While I love baseball, I don't play a lot of baseball games anymore. The last baseball game I played was MVP Baseball 2005 from EA, and before that it was Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. I also grew up playing the Bases Loaded series and Base Wars on the NES along with a smattering of sims on the PC such as Earl Weaver Baseball. An erratic and interesting history, to say the least.
So when 2K Sports offered me a review copy of their newest baseball iteration: Major League Baseball 2K10, I jumped at it. I really have very little idea how the baseball genre has evolved over the years, but I like the direction 2K10 is taking it. MLB 2K09 was generally panned by reviewers and let Sony's The Show really grab the spotlight. So developers Visual Concepts really had a lot to prove with 2K10, and while I'm not totally sold on the entire game yet, I do like the My Player mode.
My Player mode is new to MLB 2K10, and let's you create a baseball player and guide him from AA baseball in the minor leagues to the Major Leagues and maybe eventually election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It's curious that this feature is just being added to the series since The Show has featured this since the series was introduced in 2006, but I'm really glad it's there because it is all I've been playing. My Player mode only let's you play as the character you created, so games move quicker and you really feel like you're part of a team effort.
This isn't going to be a typical first hour review where I play 60 minutes and describe the action, but instead I'm going to describe my experience of trying to make the Major Leagues. The road to the Show (sorry, can't help it) does take a few hours, but it is a unique and fun experience to someone who's picking up their first baseball video game in a while.
We finish off our second annual indie games month with Gratuitous Space Battles, an epic space battle simulator from Positech Games. During our first independent games month last year, we featured Kudos 2, a life simulator also created by the one man team of Cliff Harris at Positech Games. This guy likes his simulators, whether they're of space, life, or Democracy, but Gratuitous Space Battles is a seriously awesome game.
Gratuitous Space Battles is the first game I ever played of its kind. It's almost like one giant, single turn of a board game, or Civilization. Your opponent's pieces are in place and visible on the board, and it is your job to create and deploy a fleet of ships that can combat and destroy them, hopefully while taking minimal losses yourself. Once you click Fight, there's nothing else you can do. It feels very... unnatural at first, like the developer is taking away control of the most enjoyable part of the game. There are explosions and debris everywhere, and you want to be part of the action. But then you begin to realize that the actual simulation isn't the game, but everything before it.
It's fairly obvious that Gratuitous Space Battles is not a game for everyone. There's no real-time micro-management, no hotkeys to quick select a group of ships, and especially no mouse button spamming to get your point across. Gratuitous Space Battles is one of the finest, genre-defining games I've ever played. The game is simply in its own category. I honestly can't give the game a final score because I don't know what to compare it against.
Gratuitous Space Battles was developed for Windows but also works great in Wine on Linux, which is how I played it.
Simple yet complex? Possibly. Simply complex? Not quite right. I know it’s here somewhere and I think you get the point. L!ght Deluxe is a delightfully simple puzzle game from a new-to-me Indie Developer: Nemo Games. Looking at their website, it would appear that L!ght Deluxe is their first, or perhaps their only game. While the game definitely feels like an early effort, it shows promise and offers some interesting aspects to its gameplay.
L!ght deluxe is built on a basic concept that allows degrees of complexity to be added as you advance through the "levels". At its elemental level, you are trying to connect a line, uninterrupted, from its origin to its ultimate destination. Each puzzle takes place on a large grid, much like a Chess board. Early levels are smaller, perhaps grids that are 6 x 6 squares in size. However, as levels increase in complexity and difficulty, they get larger.
The line you are tasked with completing represents light and behaves as one would expect a beam of light (or laser to add a bit of intensity) to behave. In my opinion, it’s this foundational principle that allows the game to be successful much earlier than it would be otherwise. We all inherently understand that light bounces off reflective surfaces and changes colors as it passes or filters through other materials. The nature of light, and our assumed understanding of it, allows the developers to move more quickly with tutorials as we progress through the game and are introduced to the gradually increasing complexity of the puzzle designs.
The sequel to the original BioShock has finally arrived, and boy, is it good! BioShock 2 returns the player to Rapture, the underwater city dreamed up by Objectivist Andrew Ryan. Many gamers were skeptical of the need for a sequel, myself included, but developer 2K Marin made me a believer.
I'm not sure how much more I can say without actually reviewing the game, so let's just get into that. As usual, the multiplayer aspect of the game will not factor into my final opinion very much but I did play it for some time and will provide my thoughts on it. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version that 2K Games provided me a review copy of. I am also a big fan of the first game and you can read my review and thoughts on the original BioShock for comparison if you'd like.
Finally, check out the first hour review of BioShock 2 if you're interested.
Elementum is an upcoming puzzle game being released by indie developer One Thing Studios. I played the demo recently and really enjoyed its mechanics and can see it being a decent hit for the developers. The concept is simple but there's really a ton of room for potential. I'm looking forward to its full release soon and hope the full game is as good as the demo.
By the way, the demo works perfectly in Wine on Linux, so hopefully there aren't any incompatibilities introduced with the full game.
If I had to describe Elementum, I would call it a mix of Peggle, Bejeweled, and air hockey. You're basically presented with a bunch of balls (or particles) you need to destroy. To remove them from the board, you need to shoot a ball from the outer edge into the mix and group at least three of the same color together. If the shot ball comes in contact with another ball, they switch places: the shot ball is now at rest and the stationary ball is ricocheted off. With a normal shot, one ball goes in and one ball goes out. The ball heading out must now be caught though by the device that shoots balls in. It may sound a bit confusing but it is really very simple, check out the screenshot.
In 2008, I played the first hour of BioShock and loved it. Last year, I beat it and declared BioShock as one of the best games I played all year. That's when I started reading up on the already announced BioShock 2 though. I honestly didn't see the point. BioShock was a perfectly contained game: the good guys won, the bad guys lost, and Rapture was left to crumble. Sequels are usually an easy sell, BioShock 2 was not.
I wanted to give it a chance though, I never like to judge a game without playing it. But I will admit, things are a bit stacked against it. The original development team has moved on to something new, handing the reins to 2K Marin. While they worked on the PlayStation 3 port of BioShock, this is their first new game. You also play as a Big Daddy in BioShock 2, to me, this just screams one giant hand-holding game as you move from body to body with a Little Sister. Talk about one of the worst scenarios a game designer can put the player in.
But let's have some hope here, this is BioShock. It features the same engine and the same world (the single best environment ever to appear in a video game), it's going to take a lot to mess this one up. So here we go, the first hour of BioShock 2 and our glorious return to Rapture. I'll be playing a review copy provided by 2K Games on the Xbox 360.
Our second entry in this indie game month is a tower defense game by Studio Eres entitled Immortal Defense. I use the phrase "tower defense" lightly here, as while marketed as such, (Immortal Defense – a Tower Defense game), the creators only borrowed the genre basics and strived for much more than tower defense game #481.
In case you aren't familiar with tower defense, it is a strategy gametype where the player is thrown into a fairly large, relatively open area with start and end points. As a level begins, waves of mindless enemies trickle from the start point and make their way to the exit. It is your job to place towers in strategic locations to hold off this onslaught. Resources and available towers are limited at the start, but increase as you kill enemies and as time progresses. Tower types are somewhat varied but usually have characteristics such as single shot vs multishot vs cone vs aoe, perhaps the ability to slow/freeze, and varying ranges from poking distance to full screen. The roots behind the genre have been around for a while but seems to have really taken off over the lifespan of Warcraft III. The mod creation tool led itself perfectly to creating tower defense games and many people were soon spending hours blowing up hordes of mindless drones. Following the huge success of these games, tower defense soon spread beyond mods to more easily accessible flash games and even standalones such as Defense Grid (on XBLA/Steam), and that's where we are now.
Mass Effect 2. It is only the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. It is only the biggest release so far in 2010, and might be for the entire year. It is only... Mass Effect 2.
All right, I'll come back down to earth for a bit. I will admit, I am very excited for this game. I haven't been this hyped for a game since Majora's Mask. But I will try not to let it interfere with my duty as an amateur video game reviewer to answer the burning question: Would I keep playing? (spoilers: YES!)
Mass Effect 2 is the latest science fiction action/shooter/RPG hybrid from BioWare. The game picks up a few years after the first Mass Effect closed with Commander Shepard still in the starring role. The original galaxy threat is still at large, but is taking a backseat to a much more pressing and immediate menace. One of the game's big features is the ability to import your Shepard from save files from the first game. This is one of the reasons I beat the original six different times with four different Shepards. Maybe a bit excessive, but I was just preparing myself for the full experience come January 26, 2010.
So here we go, the first hour of Mass Effect 2. I will be creating a brand new character for the experience. If you're interested in checking out all of our other Mass Effect series content, we've got a ton of it.
Back in 2003, I played a bit of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the PC when it was released. It was college, so everybody was doing it, but for whatever reason, I only played a few hours. In 2009, I played the first hour of the game and rediscovered a gem. I loved Jade Empire and Mass Effect, but here was their older brother: slower paced and much more heavily based in the D20 rule set. It seemed like it wouldn't be possible to take the step backward from those action heavy games to Knights of the Old Republic, but after playing the first hour, I had to give it a try again.
I have a bit of an odd history with the game, like I mentioned, I played KotOR when it was first released, but gave up on it after reaching a key point in the game about 8-10 hours in. While replaying the game this time around, however, I couldn't remember how far I had played. I kept thinking, "oh, I remember doing this before, but there's no way I played beyond that" until I reached a point where I thought I really was playing all new content. Turns out, a few weeks ago I was perusing some random posts I wrote on a message board in 2003 and I was actually having a discussion with someone about reaching a particular scene I have absolutely no memory of playing. It was this really weird sense of deja vu, like I could have beaten the game but not remembered it.
I've beaten the game now though, here's my full review of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox.
What more can one say about Street Fighter? As explained in my previous review of Street Fighter: The Movie, the franchise is one of the most popular in gaming history and has permeated almost all aspects of society. It requires little backstory here, so let's head straight to the latest iteration.
Street Fighter IV released in arcade around the fall of 2008, with console ports the following February. Through hype, word of mouth, relatively balanced play, online play and catering to players of all skill levels, the game was a smash and is now a phenomonon of no other in the fighting game world, aside from the original SFII and perhaps Marvel vs Capcom 2. With new hybrid 3d celshaded graphics, dazzling ultra moves and a cast of old favorites along with new contenders, players of all different types and generations flocked to the new release. Its expansion, Super Street Fighter IV is on its way (currently slated for spring), and the franchise shows no signs of slowing.
So what exactly is so good about the game and why does it appeal to so many people? It seems like they made almost every decision and move to connect the past and the future, to leave no one behind while still progressing as a series.