial-a-Pirate code wheel forcing us to wildly guess at the game’s opening question.

The Special Edition released in 2009 thankfully does not have any code wheels (or even worse: always-on internet connection), but does feature completely redone high resolution art, a full voice cast, and the same brand of humor fans of the game know and love.

I’m personally a huge fan of the Monkey Island series, with the second holding a very special place in my heart and the third (gasp!) being my favorite. And while I beat the original when I was younger, I never held a lot of nostalgia for it, so this review is actually coming from a fan of the series who likes the first one the least in the trilogy And no, there is no fourth game.

Paul Eastwood originally reviewed the Special Edition two years ago when it was new, I finally got around to beating it this weekend after having it sit in my Steam library since release. Here is my review of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

Monster Tale

Full Review

Monster Tale CoverI love genre mashing, and Monster Tale is certainly a special case of mixed, but excellent heredity. We have the popular and super combination of Metroid and Castlevania, plus monster training that mixes Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and E.V.O.: Search for Eden. Excellent genes also bears the burden of high expectations, however, can Monster Tale possibly meet them?

Released on the Nintendo DS late last month, Monster Tale was developed by DreamRift and published by Majesco. It pairs up a young girl and her monster that evolves and grows throughout the game. Trapped in a world ran by children who think themselves royalty, our young heroine is a bit like Dorothy in Oz, just with Chomp for companionship.

I originally meant to write at least a half-hour handheld review of Monster Tale, but I kept playing and before I knew it, the game was over. Here is my review of Monster Tale for the Nintendo DS.

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