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.

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony

Full Review

Jamestown CoverIt’s been years since I played a shoot ‘em up. I bought Ikaruga during college basically as a blind buy, and Steve and I played a ton of four player Giga Wing 2 on the Dreamcast, but since then? Well, I played the first hour of Pocky & Rocky... that’s about it. I partially blame this on my system of choice being the DS for the last few years, and also because I’m not very good at the genre. Bullet hell is a term for a reason.

But I was gifted Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony during the Steam Summer Sale (thanks Rowan Kaiser, writer at The A.V. Club), so I had the obligation to return to the shmup, essentially kicking and screaming. I knew very little about the just released indie shooter, so here are the quick details: Jamestown is an alternate history story of early American settlers on Mars. Suspension of belief required. Just imagine 17th century Europeans had spaceships and decided to settle Mars instead of North America.

Also know this: Jamestown is a great game, here’s my review.

Magicka

First Hour Review

Magicka CoverManaging a small group of diverse writers has its perks. When Ian sent me his review of Magicka a few months ago, it was my first exposure to the indie title that is garnering quite a bit of attention this year. Would I have heard of it eventually? Probably. Would I have picked it up during the Steam Summer Sale a few weeks back? Probably not.

But cheap games are great and cheap games with good reviews are even better, so I bought the four-pack of Magicka and spread the wealth among the writers. I found some time to finally get into the game during a business trip and gave its first hour a whirl.

Magicka is an action-adventure game where you control a small-hooded magician on his quest to... do something. You have near immediate access to a complete range of elemental spells that serve to challenge you in both finger and brain dexterity. Released in January on Windows, here is the first hour of Magicka.

Minecraft

First Hour Review

Minecraft CoverInitially, Humble Indie Bundle 3 was only five videogames for whatever price you deemed worthy: Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight. After a day or two, a free pass for Markus “Notch” Persson's Minecraft was added, allowing HIB3 buyers to play the blocks-laden indie game until August 14, 2011. This might have had something to do with the fact that Notch was/is one of the top contributors to the cause, dropping well over $4,000 for a handful of games he surely already owns. But it's easy to figure out why he'd support indie games like so, and giving the wary a free looksie into his own thriving title is a smart decision.

For some time now, I've been interested in Minecraft. Take note that I did not say interested in playing Minecraft, as the two statements are actually very different. Just interested. From the outside, it looks like a creative, germinal, easy-to-play game that is just asking you to open it up and go nuts. Plus, y'know, I grew up on Lego blocks. It's just plain ol' nature here, stacking and breaking blocks galore and building crazy fortresses loaded from ceiling to cellar with booby-traps. However, Minecraft could also share the same problems many other open-world games have, where there is ultimately little purpose.

At E3 2011, it was announced that Minecraft was coming to the Xbox 360, my preferred gaming console. For now, I'll be giving the game a swing on my Macbook, and hopefully it can handle everything. It's struggled to run other games from Humble Indie Bundle 3 (and previous iterations). I am and always will be a console gamer though so if I do enjoy my time here, I'll more than likely download it from Xbox Live Arcade whenever it becomes available.

Captain America: Super Soldier and Captain America: Super Soldier

Full Review

Captain America Super Soldier artAww yeah, it's a SHOVELWARE SHOWDOWN!

In the last two weeks, I started Captain America: Super Soldier for both the PS3 and Wii. At hour's end, I decided to keep playing each game, but with the expectation that I wouldn't actually finish either. As it turns out, I stuck with both through the credits. And I didn't do it solely for masochism's sake: movie license hex be damned, neither version of Captain America is mere shovelware. They won't be gunning for any Game of the Year awards, but they are games worth playing for the right price.

Okay, so they're not bad. But which version of Captain America: Super Soldier is the not baddest? The choice isn't as simple as HD versus SD, like in many Wii port afterthoughts: the parallels are there, but these are two very different games. In classic head-to-head style, check out how each of the versions stacks up against each other in their major elements.

Captain America Wii - Video

First Hour Review

Captain America wii CoverLast week, I checked out Captain America: Super Soldier for the PS3, a decision based equally on hope and whatever horrible curiosity entices people to play movie-licensed games. It was like approaching a derailed train full of puppies: you can't look away from what's sure to be a disaster, but also there's a chance everything turned out okay, and wouldn't that just be wonderful?

Well, here we are again. Another game called Captain America: Super Soldier has been released for Wii. It has the same name and is capitalizing on the same blockbuster movie, but it's a very different game by a very different studio. The PS3 and 360 versions were handled by Next Level Games, a developer that quietly created some of my favorite gems of the generation (in addition to a few duds, apparently). In contrast, the Wii version was in the hands of High Voltage Software, a studio that hyped its first big project to high heaven before the final product would be condemned to gaming purgatory. Since then, the company has released an immediately forgotten sequel and made some noise about what will surely be vaporware in due time.

That said, I can't help but admire the ambition and genuine enthusiasm High Voltage Software brought to trade shows, even if it didn't translate into a worthwhile package in The Conduit. HVS also seems to be one of the few developers that actually took Wii development seriously at some point, so I suppose it's qualified to bring Captain America to Nintendo's neglected little box. My expectations are about as low as you can get, but I'm curious enough to give the game a try anyway.

And hey, video! Watch a superdeformed Captain America throw his mighty shield, solve some mighty puzzles, and even throw a mighty Shoryuken.

Grand Prix Story

Full Review

Grand Prix Story CoverKairosoft has quickly become my favorite developer on mobile platforms. With the English release of Game Dev Story last year, Kairosoft has placed themselves as the premier simulation creator on iOS and Android. Game Dev Story was followed up by the SimCity-esque Hot Springs Story, and then Android received the exclusive Grand Prix Story a few months back (Pocket Academy, a high school simulation was released exclusively for iPhone and iPad).

Kairosoft has been a very active developer the last few years in Japan, with over 20 releases, including already released sequels to some of their English titles. Their lineup of games ranges from the ordinary to bizarre to simply inspired, with Game Dev Story serving as a catalyst for new markets.

I reviewed Hot Springs Story a few weeks ago, and quite enjoyed both the similarities and differences it had to Game Dev Story. From the games released outside of Japan, there appears to be two types of gameplay: the straight up numbers game like Game Dev Story, and the Hot Springs style layout designer/builder. Grand Prix Story falls under the former, Pocket Academy under the latter. Here's my review of Grand Prix Story for Android, played on an EVO 4G. I hope to have a Pocket Academy review soon.

Captain America: Super Soldier - Video

First Hour Review

Captain America Super Soldier CoverI think I like Captain America because he's sort of the underdog. In a universe of telekinetic superbeings and indestructible immortals, Cap's basically just a buff dude with a shield with a penchant for punching Hitler. I like to think he's Marvel's Batman, the mere man who needs only his natural resourcefulness (and a liberal dose of super-steroids) to be a star player in the superhuman leagues.

Apparently, Next Level Games sees a similar link between Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers. Charged with developing the game that would tie into Captain America: The First Avenger, the developer appears to have taken some inspiration from Batman: Arkham Asylum. Among other details, Captain America's context sensitive combat style especially reminds me of the dark knight's award-winning game.

Despite favorable previews and some excellent games in the developer's back library, I haven't forgotten that Captain America: Super Soldier is a game with a movie license. Stunted development time, split effort across all systems, and NLG's inexperience with HD consoles kept my expectations low going into the first hour.

The following is a video sample of some early goings in the CA:SS story mode. See Cap fight, decode, and get his gymnastics on.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

First Hour Review

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade CoverFor being a rather popular film series, there sure haven’t been a lot of Indiana Jones video games released. Well, there have, but not in recent memory, the LEGO Indiana Jones game I played a few years ago is pretty much it besides a few unheralded titles here and there. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released in 1989, that’s how far back we’re traveling today for a first hour review.

Developed by Lucasarts using their SCUMM adventure game engine, Last Crusade seemed like a slam dunk of a title to coincide with the release of the movie, especially as it had Ron Gilbert of pre-Monkey Island fame leading the development team. Indiana Jones wouldn’t be the first movie tie-in game ever, but it would probably be the first to follow the story so closely and carefully.

I’m making my way through my Steam backlog now, and I wanted to play a bunch of early Lucasarts titles since I’m a big Monkey Island fan and I seem to owe it to myself to play their other games. Last Crusade is essentially the oldest one available (Steam does not carry Maniac Mansion or Zac McKracken), so I’m starting here. I’m not sure if I’ll first hour their entire catalog, but here’s the review of the first hour of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Day Eight Recap

Recap

Enslaved Odyssey to the West CoverI haven't been keeping my New Years Resolution of writing more first hour reviews very well, it took us seven months to get through day eight! Not a very good pace, in my opinion. I've been slacking quite a bit as of late, but Nate has been stepping it up with some excellent first hour reviews accompanied by some well edited videos.

So here's the latest 24 hours of gaming, we've now produced as many first hour reviews as there are episodes of the TV show 24, which means absolutely nothing, but it's a fun fact you can tell your friends.

As for the games? The great thing about playing just the first hour is that you really get to try out a variety of games. Everything from the 18 year old Illusion of Gaia to the recent blockbuster Portal 2. Genres cover Wii shovelware to gun porn to time traveling RPGs, we've got it all.

I completed my goal of beating Mass Effect 2 for the second time and completing Dragon Age: Origins earlier this year, and I've been giving my Steam backlog a lot of attention, so look for some old school Lucasarts first hours in the near future. Thanks for reading.

The Witcher

Full Review

the Witcher CoverVery rarely do developers aim to make AAA PC exclusives anymore.  As one of the most well regarded action-rpgs in recent history and aided by numerous recommendations, I felt it was my duty to try The Witcher.  Its developer, CD Projekt, is a Polish firm who's been translating and publishing PC games since the mid-90s.  Recently they've been spending  money to expand, opening up the RED STUDIO for game development and creating Good Old Games as a DRM-free retro gaming service for modern computers.

So far, only The Witcher and its sequel have been released by the studio, with Witcher coming out in October 2007 and Assassins of Kings hitting just two months ago (in May 2011).  These projects are large in scope, using source material from a Polish novel series and brought to life by large development teams.  The Witcher immediately brings a fresh start to the tale as our hero Geralt mysteriously reappears with amnesia, after apparently being killed by an angry mob.  So let's see how this story goes.  I'm playing the latest version, the Enhanced Edition Director's Cut.

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