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The Walking Dead: A New Day

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the Walking Dead CoverWord of mouth is a powerful, but nearly impossible to control selling tool. Growing up, I rented SNES games based on friends’ recommendations; during college, PC games spread from computer to computer like viruses. But now that I’m an adult working full-time, the break room doesn’t satisfy the gaming suggestion mill. So where do I turn? Twitter.

Love it or hate it, your reaction to Twitter will be based entirely on the people you choose to follow, and I choose to follow a lot of people in the gaming industry. From developers to journalists, they all seem to be raving about The Walking Dead, Telltale Games’ newest episodic adventure for Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iOS devices.

Fresh off my completion of Tales of Monkey Island, also from Telltale, I was excited to try out something a bit newer, and The Walking Dead fits the bill perfectly, especially with today being Halloween! So here’s my review of Episode 1: A New Day, I will continue to review the other episodes in the coming weeks, as long as I survive!

Happy Halloween and happy gaming!

NBA 2K13

Full Review

nba 2k13 CoverVisual Concepts’ NBA 2K series has been a heavy hitter in the basketball simulator game since the Dreamcast days, and in 2010 when Visual Concepts and 2K Sports became the first to grab the rights to feature Michael Jordan himself in their games, the 2K brand soon became the must-have in basketball sims. NBA 2K11 featured the ability gamers had only dreamt of, to soar and jump-shot like Jordan. As if sales weren’t evidence enough to display the 2K series’ dominance in the field, competitor EA soon sealed the 2K series’ role as the one to beat when they canceled their own NBA Live and NBA Elite. NBA 2K12 would soon be released, featuring even more NBA Legends and a new mode. Yet again, one year later NBA 2K13 is released with even more features, and completely Jay-Z-efied. Here is my review of NBA 2K13.

NBA 2K13 was released earlier this month and the Xbox 360 version provided to us by 2K Sports for review.

Rayman Jungle Run

Full Review

Rayman Jungle run CoverAfter playing Rayman Origins earlier this year, I was eager for more Rayman run-and-jump. Not long afterwards, Rayman Legends details started leaking out at E3, and the salivating began. Unfortunately for me, Legends looks to be a Wii U exclusive, and I'll probably have to miss out on Wii U at launch.

So I'll probably have to wait a while for the next big Rayman platforming adventure. But Rayman Jungle Run on my Android phone is a decent consolation prize.

In brief, it's the aesthetics and mechanics of Rayman Origins applied to Canabalt-style auto-running. Rayman charges through gorgeous hand-drawn environments, racing towards the goal and collecting Lums in thirty second stages. Its smartphone-simple design means Jungle Run sacrifices some of the creativity, variety, and exploration of Origins, but it's got a few advantages of its own.

Jetpack Joyride

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Jetpack Joyride CoverI read a complaint recently that most Android and iOS action games are just glorified quick time events, touching the screen at the right time to jump or fly or shoot. This is almost certainly true for a game like Temple Run, where your character auto-runs and you quickly flick the screen to react to obstacles and collect more coins. The same could probably also be said for Jetpack Joyride, where the game’s single input turns your character’s jetpack on, releasing turns it off. To some people, this isn’t compelling gaming at all, and I understand that, but for whatever reason, I get hooked on these little games with simple short term objectives but no real long term goals.

What do you do in Jetpack Joyride? Fly as far as you can? Yeah, I guess that’s maybe the point. Collect coins to buy more things? That’s always fun, sure. Complete objectives and achievements? Sometimes a nice diversion, okay. Now that you’ve done all those things for hours, are you any closer to “beating” the game? Probably not.

Someone more pessimistic than me may suggest the real point of the game is to bewitch you with expensive in-game upgrades to trick you into spending real money on fake coins to make a tidy profit. This is certainly a possibility, heck, app development usually isn’t very altruistic, but if I can have a fun without spending money, have I beaten the system, or simply enjoyed a video game?

Penny Arcade's On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3

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Penny Arcade Rain Slick 3 CoverA few weeks ago, I acquired Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Cthulhu Saves the World, and all three episodes of Penny Arcade Adventures for eight bucks on Steam. It seemed like a steal at the time: five brief RPG comedies for less than I spend on my daily commute.

I dropped Breath and Cthulhu after a few hours. Zeboyd’s nutty tributes to ‘80s JRPGs had their moments, but not enough to excuse dull battles, random encounters, and big empty dungeons.

The first two Penny Arcade games weren’t much better. My disgust for their fetch quest campaign structure smothered my fondness for the Mario RPG-style battles.

So when I saw that Penny Arcade’s Whatever 3 was the result of a Zeboyd/Penny Arcade team-up, I braced myself for some whole new amalgam of repulsive game elements. It turned out to be a roundly enjoyable seven-hour adventure, one that almost excuses the twelve hours I slogged through the other four games in the bundle. Almost.

Amazing Alex

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Amazing Alex CoverI was never any good at The Incredible Machine. It was one of a handful of games available in my elementary school's computer lab, and it was the only one that stumped me every time. I knew the Oregon Trail like the back of my hand, and my SimCity could withstand any disaster, but the motors and pulleys and cheese-seeking mice never quite registered for me.

So it was with some hesitation that I downloaded Amazing Alex, the next game by the Angry Birds folks. It has all the friendly colors and streamlining of Rovio's money-printing slingshot game, but Incredible Machine's spirit clearly lives within. And I didn't think I had the Rube Goldberg skills to finish it.

But I did. I finished all 112 stages and collected the three stars in each. And it was the most fun I've had with my smartphone yet.

Temple Run

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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.

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.

Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope Experiments

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Angry Birds Space CoverThree of my favorite mobile series recently received updates, so it’s time to revisit them. Angry Birds Space is the new Super Mario Galaxy inspired spinoff of the original bird-flinging game, and Cut the Rope: Experiments expands upon the original Cut the Rope concept with new ideas and 125 levels. Finally, the genius Where’s My Water? has received some new levels since my original review, so I’ll touch on that too.

Laugh if you want, but I really love these games for their quintessential mobile experiences. Levels are short and sweet, difficulty ramps up slowly, and gameplay variety is injected constantly. Each of them have fun with physics and benefit greatly from the touchscreen. Plus, they’re dirt cheap.

My thoughts will hopefully be short and efficient, just like the games I’m reviewing. I played each game on my Android EVO 4G phone.

Mega Mall Story

Full Review

Mega Mall Story CoverAs I reflect on Mass Effect 3 before I attempt to write its full review, I’ve been catching up on games in mobile land. Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope: Experiments were just released, but I’ve sort of grown into a Kairosoft fanboy over the last few years so they beckon even stronger. Mega Mall Story is my latest go at their games after Pocket League Story, and it brings some new ideas to the “Story” series and merges some of their existing ones, as well.

In Mega Mall Story you run, well, a mall. In lots of ways it feels like SimTower, the Maxis published simulation where building up was just as important as fattening your wallet. But it also feels like a traditional Kairosoft title, with all the charm and number crunching seen in some of their more sportier titles, plus the layout challenge founded in Hot Springs Story.

Mega Mall Story is available for both Android and iOS for a few bucks, I played it on my HTC EVO 4G phone.

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