This site reviews the first hour, and only the first hour, of video games. It gives a minute by minute look at what is potentially a deal breaker for many games. If a game isn't fun during the initial hour, why should we expect the last 10 to 50 hours to be any different? The First Hour updates every few days with a new game review. Please contact greg@firsthour.net for comments, game suggestions, or if you'd like to write for the site.

Lost in Shadow

First Hour Review

Lost in Shadow CoverHudson Soft. Now there’s a name that you don’t see on game boxes much anymore. The company that used to pump out Bomberman and Mario Party titles wasn’t much of a player this generation, were they?

And it seems we’ll never see the old honey bee logo on another boxart ever again: as of March 1 this year, Hudson Soft is officially dead. The last of its assets have been absorbed into Konami, which will probably put the Bomberman brand to good use and seal Hudson’s other, less milkable properties in the vault.

That makes Lost in Shadow Hudson’s swan song. The company developed and published the  shadow-based puzzle platformer and released it in January 2011 in North America. Like most Hudson games, it found modest critical praise at launch and was quickly forgotten. With Hudson’s recent demise, I guess that makes this as good a time as any to try out the company’s last contribution to gaming.

Infamous

Full Review

Infamous CoverThe whole “play the first hour of a video game and determine from that whether I’d keep playing” concept has its flaws, it’s certainly not perfect. Some great first hours fall short over time, and others give a bad first impression that they (sometimes) unknowingly recover from later on. But other times the first impression is right on, Infamous is one of those games.

I had a great time with the first 60 minutes of Infamous, the gameplay was fast-paced and just felt.. right. Plus, I’m always looking for sandbox games that pull off the action genre better than Grand Theft Auto IV (ugh). The Saboteur had similar first hour pedigree, and was also a great success in the end, so I had quite high hopes for Infamous.

You can probably tell by my praise that I enjoyed the game, so if you care to read on why I enjoyed it, well, here you go. My full review of Infamous for the PlayStation 3.

Portal 2 - Co-op

Full Review

Portal 2 CoverA year ago I published my full review of Portal 2. I guess you could say it wasn't exactly complete since I never touched the co-op portion of it, but finding time to sit down and play a video game with another human being for a few hours is pretty difficult for me, so sacrfices had to be made. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve and our gaming PCs for about 10 hours, and time for Portal 2 co-op was finally realized.

Portal 2's co-op is pretty fantastic in that it is a completely different experience than the single player, in every aspect. The story is different, the characters are new, and the puzzles are two-player required. While many games that feature co-op, if they even bother, just toss both players together in the single player campaign, that would have been disastrous with a puzzler like Portal 2. So major props to Valve for developing this campaign, just for us.

This really isn't a proper review, but I wanted to present both Steve and mine opinions about just the cooperative portion of Portal 2. Enjoy, and give it a try if you find a few hours with a friend.

Blackwell Deception

Full Review

Blackwell Deception CoverThe Blackwell series hasn’t changed a lot over four games released across five years. The screen resolution and accompanying art still seems reminiscent of 1990s adventure games, the point and click gameplay is also rooted in the classics, and the story is still well polished and very entertaining. But none of this at all is a bad thing, it enables indie developer Wadjet Eye Games to release quality games at a manageable pace.

And I have certainly had it well off the last few months having just discovered the Blackwell series. Four games that I almost instantly fell in love with at my fingertips! But now that they’re done, I find myself playing the waiting game like the rest of the fans. Much like when I caught up with the A Song of Ice and Fire book series in 2008 or The Wheel of Time in 2007, waiting really can be the hardest part.

So I present my review for Blackwell Deception. You can also read my reviews for The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, and Blackwell Convergence, or just play the games. They’re great.

Temple Run

Full Review

Temple run CoverI wasn't planning on writing about Temple Run orginally. It's a 3D auto-running game where you swipe the screen of your phone or tablet to avoid obstacles. It's free and supported by micro-transcations. Basically a list of things I should find really wrong with a video game. But if I ever spent the time to wonder what mobile game I was playing in April and May 2012, without this review, I may never have the answer.

So yes, I've been rather addicted to this simple run-and-avoid-obstacles game. From the graphics on the title screen I gather you're making off with some idol from some cursed ruins and then a couple of devil monkeys start chasing after you. There's really no other lore to go on, and when you start unlocking different characters later on like a geisha and football player, all logic goes out the window. But that doesn't really matter because you're in a desperate struggle for points.

Art Style: PiCTOBiTS

Full Review

art Style Pictobits CoverMy Club Nintendo coins are finally going to good use, now that I can exchange them for games instead of cheap memorabilia. Fluidity was well worth zero dollars. And last month, I checked out Art Style: Cubello and found an interesting puzzle/lightgun hybrid.

Another month, another Art Style game to grab from the Club. Pictobits (called Picopict in other territories) is my fourth from the series, all of them quite different from one another. Of the four, Pictobits is the closest to a traditional puzzle game, falling blocks and all. As someone who tends to burn out quickly on those competitive block-movers, I kept my expectations low.

But Pictobits surprised me. It gets frantic, no doubt, but the bite-size challenges and uncommon variety pulled me over the speedbumps in the difficulty curve. The retro Nintendo style didn't hurt, either.

Infamous

First Hour Review

Infamous CoverThere's something fun about playing catchup on a console like the PlayStation 3. I already know what most gamers think are the best games, and I can pick and choose from the rest that appeal to me. The games are cheap, the library huge, and the experiences brand new.

So here I am with Infamous (also known as inFAMOUS, but that's just awful), Developed by Sucker Punch Productions and released in mid 2009 on just the PlayStation 3. It didn't leave much of an impression with me at the time except that it was going head to head with a game called Prototype, which from afar seemed like a relatively similar gaming experience. Both games were successful in their own right, Infamous 2 landed last year which Nate reviewed, and Prototype 2 shipped last month.

Infamous is my fourth PS3 catchup game this year, following Batman: Arkham City, Heavy Rain, and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. I've enjoyed them all, and am currently very fond of the PS3 experience. Of course, I'm limiting myself so far to games I know are pretty great, so I may be biased. Here's my first hour review of Infamous.

Rayman Origins

Full Review

Rayman Origins CoverI never quite bought into the whole Achievements deal this generation. It's nice to have a (rather arbitrary) tally of "gamerness" on record, and I do like to occasionally check my friends' progress. But the achievements themselves tend to make a goal out of lengthy tedium, a checklist asking the player to kill X enemies using Y weapon, in a way that mimics the worst parts of grind-dependent MMOs. It's far from the creative metagame that I'd hoped would evolve through the generation.

As a result, my PSN trophy list accounted for 65 games long but lacked a platinum trophy. I had ambitions to 100% my very first PS3 game, Uncharted 2, until I saw that the majority of the trophies were based on finding "treasures" in the game, essentially an overgrown pixel hunt. I don't regret giving up that chase shortly after it began, and it kind of soured me on trophies in general. Still, there has always been this nagging feeling that, having played so many PS3 games, I should get one platinum trophy before the next generation arrives. Some people aspire to run one marathon in their lives. I figured I should have one pointless digital knickknack.

Now I have one. It's a bit underwhelming, actually. Maybe that's because it only took about fifteen hours of game time to achieve. Or maybe it's because Rayman Origins is fun enough that, even if the game lacked trophies, I would have finished all the requirements anyway.

Dear Microsoft and Sony: Go Nuclear! Don't allow used games next generation

Editorial

Nuke em allBoth Microsoft and Sony have tested the waters on not allowing used games on their next generation consoles. Whether it’s right or not, Gamestop has been blamed by developers and publishers for ruining the industry with their aggressive used game sales tactics, and as a potential preventive measure, used games may soon be a thing of the past.

And I say, let them do it! Pick the nuclear option! Block used games from running on your console. I don’t say this as a former THQ executive trying to protect my bonus, or even as a lowly developer simply trying to protect my job. I say it as a consumer of the gaming industry who thinks there might actually be a huge benefit to gamers if this is pulled off correctly. I just don’t think it will be pulled off correctly.

Epic Astro Story

Full Review

Epic Astro Story CoverAll good things must come to an end: I just finished the first Kairosoft game I would call bad. I’ve played a few Kairosoft sims that were unbalanced or boring, but never both. Epic Astro Story is the official low bar among a great series of games that range from training a soccer team to running a game design studio.

Epic Astro Story is a space colony sim where you build up an industrial/tourism complex on an empty planet while sending out away-parties to explore the darkness around you. While traveling through caves, mountains, and deserts, your team will fight against local bad guys for the right to the land.

I’ve had great success with Kairosoft games so far, most of them have clicked really well with me and my tastes, but from the start I had issues with Epic Astro Story. Here’s my review.

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