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.

The Last Story

First Hour Review

Last Story CoverOperation Rainfall strikes again.

The fan campaign that convinced Nintendo of America to actually publish a hardcore Wii game this year can now celebrate its second victory. Another high profile Wii game found its way to the USA last month, though leery NOA decided to pass the risk of publishing to Xseed Games this time around.

The Last Story is the latest game from director Hironobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu, the duo that made Final Fantasy an institution (and vice versa). It’s hard to believe a publisher would refuse to localize a game with those two names attached, but Nintendo’s no stranger to unbelievable decisions.

I'd been waiting for this game to hit the USA for over two years. Then I had to wait even longer when my copy was put on backorder for a month after it finally launched. Here’s hoping it was worthwhile.

Mole Mania

Full Review

Mole Mania CoverLast month, I realized that I haven’t taken my 3DS outside all year. Nearly every weekday of 2011, the little black system was in my pocket and transmitting StreetPass data any time I left the house.

Not this year. Kid Icarus Uprising is just about impossible to play on the go. I finished New Super Mario Bros. 2 in a weekend, enjoyable as it was. And the StreetPass novelty died after I went months without an exchange. It just wasn’t a worthwhile use of pocket space.

But then something unexpected happened: a little-known Game Boy game put the 3DS back in my pocket.

Trine 2

Full Review

Trine 2 CoverGrowing up, playing a game cooperatively usually meant sitting down with a friend in front of my NES playing Contra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. The game was either made easier with a second player (twice as many bullets!), or twice as hard (fellow chipmunks can be used as weapons!). But as games have evolved from the living room to the internet, cooperative play has changed too.

Portal 2 was designed with two campaigns in mind, one for the single player and the other for multiplayer, specifically a cooperative experience with no traditional way to communicate available. Both sets of levels were brilliant in their own right, and excelled in creating a unique undertaking. On the other hand, the original Trine was made for local gaming only. Friends gathered in front of the TV or monitor and lead the trio of heroes on their adventure.

Trine 2 introduces online co-op for up to three gamers, fixes many complaints from the first game, and features some of the most gorgeous graphics I've ever seen in a video game. I finally got to tax my video card. Steve and I played through the entire game together online without voice communication, here are our thoughts.

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

Full Review

Tales of Monkey Island CoverAfter 2000’s somewhat disastrous Escape from Monkey Island, I was rather leery on returning to my beloved childhood point and click adventure series. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge was the first game I ever played in the genre, and The Curse of Monkey Island is still in my top 10 games of all time.

LucasArts wasn’t too excited on bringing back Guybrush Threepwood either, but in 2009 thanks to TellTale Games, began publishing the five episodes of Tales of Monkey Island, beginning with Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. TellTale Games is the most successful episodic gaming developer around, and they seem to thrive when given an existing IP to adapt into their release format. Tales of Monkey Island would go on to become their best-selling series at the time.

I’ll be reviewing each episode individually as if they were being released one at a time. There’s a few reasons for this: if an episode really sucks, will I want to play on? I like the idea of being able to quit at any time. Plus, I’m a big fan of getting my ideas down on paper sooner than later, and feel like I can give each episode the time it deserves by reviewing it immediately.

Mass Effect 3 - Leviathan

Downloadable Content

Mass Effect 3 CoverI'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to some proper Mass Effect 3 single-player DLC. I loved the game and the series as a whole, and I'll take any more content I can get in the universe before it's gone forever. Since I haven't been playing multiplayer, the numerous map packs do nothing for me, and while the Extended Cut was welcome, I didn't see it as totally necessary. Welcome, sure, but it didn't add much to my overall experience.

So finally being able to download Leviathan is exciting! Mass Effect 2's bonus content ranged in quality quite a bit: Lair of the Shadow Broker made for some of the best levels in the game, bar none, but the Firewalker Pack? Not so much. So it's certainly a point of concern to worry about the $10 download I just made, but hopefully my review presents a concise answer on whether it is worth your money or not. Since there's no new vehicle, my money is on "yes".

Along with Leviathan and the Extended Cut, I also reviewed Mass Effect 3's day one DLC, From Ashes, which included the exclusive squadmate Javik. Keep an eye on First Hour for future reviews of Mass Effect 3 downloadble content.

Sleeping Dogs

Full Review

Sleeping Dogs CoverI like freedom in games. That being said, I love open world games-the ability to run around a virtual world, doing missions whenever I please, and I will give any open-world sandbox game a chance, from Toy Story to Saints Row. I fondly remember the “undercover cop” GTA rip-off True Crime series so ridiculous it was almost hard to take serious about ten years ago-yeah, the one that let you play as Snoop Dog. I soon found out that Sleeping Dogs, seemingly released out of nowhere this month, was the once-titled True Crime: Hong Kong, only having changed names due to legal reasons after switching publishers from Activision to Square Enix. While it may have once belonged in a line of True Crime games, TRUST ME- In no way, shape, or form is this anything like what I remember the True Crime series being like. (In a good way.)

With Square Enix’s reboot, remastering and renaming of the True Crime franchise, now Sleeping Dogs, they have tooled what could prove to be one of the biggest surprise smash hits this year with tight gameplay all around and with a story more compelling than most of Rockstar or THQ’s gangster tales have ever felt. Here is my review of Sleeping Dogs for Xbox 360.

New Super Mario Bros. 2

First Hour Review

new Super Mario Bros 2 CoverThe announcement of a new Mario title tends to carry some buzz. Gaming’s mascot has led enough revolutions that every new game seems to emanate with potential energy.

But the fanfare was light when two new Mario platformers were revealed at this year’s E3. Old Jumpman may be a victim of overexposure: assuming New Super Mario Bros. U launches alongside the Wii U this holiday season, that will make five Mario platformers released in three years. The five previous Mario platformers stretched from 2007 all the way back to 1992.

You’ll never hear me complain about too many Mario games. I loved NSMB Wii’s hilarious multiplayer, adored Galaxy 2’s imaginative splendor, and even enjoyed 3D Land’s muted creativity. But all I expect from New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the same old unassuming excellence that has come to define the word “New” on Mario’s box.

Stacking

First Hour Review

Stacking CoverWell, this has been a long time coming.

Stacking came out for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network in early 2011, and it immediately captured my interest. With characters based on the Russian stacking matryoshka dolls and the narrative devices of silent films of yesteryears, it was definitely a unique offering, though looking over Double Fine Productions’s history it’s clear that that’s their thing. Quirky mish-mashes: RTS and musical influences for Brütal Legend, Halloween outfits and RPG elements for Costume Quest, and summer camp and psychic abilities for Psychonauts. However, I just never got around to getting it due to my severe distaste for buying Microsoft Points, since the conversion rate of USD dollars to Space Bucks never seems to be in the buyer’s favor.

Flash-forward to July 2012, and the Steam Summer Sale has now concluded. I was able to snag this bite-sized adventure for a cool couple of bucks, as well as a slew of other titles. But for now, let’s play with dolls for an hour and see how things turn out.

The Shivah

Full Review

the Shivah CoverHave there been any mainstream Jewish video games? Outside of Bible Adventures, I can’t think of a single religious game that even a small percentage of gamers might recognize. It’s interesting: there are quite a few popular religious films such as The Ten Commandments, and religious music and television has certainly found its niche, but there has never been a video game or developer that religious groups have rallied behind.

I could personally rattle off a dozen reasons why this might be the case, but it raises the question: does religion have a place in video games outside of being the caricatured bad guy in a game like Final Fantasy Tactics? Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games thought the answer was “yes” with his first paid point and click adventure game, The Shivah.

The Shivah stars Rabbi Stone in his short quest to uncover the truth about a recently deceased friend. It takes place inside synagogues and features a decent dose of Hebrew and Jewish themes. It isn’t heavy-handed in anything it does, this is simply the character and settings Wadjet Eye Games wanted to tell. Here’s my review of The Shivah, built in Adventure Games Studio.

Saints Row 2

First Hour Review

Saints row 2 CoverWithout Rockstar Games and Grand Theft Auto III, we wouldn’t have Sleeping Dogs, The Saboteur, and possibly dozens of other series, including Saints Row. But whereas Grand Theft Auto IV upped the realism to aggravating levels (managing relationships and awful driving are the worst offenders), Saints Row has descended further and further into insanity, basically delivering the same sandbox joy that GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas were known for.

I’ve never played the original Saints Row, and while Saints Row 2 seems to continue directly off from the first game, I’m guessing I’ll be able to jump into the gangster-filled world with ease. I’ve heard tons of great things about the third game recently, but the second one flew under my radar, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect.

Here’s the first hour of Saints Row 2 for the PlayStation 3.

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