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.

Homeworld

First Hour Review

Homeworld CoverHomeworld is a 3D real-time strategy game released in 1999 on the PC, Mac, and Linux. It managed to garner a few Game of the Year awards in a pretty tough year of gaming which included Unreal Tournament, Alpha Centauri, Final Fantasy VIII, and the release of the Dreamcast, which of course means Soul Calibur. It wasn't an extremely strong year for the console world, so PC games did very well and Homeworld arrived at just the right time. The game is renowned for its engrossing storyline and cinematic graphical style. Not to mention a great implementation of real-time strategy in 3D space.

I usually take screenshots with Fraps for PC games but for whatever reason it didn't work for Homeworld. ZScreen to the rescue! This is my first time using the open source program and honestly it did a great job grabbing screens of this beautiful space game. Took me a while to find a working solution but ZScreen did the job just fine and worked for me immediately. Now let's get to the first hour review of Homeworld.

The Haunting: Starring Polterguy

First Hour Review

The Haunting Starring Polterguy CoverThe Haunting Starring Polterguy is a 1993 Sega Genesis game all about scaring a rich family out of their snazzy home any way possible. This is a pretty obscure game and the only way I know anything about it is from my deep past where I used to read any video game magazine I could get my hands on. One of them was Game Players, and in one of those issues lies a review for The Haunting. I have no idea what score it got but it stuck in my mind as "this game sounds cool and someday I would like to play it." Well, that someday has finally arrived 15 years later, and it's pretty much as cool as I vaguely remembered wanting it to be.

I really don't know anything else about this game, except that it is probably the goriest 16-bit game I have ever played. There are severed heads, tons of blood, and lots of other crazy stuff that kept surprising me. Just check out the screenshots below and you'll see what I'm talking about. On that note, let's get right into the review.

The Lion King

First Hour Review

The Lion King CoverThe Lion King was the video game released to accompany the Disney movie of the same name. Games based on movies were nothing new in 1994, especially Disney tie-ins, but this is actually my first movie game review. It was released on literally every platform available at the time, including three Nintendo (NES, SNES, and Game Boy) systems and three Sega (Master System, Genesis, and Game Gear) systems, undoubtedly a feat unequaled by any other game.

Really the only reason I'm reviewing The Lion King is because of the saying: "March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb." If you're unfamiliar with the adage, it basically means March will open up with bad weather and end calmly with Spring fast approaching. Here in the upper-Midwest though, lots of snow typically begins and ends the month. Where's our lamb? Back to the review though, here's March roaring in, now I have four weeks to find a game about lambs... could be tough. Anyways, let's get right into the first hour of The Lion King (Super Nintendo version).

Drawn to Life

Full Review

Drawn to Life CoverDrawn to Life is a Nintendo DS game that takes platformers a step forward by allowing you to draw your own character among many other objects throughout the game. It also takes platformers two steps back with its awful gameplay. Before I rip into the game though, let's take a look at the product as a whole. Drawn to Life was released in September of last year and really advertised itself as a game that would allow for so much more creativity in a genre rather lacking lately. The game is targeted for children, but I'll brave anything if it interests me, and Drawn to Life definitely did.

Anyways, awful is a rather strong word but while I'm playing a game, I'm constantly thinking about its current overall score and how it's doing in the individual categories. Drawn to Life started at around a seven (a nice number, giving the game the benefit of the doubt that it is above average), drawing your own character was kind of cool, and I put a lot of work into it because I knew I'd be staring at "me" for the next few hours. Then the real game starts, and we're faced with an empty village and a whole bunch of villagers to rescue. This got me really excited because last year I played Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, a truly stellar title that also focused on expanding a town and opening up new things as the game progresses. So I might have bumped up Drawn to Life to an eight at that point for its potential. However, the first platforming stage begins, and I was instantly able to recognize that this game is going to be painful, I'll get more into this during the gameplay portion. Between platforming levels, you wander around town doing other painfully boring stuff, more on this below during my story review. Overall, it's a constant back and forth between crap gameplay and crap story, ending in my biggest "WTF?" moment of the year.

Enough of this, straight to the scores out of 10.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

First Hour Review

Turok Dinosaur Hunter CoverTurok: Dinosaur Hunter was the first first-person shooter on the Nintendo 64 and the start of a series that is known for its ups and downs. The game is about Turok, a Native American who is sent through time to save the world and is loosely based on a comic book series of the same name. If you think this sounds a little like Prey, and you might not be too far off in some terms (interestingly enough, these games actually started development around the same time, except Turok was released in 1997 and Prey was released in 2006...). Since Turok was released on the Nintendo 64 before Goldeneye 007, there wasn't much to compare it to except for PC shooters, so reviewers at the time absolutely loved it. I can't say I'm quite as much of a fan, however.

A few weeks ago, a new Turok game was released on the PC and newer consoles, simply called Turok. This is the first new game in the series in almost six years, but after a little reading, it appears it has nothing to do with the original games. Maybe that's a good thing, but let's take a look at the first hour of Turok's foray into video games.

The First Hour at firsthour.net

My video game review site, The First Hour, currently located and being contributed to at The First Hour Blog will be fully migrated over to http://firsthour.net over the next few months. This is an important step for my site and its future as I feel the need to consolidate it with my other review site, Beyond the First Hour, and give me more flexibility on my publishing and distribution needs.

Once firsthour.net is officially launched, it will be the one stop for me and all my video game reviews, thoughts on the industry, and periodic updates on my own game. I hope to have everything over here by early summer and will make official announcements and the appropriate redirects when the time has come.

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Full Review

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga CoverLego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is the combination of the first two Lego Star Wars games (The Video Game and Original Trilogy) in what is an obvious attempt to sell more copies of the games and reach that same Star Wars audience that will only buy the DVDs when they're all available in one, giant box set. So basically we have all the levels from the first game, plus all the levels from the second game, plus some more (minor) stuff in case you already own the first two. I received this game for the Nintendo DS, which is essentially my platform of choice of late, and played the heck out of it for the last week and a half. And surprisingly, I loved every minute of it.

I'm not sure why it took so long for someone to realize that Legos are awesome, Star Wars is awesome, and video games are awesome, so why not put them all together. But it finally happened a few years ago and it was like my childhood fantasies were coming together for one last amazing adventure. Somehow though, I never played the first one (Episodes I-III) but got the chance to play The Original Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI). I thought the game was fun but short. The Complete Saga has allowed me to play the first game and replay the second, giving me a much more satisfying experience. It took me a solid 21.5 hours to achieve 100% completion and I'm a little sad to say goodbye. Thankfully though, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman are only a few months away... Now let's get to the review!

Suikoden II

First Hour Review

Suikoden II CoverSuikoden II is a rare PlayStation RPG that can fetch some pretty ridiculous prices on eBay, with sealed copies climbing over $200. Expensive doesn't necessarily mean the game is any good though, as I've seen friends pay many bills for mediocre games that triggered the nostalgia portion of their brain. Either way, Suikoden II is a Konami developed role-playing game on a Squaresoft dominated system and thus never saw sales for this odd sounding game that came close to most other games. The Suikoden series is still being developed by Konami but many fans consider this as the best in the series.

The game itself features an interesting political storyline with highly memorable characters. This description reminds me of Final Fantasy XII, but the difference between the two games is that in Final Fantasy XII the characters seemed far removed from the political scheming where in Suikoden II our heroes are right in the mix of things. The battle system is unique in that your team of fighters consists of six characters in turn-based combat. There are also 108 total characters you can recruit to your cause, a number that seems way too high but is actually manageable and keeps the game entertaining. When not in use, all your recruits hang out in an ever-expanding castle that also serves as your home base.

This is all extra information mostly non-applicable to just the first hour of gameplay, but I consider myself a Suikoden II evangelist and will take any opportunity to push it to the masses. Now let's get started with the first hour of Suikoden II.

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams

First Hour Review

Onimusha Dawn of Dreams CoverOnimusha: Dawn of Dreams is the fourth Onimusha game in the main series and was released in early 2006 for the PlayStation 2. I personally love the Onimusha series and find them some of the most satisfying games around. The games are heavy on katanas, demons, and blood, and Dawn of Dreams is no exception. I was introduced to the series after the second one came out and I've been playing them ever since. I even rented the crappy Super Smash Bros. ripoff, Blade Warriors. Back to Dawn of Dreams though, this game was actually kind of an unexpected sequel. After the third game was released, Capcom repeatedly said that this was to be the final Onimusha game, even though the game's own ending seemingly contradicts this. Thankfully though, this was an outright lie and the series went on.

Dawn of Dreams is a hack-and-slash game set in late 16th century Japan. Many of the heroes and villains are based on important historical figures at this time, just imbued with generally evil and demon-like powers. This makes for a really interesting alternate history game where the timeline kind of veers off onto a crazy path and eventually meets back up when things settle down. Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams continues to use completely 3D backgrounds, thus giving the player complete control over the camera (this opposed to pre-rendered backgrounds with pre-determined camera angles, the technique used for the first two games) and overall better control over your hero. You also have a second member with you most of the time allowing you to switch between characters for combos and using different powers. Capcom may not have originally wanted a fourth game, but it seems they had enough ideas to start the series anew. But let's play the first hour of Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams and see if they pulled it off.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations

Full Review

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations CoverPhoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations (longest game title ever?) is the final game in the Phoenix Wright trilogy, a series of defense attorney games for the Nintendo DS. If you are unfamiliar with the series, you will probably be stunned by the following description: You play as the young attorney, Phoenix Wright, in a justice system where your clients are presumed guilty until proven innocent. You are accompanied by a young woman who can channel dead spirits and murder cases are brought to court the day after the crime was committed. And finally, finger pointing and yelling "OBJECTION!" is your most powerful court room ally.

Ace Attorney games are broken up into two types of gameplay: the first is the actual court room, where you will argue with the prosecutor and cross-examine the incessantly lying witnesses until they crack. The second gameplay type is the on-site investigation. Phoenix Wright himself will head out to the scene of the crime (though often crimes follow him almost like he's Angela Lansbury) and perform investigations, interview witnesses and suspects, and gather evidence. If you haven't figured it out already, this game has a LOT of text. This game is so demanding on your A button I thought mine would fall out by the end. Trials and Tribulations is driven by its story, and it assumes you have played the other two when it comes to the characters and events. You don't need to have completed the previous games to beat Phoenix Wright 3, but it will be a much more satisfying experience if you have.

My category reviews should describe the game well, so read on for the scores which are out of 10.

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