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 for comments, game suggestions, or if you'd like to write for the site.

Cut the Rope

Full Review

cut the Rope CoverI apologize for writing more about mobile games lately than general mainstream console titles. I’m in the middle of moving and sitting down for 15 minutes with Hot Springs Story, Angry Birds, or Cut the Rope is a lot easier than an hour or two with Dragon Age II.

So I’ve been tearing through a series of cheap or free games on the Android, taking advantage of Amazon’s free app of the day and sales on the Market. The great thing about mobile games, even over DS titles, is that they’re so darn cheap, if you don’t like the game, delete it and move on. While I could write a few paragraphs on a game I only gave 15 minutes then promptly deleted, I’d rather focus my energy on games I really enjoyed and believe are worth even their minor asking price.

Cut the Rope recently landed on the Android platform after a successful run on Apple’s iOS, and after first hitting the indie market GetJar for free (supported by ads), it is now on the official Market and Amazon ad-free for a dollar. Here’s my review of Cut the Rope on Android.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part One

Half-Hour Handheld

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part one CoverSome months back, while browsing the shelves at our local GameStop, my wife picked out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One for the Nintendo DS; I had earlier warned her of the bad reviews for the Kinect-heavy atrocity of the same name that dropped on the Xbox 360, and we both assumed that the DS version would almost have to be better than that. However, she did not play for very long, returning to her staples of Animal Crossing: Wild World and The New Super Mario Bros. She either lost interest or got stuck; at one point, I had to help her through an unclear potion-making minigame.

With the final installment of the final movie creeping closer, I thought this would be a perfect time to see how solid of a Harry Potter game it actually is. Plus, I had some time to kill while on vacation.


Infamous and The Beast

Blog Post

Infamous 2 Cover(WARNING: This post discusses significant plot points of Infamous and Infamous 2 in detail. You are now at the gates of Spoiler City. Turn back if you intend to play the game with a blank slate someday.)

One of the cornerstones of horror is mystery. People fear the unknown, enough so that they will fill in the blanks with their own personal hellspawn when presented with a few creepy clues. Things that go bump in the night don't need to bare glistening fangs or a bloody hook to terrify us: they just have to bump.

This connection is easily exploited to make a good scare even better. It sounds crazy that so many left theaters spooked after the Blair Witch Project, considering the titular monster was never shown, yet that's exactly why the movie was a hit. Cloverfield saw that success and adapted it to trailers and TV spots, depicting a Godzilla-level monster attack from the view of those unable to see the monster directly. Video games are catching on as well, with many praising Amnesia: The Dark Descent for providing scares when nothing's there.

Infamous 2 isn't a horror game, but it makes excellent use of this deprivation technique to ramp up the suspense. The story's core is Cole MacGrath's quest to prepare for the destined arrival of The Beast, a being of such power and wrath that only at his fullest potential could the hero hope to stop it. Throughout the game, chilling reminders of this impending cataclysm are ever present, casting a shadow of despair that even overcasts Cole's considerable predicaments in the here and now. And when the Beast finally arrives, revealing itself at last to the wearied but hardened superman, the suspense is replaced with a dread so thick that it suffocates the player in a way no game ever has before.

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.

Dragon Age II

First Hour Review

Dragon age 2 CoverI enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins quite a bit, but it was a rocky ride to get going. Origins has a lot of stats, a lot of skill trees, and what I found to be a somewhat confusing array of attributes to put points into. When I heard that Dragon Age II was being developed to address many of those aspects of the game, plus a complete overhaul of the dialog system to make it similar to Mass Effect, I was pretty excited.

When Dragon Age II was released, it was met with a Spore-like backlash that railed against everything even semi-related to the game. Gamers lamented the Mass Effectification of their beloved hardcore RPG (which I seemed to deem a compliment reading from afar), and while the professional reviews of the game were lower than Origins but still highly respectable, a seemingly large group of gamers tossed goose eggs at it.

I’ve always been in the play-it-myself group of gamers. I can understand some of the spite, but forming an opinion before you even play the game usually makes one look foolish (and heck, I often look foolish after just an hour!).

Here’s my first hour review of Dragon Age II, released by BioWare in March, 2011.

Of the games you own, what percent have you started?

100% - Why buy and not play?
38% (373 votes)
75% - I've got a few untouched
26% (258 votes)
50% - Steam deals will be the death of me
16% (161 votes)
25% - I mostly just read the manuals
9% (85 votes)
0% - My sealed collection will be worth millions!
11% (104 votes)
Total votes: 981

Uncharted 3 Beta Impressions and Video

Blog Post

Uncharted 3 BetalogoI held out on the HD console era for almost four years. Through late 2009, I was happy owning only a Wii, with its quirky library and dependable first-party franchises. Sure, modern online features and the robust third-party support made the HD twins appealing, but I abstained admirably. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was the game that finally forced my hand.

I don't know why, but I had to have it. Whether it was the tone, the hype, or merely the timing, something about Uncharted 2 commanded me to buy a PS3. Weeks before the game launched, Naughty Dog held a public multiplayer beta; I bought the newly slimmed PS3 and jumped in. I had a great time in the trial, bought the full game, loved the singleplayer, and the rest is history.

Two years is the standard wait for a sequel anymore, and in 2011, we have Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception to look forward to. Once again, the developer has opened a multiplayer beta to the public, this time nearly six months before launch. Naughty Dog has said their goal is to make Uncharted 3 THE multiplayer game for PS3. Based on my time with the beta thus far, its candidacy can't be denied.

As I did for the Killzone 3 beta, I will outline the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta's game mechanics and feature set. I've also included clips from a few matches I played on the beta's second day (day one was a mess of empty matches and game crashes, later fixed through a title update).

Mass Effect 2 - Arrival

Downloadable Content

Mass Effect 2 CoverI just finished up my playthrough of the hardest difficulty in Mass Effect 2, and in the process finished unlocking all the game’s achievements along with playing all the downloadable content released after my first playthrough. I missed quite a bit of content, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, but that’s all been played and reviewed now.

Which leaves me with just Arrival, the most recent and supposedly last piece of DLC released in February 2011. It is meant to bridge the gap between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, and from the E3 preview of the third game, it will kick off with Commander Shepard feeling the repercussions of his decisions in the DLC. An interesting decision to place a semi-major plot element in a paid piece of content, but that’s business.

After a bum-rush of Mass Effect 2 related reviews over the past few months, this is probably my second to last piece on the game. I’m planning a Daddy Issues feature and that will be it (unless BioWare sneaks another piece of downloadable content on us, which seems unlikely). But don’t worry, I still need to write about all the different comics in the Mass Effect universe, so there is still more to come.

Mass Effect: Arrival costs 560 MS points or $7.

Top 10 Video Game Commercials of All Time


Mercenaries 2 oh no you DidntWe've all grown up among an onslaught of advertisements. It is almost impossible to look anywhere in a semi-urban place and not see some sort of ad. Television has perhaps been their most successful medium, and video games have been advertising on the same tube we play them on for as long as they have been around.

So to celebrate the hundreds of video game ads, we present the Top 10 Video Game Commercials of All Time. This is the definitive list, carefully developed by our writers and then culled down by Greg and Nate. Blood was shed and tears were wept as we narrowed our "short list" of 25 ads down to just these 10. Without intention, we managed to select a set of ads that not only cover over 20 years of gaming from Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and the PC, but a wide variety of types of ads, from live action re-enactments to comedy to musicals.

This is the first official "list" we've ever posted, and we promise more in the future. They may seem easy to make, but we spent hours putting this together and had a ton of fun doing it.

Musings on L.A. Noire, and gray areas in game design

Full Review

la Noire CoverOne of the fun attributes of film noir is that, while often filmed in a stark black and white style, the characters and situations aren't so easily sorted. Good guys can keep bad habits, damsels in distress can turn femme fatale, and the line between cop and crook gets muddy. Black and white is the look, but gray is the tone.

L.A. Noire, Rockstar's latest critical smash, pays tribute to film noir's unclear nature not only in style but also in its design. A vast open world is the stage for a linear story. Modern gunfights and street races play nice with adventure game relics and intuition simulation that should prove to be the game's lasting legacy. And, given the task, I'd place L.A. Noire somewhere in the spectrum between pretty good and almost great.

But to be honest, that's not really what this piece turned out to be. It's not quite a review, but not really just a critique, either. Want a review? Here: "L.A. Noire isn't a bad game by any standard, but it's more an interesting experiment than it is a great experience." I'll even throw a number at you. "7." Bam, reviewed.

With that addressed, the following is a look at a few of the ways L.A. Noire straddles many seemingly opposite design elements. Sometimes this leads to nagging issues, others to surprise delights. But more often than not, it's hard to say either way.

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