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Hot Springs Story

Full Review

hot Springs Story CoverGame Dev Story was kind of a perfect storm video game for me. It combined my love for deep simulations with game development and threw in some lovely pixel art to top it all off. Hot Springs Story is Game Dev’s successor, and while I have been in hot springs in Japan, I had little interest in managing one. But since this is Kairosoft and knowing how much I enjoyed developing games within a game, I had to jump at it.

While I originally played Game Dev Story on an iPod Touch, I played Hot Springs Story on an Android EVO 4G. It has a much larger and better looking screen, which is great because Hot Springs Story does a much grander job taking advantage of all the screen real estate available.

Let’s get into my review of Hot Springs Story, developed by Kairosoft for Android and iOS.

World of Goo

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World of goo CoverAs one of the forerunners of the modern indie game movement (along with Braid), World of Goo demands to be played.  Created almost entirely by two individuals on a miniscule budget (2D Boy), it has since gone on to spawn several ports while receiving numerous accolades.  I'm a bit late to this party, but its resumé speaks for itself.  With incredibly high 90%+ aggregate scores, it has been universally praised as a near-flawless game.  Greg has given it a similarly stellar 9/10.  PC and Wii first claimed the game in October 2008, followed by OSX in November, Linux in early 2009 and iOS in 2010.

All that's left to do is try it out for myself, two-plus years after the fact.  Could my personal thoughts and feelings for the game live up to its lofty accolades?

Dragon Age: Origins

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Dragon age Origins CoverI don't like to give up on a game I'm invested in. I'm fine with quitting after an hour, and maybe even a few hours after that I can safely move on without second thought. But when the clock strikes double digit hours, I'm in for the long haul, or I have to make the usually difficult decision to stop for my own sanity. Back in January 2010, I made the bizarre decision to start playing Dragon Age: Origins immediately after I finished Knights of the Old Republic and just three weeks before Mass Effect 2 was released. Suffice it to say, I didn't get very far, and the call of Commander Shepard was too strong.

Almost exactly a year later, I finally returned to Ferelden to finish job. I booted up my old mage and rediscovered the hilarity of my party members and utter deepness of the gameplay. I'll admit right here and now, the first thing I did was crank the difficulty down to Casual. I wasn't playing again to make some sort of statement to nobody that I was any good at this type of game, I just wanted to experience everything Dragon Age: Origins had to offer... in terms of story and world building.

I was actually pretty hyped for Dragon Age before it was released, I read the first book, The Stolen Throne, and Grant and I checked out the web-based spinoff, Dragon Age Journeys. My first hour review of the game went decently well, but the origin story of the Dalish Elf was kind of dull which encouraged me to try another origin when I was ready to play for real. And while it took way too long to finally beat the game, it was well worth the wait in the end.

Here's my review of Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360. While I would normally write a many thousands of words on a BioWare game, I'm going to try and move at a bit swifter pace. If you're interested, Ian also reviewed this game a few months ago, this is strictly my opinion.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

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Ghost Trick Phantom Detective CoverI've been anticipating Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective for a while now. As a big fan (but totally burned out) of the Ace Attorney series, I was excited for Phoenix Wright's creator's next vision. It's an odd one, that's for sure, but holds on to the humor, great cast of characters, and overwhelming charm that made the Ace Attorney series so great.

In Ghost Trick, you unsurprisingly play as a ghost. The idea is you can manipulate objects from the ghostly dimension to save people's lives and ultimately, find out who you are and why you were killed. The Phoenix Wright-like mystery is present throughout the game and many of the questions aren't answered until the last action is taken, but it's a fun and original ride all the way there.

Phantom Detective shouldn't be a game that can be explained easily, but its first half-hour managed to do a pretty bang-up job. Check that out for an early walkthrough of all the concepts and in-depth gameplay elements the game explains to you quickly and efficiently.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn

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Golden Sun: Dark DawnThe Nintendo DS is easily the go-to console this generation when it comes to RPGs. As a developer, you'd be hard-pressed to have your title stand out in a library already rife with role-playing goodness. There are exceptions however, and Camelot's Golden Sun franchise is certainly one of them. The series' notoriety on the Game Boy Advance was enough to perk people's ears when Golden Sun: Dark Dawn was first announced. The sequel comes to us 7 years after the The Lost Age, with 30 years having passed in the game's universe. The original GBA games were hits. Does the sequel live up to the legacy they left behind?

If you take a glance at the beginning of my First Hour review, you'll see that I've listed what, I feel, makes a damn good Golden Sun game. I thought I'd keep this review simple and basically go through each of the points I already made and comment on what's changed and whats been added or subtracted from the core experience.

Mount & Blade: Warband

Full Review

Mount and Blade Warband CoverI enjoy medieval RPGs. I mean, the majority of games I play - fantasy or not - are based in that setting. There's just something about slicing my enemies up with swords that's just completely satisfying. So when I got to play a few minutes of Mount and Blade: Warband, I knew I'd desperately want more.

What? You haven't heard of this masterpiece from Taleworlds? That's okay, there wasn't a whole lot of advertising, and the original Mount and Blade was made by a married couple virtually by themselves. It's not exactly common that things like this happen.

I played the original briefly, and it was fun, but the overhauled Warband made vast improvements over its predecessor.

So, what is it? Well, it's massive and somewhat complicated, but I shall attempt to explain. Mount and Blade: Warband is a medieval role-playing game that puts you into the world of Calradia, a land filled with several kingdoms, all wanting to unify the land under their rule.

Mirror's Edge

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Mirrors Edge CoverThink about your favorite part of any platformer game, it probably has something to do with excellent level designed coupled with you being in the zone and cruising through the stage on a perfect run. Like in Super Mario Bros. 3 where you bounce from goomba to goomba and take off in flight as Raccoon Mario.

Now think about the worst part in any platformer, for me, it's when a platformer stops being a platformer and tries its hand at something... less than adequate. This might mean boss fights that require more luck than skill or high action sequences that seem better at home in a much different genre.

Mirror's Edge is a prime example of a game where excellent platforming level design collides with obnoxiously out of place non-platforming. Thankfully, the highs outweigh the lows in this ambitious first person platformer. The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2008 and was planned to be the first game in planned trilogy. Sales apparently weren't good enough for Electronic Arts and no word of a sequel has been announced. Though in classic industry PR, they "haven't not not" announced Mirror's Edge 2.

This is the First Hour's second opinion on Mirror's Edge along with my conclusion after playing its first hour earlier this month. Here's my full review of Mirror's Edge.

Alan Wake

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Alan Wake CoverAlan Wake has been a long time coming. After Max Payne 2 released in 2003, Remedy has used the majority of their resources for this game. Originally announced in 2005, it has naturally undergone significant revisions. Once a freeroaming affair, Alan Wake is now almost entirely linear. Instead of releasing on consoles and PC, Remedy ended up partnering with Microsoft for an exclusive 360 release. As one would expect from a partnership, the game got bigger and bigger and eventually ended up being a high-profile, big-budget release when it finally hit in May 2010. Such a big game for a small company would carry with it many risks and increasingly impatient onlookers. Is the survival-horror tale worth the wait in the end? Is the Alan Wake concept still relevant and contemporary enough several years later? Most importantly, is the game good and does it work? Let's take a dive into the darkness...

Infinite Space

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Infinite Space CoverThere is no reason I should have enjoyed Infinite Space.

Infinite Space is a 60 hour Japanese RPG released on the Nintendo DS earlier this year. This is exactly the kind of game I didn’t want to play anymore, but somehow found myself drawn into. I played, and I played, and I played some more until the end credits ran. Then I closed my DS and smiled.

It’s hard to quickly describe Infinite Space. Yes, it’s an RPG in space, which means lots of dialogue and battles. And yes, it was developed by a Japanese studio, called Nude Maker nonetheless (and slightly more amazing, published by Sega, who seemingly haven’t had a successful game in ages). I’ve had a recent aversion to JRPGs (which I documented extensively in April), but looking back, Infinite Space isn’t very Japanesey. The character art is drawn in the distinctive manga style, and there are random battles, but that’s about it. The story is actually comprehensible, and while heavy on the politics at times, features many identifiable and memorable characters.

Infinite Space is also kind of the epitome of what the First Hour is all about. It's a super long game that got the thumbs up after an hour from Paul Eastwood. I took his advice and went all the way.

Kirby's Epic Yarn

Full Review

Kirbys Epic Yarn CoverAttendees of the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo were witness to many exciting announcements on June 15th during Nintendo’s press conference—one of them being the highly awaited return of Kirby to home consoles. This would mark Kirby’s first appearance on a home console since 2003’s Kirby Air Ride for the Gamecube, and his first platforming adventure since 2000’s Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. It clearly had a lot to live up to. But alongside roaring applause, the announcement was met with many raised eyebrows regarding our pink hero’s return—for he had undergone a change the likes of which a Nintendo mascot hasn’t seen since Paper Mario. Kirby was made of yarn. Yes, yarn. And his new game, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, would see him battle across a world of felt and fabric against a new foe, and with a new friend. Nevertheless, everyone was excited and anxiously awaiting its release. So, did Nintendo weave the world a masterpiece (yes, I just said that)?

Editor's Note: If you're interested to see how Kirby's Epic Yarn starts, check out Nate's first hour review of the game (and his overall conclusions at the end of the article).

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