windows

Portal 2

First Hour Review

Portal 2 CoverIt has been a pretty good year of gaming for me in 2011, with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective and Radiant Historia sending out the original Nintendo DS in proper fashion, but even more exciting is one of the biggest games of the year, Portal 2.

It’s fun to look back at where the Portal “series” began: as a humble bonus in The Orange Box which featured big names like Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2. Portal was essentially created by a couple of DigiPen grads and Valve molded that into one of the biggest gaming surprises... ever. It was my 2007 Game of the Year and I wasn’t the only one to hand it such an award.

Portal 2 was released last month, but instead of riding the coattails of something like Half-Life 2: Episode 3, it comes out as a full, stand-alone game. It probably doesn’t need to be said that it is receiving beyond excellent reviews, but before we venture too deep down the portal hole, let’s visit its first hour.

World of Goo

Full Review

World of goo CoverAs one of the forerunners of the modern indie game movement (along with Braid), World of Goo demands to be played.  Created almost entirely by two individuals on a miniscule budget (2D Boy), it has since gone on to spawn several ports while receiving numerous accolades.  I'm a bit late to this party, but its resumé speaks for itself.  With incredibly high 90%+ aggregate scores, it has been universally praised as a near-flawless game.  Greg has given it a similarly stellar 9/10.  PC and Wii first claimed the game in October 2008, followed by OSX in November, Linux in early 2009 and iOS in 2010.

All that's left to do is try it out for myself, two-plus years after the fact.  Could my personal thoughts and feelings for the game live up to its lofty accolades?

Dragon Age: Origins

Full Review

Dragon age Origins CoverI don't like to give up on a game I'm invested in. I'm fine with quitting after an hour, and maybe even a few hours after that I can safely move on without second thought. But when the clock strikes double digit hours, I'm in for the long haul, or I have to make the usually difficult decision to stop for my own sanity. Back in January 2010, I made the bizarre decision to start playing Dragon Age: Origins immediately after I finished Knights of the Old Republic and just three weeks before Mass Effect 2 was released. Suffice it to say, I didn't get very far, and the call of Commander Shepard was too strong.

Almost exactly a year later, I finally returned to Ferelden to finish job. I booted up my old mage and rediscovered the hilarity of my party members and utter deepness of the gameplay. I'll admit right here and now, the first thing I did was crank the difficulty down to Casual. I wasn't playing again to make some sort of statement to nobody that I was any good at this type of game, I just wanted to experience everything Dragon Age: Origins had to offer... in terms of story and world building.

I was actually pretty hyped for Dragon Age before it was released, I read the first book, The Stolen Throne, and Grant and I checked out the web-based spinoff, Dragon Age Journeys. My first hour review of the game went decently well, but the origin story of the Dalish Elf was kind of dull which encouraged me to try another origin when I was ready to play for real. And while it took way too long to finally beat the game, it was well worth the wait in the end.

Here's my review of Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360. While I would normally write a many thousands of words on a BioWare game, I'm going to try and move at a bit swifter pace. If you're interested, Ian also reviewed this game a few months ago, this is strictly my opinion.

VVVVVV

Full Review

Vvvvvv CoverNot often will games come along and surprise you these days.  In our age of information, developers and publishers go to great lengths to push their products.  Specifically, they hope to get fans hyped enough to buy the game day 1 as well as keeping the title in the public mind for continued spontaneous purchases of their product.  This is why we're rarely surprised and blown away by a game.  For me, VVVVVV was that type of game.

Burnout Paradise

First Hour Review

Burnout Paradise CoverWe haven’t played a lot of first hours of racing games: Diddy Kong Racing, Beetle Adventure Racing, and Split/Second, that’s about it. They don’t make for very conducive first hour and usually a gamer can figure out within the first lap of the first race whether they’ll enjoy the rest of the game.

But Burnout Paradise set about to turn racing games on their head. Mixing the super-arcade pedigree of the previous Burnout titles with the open-worldness of the Grand Theft Auto series produced one of 2008’s hits. Criterion Games produced a well received game that has allowed them to branch out and work on last year’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which also received similar acclaim (and many, many sales).

I have a long history with the Burnout series stemming from a random rental I made of Burnout 3: Takedown during college. I was very excited to play Paradise when it was released but had to settle with just playing the excellent demo for the longest time until I received the game myself for the Xbox 360.

This first hour review was originally supposed to be for the site Games ‘N Beer, which hopefully much like this site, is self-explanatory in nature. I conducted some drunk driving safely in my own living room playing Burnout Paradise with a six-pack of Summit beer in January 2010, with the intention that he would post the review along with my thoughts on the beer. Alas, CJ Stratton has seemingly given up on the site with only one post since then, so I’ve decided to deliver the goods the normal way.

As for the beer, it was delicious and went down smooth. As for the game, here’s the first hour of Burnout Paradise.

Mass Effect - The Last Hour

The Last Hour

Mass Effect CoverPlaying just the first hour of a game can be so boring! Take our last review, Okamiden! Ugh, text text text text text run twenty feet text text text blah blah blah. Who wants to play that? That’s right, nobody. So no more first hour reviews, instead, we’re going to jump right to the meat and just play THE LAST HOUR.

How did I not think of this before? In a typical game, where is all the fun? At the end. Where is all the action? At the end. When is boring exposition thrown out the window for actual exciting gameplay? At the end!

So no more tired examinations of pacing, snoozing through opening cutscenes, and waiting for something, anything to happen, we’re going to jump right to it. If you want to see the first hour of a game, go play it yourself. Real gamers don’t play the beginning of games, anyway.

So to reboot the site with the bang that it deserves, here’s the last hour of Mass Effect. One of the most epic, balls-to-the-outer-space-wall finales I could think of in the three minutes it took me to decide to throw away the last four years of this site in one fell swoop. BOOM!

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

Full Review

Nelson Tethers Puzzle Agent CoverNintendo has made a killing packaging classic pen-and-paper activities into DS games. Picross,  Sudoku, Crosswords...but one of the major successes is the Professor Layton series. Developed by Level 5 and published by Nintendo outside of Japan, the franchise tasks players with solving puzzles and riddles in order to explore a storyline brimming with mystery. The puzzling travels of Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke are a hit with casuals and hardcore alike, selling over ten million units worldwide between the series' five titles.

Of the three titles available outside Japan, I've only played the first, Curious Village. It's certainly full of cranium-crunching riddles, but I wasn't as taken by the rest of the package as many were. Decent production values aside, there wasn't much that impressed me from the strange story of Layton, Luke, and the peculiar villagers. I'd almost wished the game was a more sterile package, like so many other brainy DS productions. Most would probably disagree, seeing the worth in framing these teasers within a narrative.

Enter Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent. I bought this budget PC title in -- what else? -- a Steam bundle during the holiday season. Nelson clearly took notes from one of the Professor's lectures, because Puzzle Agent's premise is very similar to Curious Village, having the player explore a mysterious little town by solving riddles for its puzzle-obsessed populace. But unlike Curious Village, I actually enjoyed the overall experience even more than the puzzles that pervade it.

Fable III

First Hour Review

Fable 3 CoverI wasn’t much of a fan of Fable II, so I’ll be honest to say that Fable III has a lot to prove to get me to play past the first hour. The gameplay needed a lot of improvement to start, and the overall presentation of Fable II just felt stuttering and lazy. I do have some hopes that developers can learn from their mistakes, however.

Released in October of last year, Fable III received good scores from major review outlets and had sold over two million copies by the end of the year. A respectable number, though creator Peter Molyneux says it needs to sell about five million for the series to continue. I’m not an industry analyst but this seems like a long way to go now that the holiday season is over.

While I may not like the finished product much, I will probably continue to play the first hour of Molyneux’s games though as he can just be so fiendishly over the top with his ambition and pride. Will Fable III be able to succeed where its predecessor faltered? Or will its first hour lock me in? Let’s find out.

The Hobbit

First Hour Review

the Hobbit CoverMarrying my wife a few months ago came with a videogamey bonus: a Nintendo Wii. And it wasn’t until several weeks back that I kind of realized that this system can also play GameCube games on it. The Nintendo GameCube is a system I missed out on hard, having only really played two games to my memory: Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin. GameStops statewide seem to still sell a good selection of GameCube games, and I was able to pick up The Hobbit for less than a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the local market. As a true J.R.R. Tolkien fanboy, I couldn’t wait to play it. Alas, I had to wait. Long story short, I had to make a return trip to pick up a memory card so I could actually save my progress.

Anyways…The Hobbit. It came out in late 2003, and I’m assuming that its makers were banking on a lot of eager fans awaiting more Lord of the Rings action would be interested in seeing how the journey all started. In fact, blazing bright and gold on the game’s cover is some silly marketing pullquote that says “the prelude to the Lord of the Rings!” Yeah, we know. Hopefully they don’t pull the same silliness with the upcoming theatrical adaptation. The Hobbit, Part 1 of 2: The Prelude to the Lord of the Rings! Bad enough there’s going to be two films.

I’ve played a number of other games based on the Lord of the Rings over the years. Some were decent amounts of fun (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), and others just an unfair mess (The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age). Will The Hobbit soar like the Lord of the Eagles or sink like the One Ring abandoning its former master? Let’s find out with the game’s first sixty minutes.

Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Full Review

Mass Effect 2 ps3 CoverSome games are just so damn popular and beloved that you can't ignore them, no matter how hard you try.

When Mass Effect invaded my world in 2007, I couldn't have cared less. Sure, it was from the same BioWare that produced the excellent Knights of the Old Republic, and seducing blue women sounded like a pretty good time, but it definitely wasn't enough to put a 360 in my life. I'd grown weary of shooters of all kinds since burning out on Halo 2, and with RPG elements mashed in, it only seemed less enticing. I even gave the game a try last year on a friend's machine and didn't make it off the Citadel before losing interest.

The hype hasn't fallen on deaf ears, though. The rave reviews, rave first hour reviews, GOTY awards, and FOX News scare tactic hilarity all kept me up at night, wondering if I was missing out. EA was intent on making me give the series another shot, as they recently completed a PS3 port of Mass Effect 2. Because one of the series' bullet points is importing player-dictated narrative choices from the first game into the second, Dark Horse Comics was called in to help create a short interactive comic that fills in PS3 owners on some of the events that they missed out on from Commander Shepard's first adventure, even allowing the player to make some of the more important decisions to impact their experience with the full sequel.

As it turns out, that comic is DLC, unlockable either by a code included in the game's box or for $15. I rented the game and didn't plan on shelling out fifteen bucks for a fifteen minute comic, so I ended up going into the sequel without much knowledge from the first game. From that starting point aboard the exploding Normandy to the final trip through the Omega 4 relay, I've experienced just about everything included on the PS3 disc of Mass Effect 2 -- as much as you can in one playthrough, anyway -- as Elmer Shepard, a Vanguard of equal parts paragon and renegade, lover and fighter, savior and failure. And sometimes he forgets to feed his fish, and they die.

Greg has already written about the Mass Effect series extensively, having played both games and plenty of extra content on the 360. With that in mind, I'll try (but likely fail) to keep this brief. If you need a primer or refresher for the series, check out one of his excellent writeups. An avid fan of the series, he does a much better job of explaining the core elements of Mass Effect than I could.

Syndicate content