platformer

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

First Hour Review

Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands CoverHollywood and video games have never had a healthy relationship. Ever since the Super Mario Bros movie ruined millions of childhoods, video game franchises of all kinds have received blasphemous silver screen adaptations. The latest mainstream abuse of a video game license comes from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I'm not one to praise the narrative of most games, but I really enjoyed the bittersweet fable of the Prince and Farah that the 2002 hit presented. I've heard less favorable things about the movie, and I don't think I want to see how it ended up.

The existence of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the result of one of the strangest cross-media cycles I've ever seen. The Forgotten Sands, a sequel to the Sands of Time video game, was released alongside the Sands of Time movie, an unrelated adaptation of the Sands of Time video game. Even stranger, Sands of Time already has a pair of sequels (Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones), but Forgotten Sands apparently precedes them. Even strangerer, the Wii version of Forgotten Sands is actually an alternate tale to the version of the game available for PS3, 360, and PC!

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all that. The plotline of the Sands Trilogy was already mind-bending enough with all the time travel going on, but now Hollywood's gone and made everything worse! Oh well. I guess the more pressing topic at hand is just how forgettable Forgotten Sands is on the Wii.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Full Review

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 CoverOne of my favorite activities in college was brainstorming ideas with my roommates. When bored, we would gather in the living room, get out the whiteboard, and come up with some imaginative business idea or a get-rich-quick scheme or an outline of a blockbuster screenplay. The ambitiousness of our outlandish dreams was matched only by our enthusiasm to start making them a reality.

Then, after disagreeing for a few hours about what the title should be for our Atlantis-set romantic comedy, we'd give up and play Smash Bros. For the record, though, I still think "Mermaid for Each Other" is just brilliant.

I get the feeling that Fatshark, the small Swedish developer given the reigns to Bionic Commando after its previous steward was dissolved, had similarly lofty goals and equally tragic work ethic for the series' first 2-D sequel. The result is Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, a sequel that I suspect was conceived with a drive to do it big but produced with a reluctance to do it at all.

The Hobbit

First Hour Review

the Hobbit CoverMarrying my wife a few months ago came with a videogamey bonus: a Nintendo Wii. And it wasn’t until several weeks back that I kind of realized that this system can also play GameCube games on it. The Nintendo GameCube is a system I missed out on hard, having only really played two games to my memory: Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin. GameStops statewide seem to still sell a good selection of GameCube games, and I was able to pick up The Hobbit for less than a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the local market. As a true J.R.R. Tolkien fanboy, I couldn’t wait to play it. Alas, I had to wait. Long story short, I had to make a return trip to pick up a memory card so I could actually save my progress.

Anyways…The Hobbit. It came out in late 2003, and I’m assuming that its makers were banking on a lot of eager fans awaiting more Lord of the Rings action would be interested in seeing how the journey all started. In fact, blazing bright and gold on the game’s cover is some silly marketing pullquote that says “the prelude to the Lord of the Rings!” Yeah, we know. Hopefully they don’t pull the same silliness with the upcoming theatrical adaptation. The Hobbit, Part 1 of 2: The Prelude to the Lord of the Rings! Bad enough there’s going to be two films.

I’ve played a number of other games based on the Lord of the Rings over the years. Some were decent amounts of fun (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), and others just an unfair mess (The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age). Will The Hobbit soar like the Lord of the Eagles or sink like the One Ring abandoning its former master? Let’s find out with the game’s first sixty minutes.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

First Hour Review
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 CoverLooking back, Bionic Commando Rearmed may have been a more important game than most realize. It was one of the first blockbuster hits on both the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network digital distribution models, scoring critical praise unlike any other console downloadable before it. It also arguably opened the floodgates for the proliferation of retro-styled games and HD remakes: more and more publishers are digging up their buried treasure and giving it a spit-shine worthy of the HD era, and just as many are building new experiences from old foundations.

It goes without saying that the company that spawned hundreds of Mega Man games would return to a good thing, so I'm a little surprised it's taken over two years for Capcom to follow up the original retro re-do. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is not quite the talk of the town in the same way the groundbreaking original (erm, original remake) was, but I've been looking forward to it since it was announced at last year's Captivate event. I'm rarely one to complain about getting more of the same, especially when it's as distinguished and polished as BCR was.

Some will cry foul at "Rad" Spencer's newfound ability to jump (gasp!), but it hardly appears to be the game-changer than many feared. Capcom has even affirmed that the game can be completed without ever taking a hop. I think I'll put that claim to the test for some of this first hour.

PS3 owners beware: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 employs a type of DRM that requires you to start the game while connected to PlayStation Network. Inconvenient for a game that is played almost entirely offline.

Disney Epic Mickey

First Hour Review

Disney Epic Mickey CoverMickey Mouse was never a big part of my early life. I guess that's to be expected: my grandfather remembers seeing Mickey Mouse cartoons when he was young, and a kids' cartoon character can only stay relevant for so long. I've never been into the whole corruption-of-childhood-icons thing, either. It always sort of struck me as puerile and cheap, like finding a genitalia-spacecraft dogfight penciled into the margins of a social studies textbook.

So when I first saw the Game Informer cover art for a dark take on Disney called Epic Mickey, I scoffed. I'd never imagined such a thing would exist, and I couldn't fathom it being worth a damn. I let out an unapproving sigh as I skimmed over the concept art in the magazine, featuring mechanical perversions of classic Disney characters. The designs themselves didn't bother me beyond their tired post-apocalyptic, steampunk styles, but the concept itself seemed like something a goth 7th grader might come up with after being dragged to Disney World by his family.

As it turns out, all of that imagery was just pre-production concept, used in the magazine to create as much hype as the shock value could muster. The final product has a safer appearance, one that most would say is more "tame." I think it's just less gimmicky. Further details would catch my interest as well, including the use of forgotten Disney properties to create an off-kilter gameworld (rather than just a dark one) and the moral freedom system that's supervised by a guy who excels at that sort of thing.

It's been a strange hype cycle, but Epic Mickey has finally arrived. For the first time, I'm actually anticipating a Mickey Mouse property. Is my newfound interest warranted, or should I have left it in the trash with that issue of Game Informer?

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Full Review

Donkey Kong Country Returns CoverIn case you hadn't noticed, in the last couple of years, the Nintendo Wii has been subject to the revival of a number of key franchises in the company's portfolio; franchises that have either strayed far from their humble beginnings or simply haven't been seen in many years, if not both. The beloved Donkey Kong franchise is the latest to follow this trend—in the footsteps of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and even, to some extent, Metroid: Other M—with its newest incarnation, Donkey Kong Country Returns. Interestingly, the game's developer, Retro Studios, is the same company responsible for the reimagination of another classic Nintendo franchise, in the form of the Metroid Prime saga. However, this time—as mentioned—the company was tasked with bringing a series back to its roots, rather than taking it (quite literally) to another dimension. It's been 13 years since we've seen the Kong family in 2D platforming fashion. In fact, the game's titular character hasn't been played in this form since Donkey Kong Land for the Gameboy back in 1995. Well, as the name suggests, he makes a return in DKCR. And what a triumphant return it is.

I previously wrote a first hour review of the game, and now, after spending much more time with it (and considering Retro's history with Metroid), I'm of the opinion that Retro should be given full responsibility over all major Nintendo IPs henceforth. This game is—and I'm trying really hard not to oversell it—perfect. Okay, well, maybe not perfect, but about as close as you can get. I kind of had trouble writing a review because of this. I didn't know exactly how to convey the sheer brilliance of this game, but, at the same time, I know words can only go so far. Only after playing will you understand why everyone's going ape over this—and hopefully, if nothing else, this review will get you to do so.

Mirror's Edge

Full Review

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.

Fun Freebies: Give Up, Robot and Give Up Robot 2

Blog Post
Give up Robot twoIt's never been tougher to pin down just how much a game is worth. Vanquish will last you all of five hours for its $60 entry fee, but is it so much fun that you'll want to play it again and again? Conversely, Fallout New Vegas offers days' worth of content to explore, but is a buggy expansion pack really worth sixty Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers? And why shell out full price for this year's sports title when last year's model is nearly identical and can be bought for a song?

Thankfully, the whole discussion goes out the window when you can play the game for free. There are all kinds of browser games, smartphone apps, and free-to-play platforms out there that offer gaming goodness in exchange for nothing at all. There was a time when free Flash games were horrid experiences, not even worthy of killing time at work. But in the era of aggregate sites, app stores and user ratings, the fun freebies tend to rise to the top of the pile, where cubicle drones between TPS reports are more likely to find them.

I recently played through a few excellent little flash games at Adult Swim's website. Give Up, Robot and Give Up, Robot 2 gave me a few hours of die-and-retry platforming fun, and took nothing in return.

Mirror's Edge

First Hour Review

Mirrors Edge CoverNew genres don't come around that often, but genre mash-ups have been popular lately. Mirror's Edge is a first person platformer, with a dash of shooting and a few heaps of parkour thrown in for good measure. Plenty of first person shooters have tried to integrate platforming, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter immediately jumps to mind, but that was a disaster. Mirror's Edge takes what works from a game like Assassin's Creed with its assisted climbing and fluid action and sticks it in a first person view.

To some, this may sound great, others are undoubtedly skeptical, the rest of you have already played this two year old game and made up your own mind (nobody ever said the First Hour was timely *groan*). I've been intrigued by Mirror's Edge since its release, but the opportunity to play it never came up until Steam had it on sale for about $5 earlier this year. So I bought it and tossed it on my proverbial digital backlog, only to finally get around playing it now when my brother-in-law lent me his copy on the Xbox 360. No, I didn't play it on the Xbox, but it did encourage me to finally get around to it on the PC (odd how that works).

So here's my first hour review of Mirror's Edge, Steve previously wrote a full review on the game with a stunning gallery of self-taken screenshots at the bottom.

WiiWare Demos! FINALLY!

Blog Post

bit Trip Fate LogoIt's no secret that Nintendo is the underachiever in console features this generation, especially in the online space. While Xbox Live and PlayStation Network both started strong and have been continually updated with emerging content, Wii's only online feature at launch was the Virtual Console, and only the bare minimum has been added since then. Even now, Wii's online service looks downright antiquated next to what Sony and Microsoft provide. Perhaps that's why Nintendo tries its best to keep its meager online offerings a secret.

Case in point: game demos. Both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live offer hundreds of free, playable sneak peaks at retail and digitally distributed games. And Wii? Most of the time, that number is zero. Almost a year ago, to the day, an experimental batch of WiiWare demos were made available through the Wii Shop Channel. A few months later, they were no longer available.

A year after the experiment began, it seems Nintendo's going to start giving WiiWare the demo support it deserves...sort of. On Monday, November 22nd, Nintendo released a second batch of WiiWare demos and promised that more would be made available on Mondays. The following games are currently available: And Yet It Moves, BIT.TRIP FATE, Jett Rocket, ThruSpace, and Cave Story. If you have a Wii, you should download them all right now, though: they'll only be available for a limited time, assumedly replaced by new demos. Read on for my brief impressions of each, or head to the Wii Shop Channel and download them right now. You'll find them in the WiiWare section, under New Releases. Or you can find a Demos category when sorting by Genre.

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