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Divekick

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Sometimes the simplest things in life can be the best. And while sometimes you need fifteen buttons to play a game, sometimes you only need two. Today we'll be reviewing the two-button fighting game, Divekick. Originally envisioned and created by a tiny team of gamers in the fighting game community, Divekick seeks to break down the complex fighting game into a single move, a jumping downwards kick (or divekick). First conceived very late at night after a tournament ("hey, wouldn't it be hilarious to make a game where you can only divekick?"), it ran through a successful kickstarter campaign, cancelled that campaign since they found a publisher, successfully got greenlit on Steam, and now released on Steam/PSN/Vita. Not bad at all for its origins.

Skyward Collapse

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What does it mean to be a god if no one will listen to you? Arcen Games looks at this with a bit of humor in their latest release, Skyward Collapse. Here, we play an omniscient, omnipresent celestial being, tasked with cultivating and manipulating two factions that would like nothing more than to see the other eradicated. That's an interesting scenario on its own, but we are further entangled by a godly need for entertainment (conflict) and plagued by natural "woes." To further jumble our troubles, rogue elements including deities and mythological creatures try to spoil our day. In this turn based strategy/god sim, we inherit the intriguing situation of lacking direct control yet commanding plenty of manipulation.

The Cat Lady

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Well, I was not entirely ready for this. The Cat Lady, released last year by Screen 7 and created almost entirely by Remigiusz Michalski, was absolutely no where on my radar until I recently saw a preview of it in action. I suppose this isn't overly surprising. Michalski's and his studio, Harvester Games, have only developed two titles. The first, released in 2009, is called Downfall and is apparently both highly acclaimed and fairly successful. The second is this game, The Cat Lady. Both are created in Adventure Game Studio and are horror adventures, further limiting the client base (unless you have the media strength of The Walking Dead).

Yet, this ended up being one of the most interesting and complete titles I've played in ages. And somehow, that's even more satisfying when it's a complete surprise. It feels like this game has been stirring and simmering over the course of many years, and that probably isn't very far from the truth. This is an unbelievably mature experience, most likely the most mature game I've ever played. Many of the themes are very dark and complex and real, and this is one of the few instances I can imagine where an age/user discretion is actually warranted. And that can also be a bit of a warning for the rest of this article.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

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It's been a long while since I've written a review, which is pretty commonplace due to my busy schedule. But as my days have cleared up due to seriously inclement weather, I figured I'd write a review. Not just a review, but a review on a game in a series that I am in love with. This is something I had been saving and looking forward to for the right time.

Unfortunately though, this didn't pan out like I had hoped. This is hard for me to write. Not just because of the fact it's a multiplayer experience I'm reviewing, but also because it's a dream of mine being crushed.

As I've mentioned before, I was a pretty avid player of Counter Strike, and much more so, Counter Strike: Source. My father and I played CS: Source from around 2005 until 2007. We were in a clan, competitively. (The name of it was Exemplar Sect, best player was Pug.) Anyway, we loved that game, and I remember upgrading computer parts all of the time to increase framerates, and every weekend was a Mountain Dew fueled weekend of meeting people all over the world and killing them. But then other games became popular (I played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 quite a bit.) and I went over to them, but I always visited CS: Source, and always had a blast.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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My writing pace has slowed to a halt the last month. I might have burned myself out a bit at the end of 2012, and the new year has allowed me to erase any kind of guidelines or deadlines I was imposing on myself. With Nate and the other writers’ help, I always tried to publish three times a week, but I’ll be honest and say it’s just not in me like it used to be. Maybe it’s temporary, it probably is, but for now, I don’t mind taking it a bit easier. This is my hobby after all.

And most of that time not spent writing has gone into video games! Yeah, those! (Also reading, a lot of reading.) Maybe I’ll declare 2013 the year of the catch up, even though 80% of the games I beat last year weren’t released last year as it is. But my backlog is huge and the only game I’m really interested in on the near horizon is Bioshock Infinite, so now’s as good as time as any.

As for Deus Ex: Human Revolution? It was a good game, problematic at times, but an experience worth putting at least a few hours into, and at about 24 hours long, probably worth finishing. I’m not sure how much I have to say about it that hasn’t already been said by our own Paul Abbamondi, let alone everyone else, so I’ll keep this short and to the point... starting now.

Primordia

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Primordia CoverIt feels appropriate to end 2012 with a Wadjet Eye game, as this was the year I discovered, bought, and played nearly all of their games. Dave Gilbert has taken his Adventure Game Studio-developed titles from humble roots to full-on publisher in just six years, culminating with this year’s Blackwell Deception, Resonance, and Primordia; a tour de force in indie point and click adventure games. Wadjet Eye Games is the only publisher from whom I regularly preorder games from anymore, in an industry where they will often fall to half their price a few weeks later. But hey, what’s $10 between me and a few great games?

Primordia is their final offering of the year, and it is ambitious. As a robotic steampunk homage to games like Sam and Max, Primordia puts you in the distant future where humans are dead and a variety of robots are all that remains. Wadjet Eye Games tend to be uniquely evocative: the Blackwell series explores death, The Shivah examines religion, Resonance questions the power of technology, and Primordia scrutinizes progress and freedom. These can all be heavy topics, especially for a computer game, but Wadjet Eye always manages to make it about the characters.

For my final review of 2012, let us talk about Primordia, developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games. Monday will feature our sixth annual Game of the Year Awards, so please have a safe and happy new year.

The Walking Dead: No Time Left

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the Walking Dead CoverThe finale to the first episodic season of The Walking Dead has arrived, and after the shocking conclusion to the fourth episode, it was apparent just how No Time Left would end. Of course, getting there is never straightforward in The Walking Dead universe.

This final review will be rather spoilerific after the cut, so there’s your first warning. It would be massively difficult to talk about the season as a whole without talking about the characters and their relationships, the real core to The Walking Dead. It’s funny: comparing it to my earlier episodic gaming experience, Tales of Monkey Island, and while I’m going to end up awarding them identical scores, it’s for completely different reasons and I feel totally different about each experience. My thoughts are also a lot more complicated when it comes to The Walking Dead.

So with that, let’s talk Lee, Clementine, and the end of the world.

The Walking Dead: Around Every Corner

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the Walking Dead CoverThe penultimate episode of the first season of The Walking Dead brings our group of survivors to the edge with seemingly no hope for a happy ending. While I’ve certainly enjoyed the previous three episodes quite a bit, I feel like everything has finally clicked for me in Around Every Corner. There’s a great sense of dread, urgency, and horror as you progress, and it successfully caps off the previous three hours with a heart-stopping finale.

Telltale Games wouldn’t have been my first choice for a Walking Dead game, as a popular graphic novel and the most successful show on cable television, the intellectual property owners should have had their pick of the litter when shopping their game. Could Call of Duty: Black Ops II have sold even more with a fully licensed Walking Dead zombie mode? Should the Dead Island developers been tapped? Capcom for their Dead Rising experience? Valve with Left 4 Dead? EA for their gobs of money?

But Telltale’s interactive drama experiment has been a huge success, at least critically. There are bound to be more Walking Dead games in the future, but this will certainly set the bar high. Here’s my review of episode four: Around Every Corner.

The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead

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the Walking Dead CoverIf there’s something that Telltale Games teaches its Walking Dead players in Long Road Ahead, it is that everyone is expendable. While I don’t know if everyone’s experience was like mine, I lost four major characters over the course of the episode. Zombies are dangerous in the world of The Walking Dead, but humans are a lot worse. To quote one of the characters, “I don’t believe in strength in numbers.”

I haven’t been quite as blown away by the episodes so far as the rest of the internet are, but I’ve certainly enjoyed them so far. The areas are generally small and there is little exploration or puzzle solving required. I’m reminded again of my original comparison of the game to Heavy Rain, but there was a greater sense of dread in Quantic Dream’s psychological epic than in this zombie-laden drama.

Long Road Ahead was released in late August and it was during this time that I was first exposed to the game through social channels, which is certainly not a surprise considering some of the hellish scenarios the episode puts its players through. While I feel episode three was an improvement over Starved for Help, I’m still looking for a bit more from the game than frantic quick time events.

Gratuitous Tank Battles and Expansion: The Western Front

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Gratuitous Tank Battles Western Front CoverGratuitous Tank Battles is a unique take on tower-strategy mechanics, created by a man who clearly has a strong attention to detail. This article will be covering both the base game, released this past May, and its expansion The Western Front, which is being released this today on Steam. Both are developed by Positech Games, which is more or less known as Cliff "cliffski" Harris. At first glance, GTB appears to be a standard tower defense game covered in a fine finish, but things quickly become more complicated. For a bit of background reading, we do also have a preview of the game which goes over the basics from a different point of view.

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