Heavenly Sword

Full Review
Heavenly Sword Cover

Heavenly Sword is the latest PS3 exclusive title from developers Ninja Theory. They are a relatively new and smaller development house based in Cambridge, England. Originally founded under the name Just Add Monsters, their only previous project was an unrelated original Xbox exclusive entitled Kung Fu Chaos. Released in 2007, Heavenly Sword was hyped as displaying an example of what the PS3 was truly capable of.

The game follows the story of Nariko as she comes face to face with the prophecy of her people, a prophecy that may lead to victory over an opposing army but will almost surely end in her death. According to the story, Nariko’s clan has possession of The Heavenly Sword, a gift left behind by a warrior deity who once wielded the sword to protect them. It is now their sworn duty to protect the sword and to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Legend has it that any mortal who wields the sword will be granted amazing powers in combat, enabling them to slay armies, but will succumb to it’s power by eventually being cursed and dying a horrible death. The prophecy further says a male warrior will be born on a special day with the power to wield the sword. But on that prophetic day, the very feminine Nariko is born instead.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Full Review
Knights Of The Old Republic Cover

Back in 2003, I played a bit of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the PC when it was released. It was college, so everybody was doing it, but for whatever reason, I only played a few hours. In 2009, I played the first hour of the game and rediscovered a gem. I loved Jade Empire and Mass Effect, but here was their older brother: slower paced and much more heavily based in the D20 rule set. It seemed like it wouldn't be possible to take the step backward from those action heavy games to Knights of the Old Republic, but after playing the first hour, I had to give it a try again.

I have a bit of an odd history with the game, like I mentioned, I played KotOR when it was first released, but gave up on it after reaching a key point in the game about 8-10 hours in. While replaying the game this time around, however, I couldn't remember how far I had played. I kept thinking, "oh, I remember doing this before, but there's no way I played beyond that" until I reached a point where I thought I really was playing all new content. Turns out, a few weeks ago I was perusing some random posts I wrote on a message board in 2003 and I was actually having a discussion with someone about reaching a particular scene I have absolutely no memory of playing. It was this really weird sense of deja vu, like I could have beaten the game but not remembered it.

I've beaten the game now though, here's my full review of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

First Hour Review
Batman Arkham Asylum Cover

Before tonight, the only Batman video game I had ever played was Batman Forever, a seriously awful "game" that left me tossing my Super Nintendo controller across the room in disgust. You begin the game in a room where the only way out is up, and after pressing every imaginable button on the controller, you simply can not escape.(well, you can, press the Select button and then Up on the D-pad. Yeah Batman Forever, I hate you too).

So fast forward 15 years and memories of that travesty are all but forgotten and Batman: Arkham Asylum is in my Xbox 360. Everyone's been gushing on this game since its release in August 2009 so I've finally decided to give it a whirl. While I've enjoyed the recent films and filled my afternoons with Batman: The Animated Series, I know nothing about the comic world that the game is based off of. Arkham Asylum, from a non-reader's perspective, appears to be the ultimate love letter to all those Batman comic fans who have been waiting patiently for something... awesome.

But things are also a bit off for me: the Joker is different, the Commissioner is different, and even Batman is different. But Arkham Asylum is a stealth-action beat 'em up, a genre mash-up I felt worked brilliantly for a game like Beyond Good and Evil. So will the first hour of the game inspire me to keep playing, or will the stealth-based gameplay or unfamiliar world cause me to put it down for good? Let's find out on the Xbox 360.


First Hour Review
Overlord Cover

Overlord is a third-person action-adventure/RTS published by Codemasters. It takes the idea laid down by Pikmin and Battalion Wars and brings them to their evil conclusion.

The concept is that you are an evil Overlord, with minions to do your dirty work. Will we have a good time playing as the bad guy, or is there a good reason most games have you control the hero?

Dragon Age: Origins

First Hour Review
Dragon Age Origins Cover

BioWare has been on a roll the last ten years, kicking the decade off with Baldur's Gate II, delivering more Forgotten Realms fun with Neverwinter Nights, revolutionizing console RPGs with Knights of the Old Republic, revolutionizing themselves with Jade Empire, and of course, introducing the world to Mass Effect, one of my favorite games of all time. BioWare decides to close out the decade similar to how they started it, with a fantasy epic: Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age: Origins was released in early November on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. It has seen some pretty great success, and is one of the notable games released this holiday season that does not necessarily compete directly with the behemoth that is Modern Warfare 2. While I've never played Baldur's Gate, I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series and am excited to give BioWare's fantasy genre a spin.

This is by no means the first Dragon Age content we've featured on the First Hour, Grant reviewed the first hour of Dragon Age Journeys, a flash-based web game set in the Dragon Age universe. In October I read Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the first novel set in BioWare's world, though it is not a novelization of the game. Dragon Age: The Calling, the second book in the series is out and is on my to-read list. Definitely check these other forms of media out if you're a big fan of Dragon Age. And on that note, here's the first hour of Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360.

Fallout 3

First Hour Review
Fallout 3 Cover

Last year, I played the first hour of the original Fallout, and I will admit, it didn't go so well. I made the comment that one hour just wasn't enough for a game like that, but I wasn't interested enough to keep going. Well, Fallout 3 has been out for some time now and the series has taken a gigantic leap into the modern, pre-apocalyptic age. I guess the game could be considered an action RPG first-person shooter with the option of being third-person, but whatever the genre is, this is not our father's isometric Fallout.

Times have changed though, and with Bethesda taking over the Fallout license, it seemed like the logical step was "Oblivion with guns." Whether you were excited for this prospect or not, it definitely seems to have panned out as the game was honored with many Game of the Year awards in 2008. But I like to form my own opinions, and set out to eventually give the Fallout series another chance. I had the opportunity a few months ago, when my brother-in-law asked me to help him play this game. I wandered around for a few minutes in complete and utter confusion, eventually killed some important story characters (and then the game auto-saved!), and was more or less left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

But I also like to give a game a decent shake, so here is its opportunity: the first hour of Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360.

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

First Hour Review
X Men Legends 2 Cover

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is an action RPG featuring the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants teaming up to fight Apocalypse. Developed by Raven Soft and published by Activision, it's (obviously) the sequel to X-Men Legends.

I have never played X-Men Legends. Why, then, am I playing the sequel? In the first game, you play as the X-Men fighting against the Brotherhood. In the second, you play as the X-Men and the Brotherhood, which seemed much more interesting to me.

How will this game capitalize on this unique license? Will an action RPG be fitting for the X-Men (and Brotherhood)? Did I make a huge mistake in playing the sequel before the first?

Jumper: Griffin's Story

Full Review
Jumper Griffins Story Cover

Jumper: Griffin's Story is a video game spinoff of a movie that was based on a novel by author Steven Gould. Yes, you read that right. It was developed by an Aussie studio called RedTribe, famous for such megahits as Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal and Space Chimps. The movie and novel follow the life of a young man named David Rice as he grows up and eventually realizes he has the ability to teleport. At first it’s a life saving surprise, but over time David starts to use his ability to his advantage. He travels the globe and "accumulates" vast riches. However, his activities don’t go unnoticed. In the movie, we are introduced to a secret society of "Paladins"; men whose job it is to hunt down and kill those with the ability to teleport, also known as Jumpers. It isn’t long before the Paladins take an interest in David.

As we follow David’s adventures, we’re introduced to a fellow Jumper named Griffin. He plays a multi-faceted role as both David’s teacher and, to a certain degree, his antagonist. He’s an intriguing character and it’s clear he’s been around the block before with the Paladins. He’s cocky and experienced and generally more interesting than the character of David. Perhaps that’s why the game follows Griffin’s story rather than David’s. But was the decision to base a game on a supporting role rather than the main character a good one? Read on to find out.

Mass Effect Galaxy

Full Review
Mass Effect Galaxy Cover

It can be frustrating when your current favorite series releases a spin-off on a platform you don't own; this has happened to me before with Metal Gear Acid on the PSP, and now it happens again with Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone. Considering the game only costs three dollars, the barrier to playing is either cough up $200 for an iPod Touch or try to find someone who will give up their Precious for a few hours. I managed to convince someone of the latter, and the portable action RPG is finally in my hands.

Mass Effect Galaxy is an iPhone spin-off of the popular space epic series released in June. It introduces two brand new characters, Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, who are the new major squad members in Mass Effect 2. The gameplay is top-down action similar to the run-and-gun games of old but features the extensive dialogue system from the console big brother. Much like the novels, Galaxy is meant as a bonus for those of us who are looking for any kind of hit we can get while we wait for the sequel to arrive in January. Here's my review of Mass Effect Galaxy on the iPhone.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Return Of The King Cover

The second game in my marathon is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. To simplify, I will assume you have already read my Two Towers review, so if you haven't you may want to do that first.

Return of the King (RotK) is the follow-up to The Two Towers. This game was released in conjunction with the movie, so it follows it much more closely. The levels are taken only from the final movie (which doesn't always correspond to the final book).

In order to one-up the previous game, RotK raises the number of playable characters from three to five right off the bat, with several unlockable characters as well. It also adds interaction within the environment, two-player co-op, and a bunch of tweaks such as graphical enhancements.

Will these changes be enough to help Return of the King surpass The Two Towers? Will its First Hour be as well paced as its predecessor? Or will neither of these things happen?

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