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Diablo III

Full Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe Diablo series is the most important series in my life. While I missed Diablo, I caught its sequel by the throat on release day and was hooked for a good…well, I’m still off-and-on addicted. So sue me. Diablo II was everything I wanted. It was fast paced, exciting, the gathering of objects was awesome, leveling was fun, playing through the game more than once was fun.

I love the Diablo series so much, that when Diablo III was announced, I called every friend I knew that ever played it and told them to check the website so they could experience the surprise. I was SO happy.

I waited 12 years for Diablo III. I got it at the midnight prerelease and tried playing the game, and we all know of the infamous Error 37. I thought about writing a first hour review of just “error 37” every minute for an hour. But anyway…

But I expected servers to be destroyed…I mean, it IS battle.net. But you know what? Despite being more than happy to wait for the servers to be available to me: I wish I had never bought it.

The truth is, this game disappointed me in almost every way possible. Let’s talk about why and what.

Diablo III

First Hour Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe original Diablo was introduced to me by a friend probably no more than 3 years after its release, before my highschool years. Diablo would eventually see some of the most unforgettable and impactful gaming moments of our childhoods, and those of our closest friendslargely due to how much it scared the crap out of us. The first time I laid eyes on The Butcher and heard that deep, grating voice"Ah... Fresh meat"I slammed the door to his lair in his face and ran all the way out of the dungeon (a little excessive since enemies can't use doors). I can distictly recall at least two other moments that caused me to toss my mouse or phone (I was talking to said friend while playing once) in suprise and fear. Ah, the good old days.

Diablo II and its expansion would demand exponentially larger amounts of our attention due to its improved graphics, presentation, story, and gameplay (both online and off). It was a staple in our gaming repertoires, and inspired many discussions and stories of our own. I spent a good deal of my time every night reading through Brady Games' strategy guide.

When all was said and done, standing in the wake of the Worldstone's destruction, Diablo fans were sure we would someday see a sequel. It was just a question of when. The answer came at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Paris on June 28, 2008, though it would be many years more before an official release date was announced. On March 15, 2012, Blizzard finally announced that the release date was only two short months away.

And now, 11 years in the making, Diablo III couldn't have come at a more awkward time for me... I'm currently in the middle of two jobs, one of which takes up the entirety of my weekends. Throw in a small spat of the flu and new member of the family (a stray cat my girlfriend decided to bring home one night), and I'm left which much less time to play, let alone write, as I would've liked...but I finally found the time, and you didn't come hear to read my whining, so let's jump into the first hour of Diablo III.

Portal 2 - Co-op

Full Review

Portal 2 CoverA year ago I published my full review of Portal 2. I guess you could say it wasn't exactly complete since I never touched the co-op portion of it, but finding time to sit down and play a video game with another human being for a few hours is pretty difficult for me, so sacrfices had to be made. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve and our gaming PCs for about 10 hours, and time for Portal 2 co-op was finally realized.

Portal 2's co-op is pretty fantastic in that it is a completely different experience than the single player, in every aspect. The story is different, the characters are new, and the puzzles are two-player required. While many games that feature co-op, if they even bother, just toss both players together in the single player campaign, that would have been disastrous with a puzzler like Portal 2. So major props to Valve for developing this campaign, just for us.

This really isn't a proper review, but I wanted to present both Steve and mine opinions about just the cooperative portion of Portal 2. Enjoy, and give it a try if you find a few hours with a friend.

A Valley Without Wind

Indie Impression

a Valley Without Wind CoverThere are ambitious indie games like Fez, which go all out on their insane puzzles and clever solutions. Then there are ambitious indie games like the Blackwell series, which tells a tale of death with believable characters and full voice acting. And then there are ambitious indie games like A Valley Without Wind, which features a fully procedurally generated, side-scrolling action, massively multiplayer online world.

Developed by Arcen Games, A Valley Without Wind is, if anything, ambitious. It’s also genre defining, I personally haven’t played a lot of action RPG 2D MMOs, but now at least one exists. Released last week for Windows and Mac, here are our impressions on the game. They’re unsurprisingly varied.

Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope Experiments

Full Review

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.

The Stanley Parable

Indie Impression

Stanley Parable CoverIs The Stanley Parable a game? Does it matter? We're about to present our impressions for a title that doesn't really fit any existing definition. The Stanley Parable is sort of an experiment in game design, but also presents questions in how storytelling influences gameplay. Saying anything more would be saying too much, it's a short experience that will have you questioning previous games you have played and their intentions.

Our impressions for The Stanley Parable are unique in that all three of us "beat" the "game." And six times each, no less. This isn't an amazing feat, as six times through Stanley would still leave time on a clock for a first hour review, but it also made me question whether I should be filing this under a full review instead of an impression. This game makes me ask too many questions.

So I apologize if we're too vague, but The Stanley Parable experience suffers from over-explanation to those who haven't played it. Here we go.

Cave Story+

Full Review

Cave Story CoverIn the last few years, I’ve had trouble focusing on beating games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve built up such a huge backlog from Steam sales and Humble Bundles, that I was getting closer to owning more games that I hadn’t conquered that had. This was personally my big reason for green-lighting the new Indie Impression feature: it would give me an easy way to at least try out lots of games without necessarily committing even an entire hour.

Having recently featuring Cave Story+, I quickly plowed through it after finishing up my impressions. It is one of those games you hear about for years as being great, and it keeps getting re-released with newer graphics on more platforms, once Cave Story+ hit Steam the time was right.

My initial impressions were positive, viewing the game as a pretty solid Metroidvania with tight controls, let’s see if I found the rest of the game as appealing.

Cogs

Indie Impression

Cogs Cover3D, steampunk, tile-based puzzler. That's Cogs in a nutshell. Remember those little square puzzles from your youth where there was one empty spot to slide the other squares around to form a picture? Well, combine that with a bit of Pipe Dream and slap on a really slick interface, and you have on of the more unique puzzle games of the last few years. As part of the third Humble Bundle, you may well own this title and not even realize it.

Released in 2009 by Lazy 8 Studios on numerous platforms including iOS and PlayStation Home (yes, Home, that Second Life thing that hasn't received attention in three years), Cogs is a simple to play game that will challenge your wits and patience. If you can sit and play the sliding puzzle games for a bit, you'll enjoy Cogs for its extra depth on top of the base. If you can't stand that kind of puzzler, well, might as well just skip this game now.

First Hour is happy to present to you another entry in its Indie Impression series: Cogs.

Cave Story+

Indie Impression

Cave Story CoverCave Story was originally released all the way back in 2004, with development starting five years before that by a single guy, Daisuke Amaya. The side-scrolling adventure has gained momentum over the years, and is now recognized as being one of the original independent games that has spawned what is nearly a total upheavel of the video game industry. With the Humble Indie Bundle, Steam, Desura, and a slew of very talented developers, indie games are making huge waves, and sales.

While Cave Story is available on nearly every platform, it finally hit Steam a few months ago with the release of the fourth Humble Bundle. To note the higher resolution graphics and a new soundtrack, the game was re-titled Cave Story+, but there is an option to revert to the original look and sound.

We're very happy to present Cave Story+ as our third Indie Impression, following Super Meat Boy and Dungeons of Dredmor. Blackwell Legacy will be following in a few days.

Super Meat Boy

Full Review

Super Meat boy CoverI started playing Super Meat Boy for our new Indie Impression feature, planning on maybe putting in a half hour with the meat and then heading off to write down my thoughts. Two weeks later and 10 hours of gaming in the can, I beat all of Super Meat Boy’s light world levels, rescued Bandage Girl over a hundred times, and died 2,345 times (to be exact). And even though poor Meat Boy splattered every 15 seconds, I still had an awesome time.

It’s a testament to developer Team Meat’s ability that they can make a platformer not only crazy hard, but also very fun. Almost nothing is harder in game development than properly ramping the challenge up for every kind of gamer, but they pull it off with Super Meat Boy.

Released on Windows, Linux, OSX, and Xbox Live Arcade (a WiiWare release was planned and then scrapped when the game exceeded the platform’s size limits) in 2010, it has since sold over one million copies, not bad for an indie release. Here’s my review.

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