xbox 360

Wizorb

Full Review

Wizorb CoverBreakout and Arkanoid and similar paddle games never resonated with me. Maybe because their Atari heyday ended before I started playing games, or maybe because I disliked the loose shot control. Whatever the case, the genre’s most polished and inspired entries still manage only a passing fancy.

So I’m flummoxed by my lingering affinity for Wizorb, a three-dollar, three-hour curiosity. I completed the brief game in a weekend fling and have no real desire to revisit it, yet it’s still on my mind. I do relish the lively lo-fi style and RPG window dressing, but the game is still a pretty standard brick breaker at its core.

I’m not terribly impressed by this new appstore era, this flood of amateur developments selling for less than a vending machine lunch and rarely lasting as long. But Wizorb is one of the few $3 games that’s more filling than its price tag and play time imply. A few thoughtful little gameplay functions that address the genre’s weaknesses are what make it shine among its Breakout-clone peers and its bottom-dollar indie competition both.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Full Review

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 CoverI’ve played a fair amount of video games in my life, and I’ve been playing shooters since I was five or six. This isn’t a challenge of “Yeah, well, I started when I was four!” Don’t start, that’s just annoying. My point is, I’ve been around the block a few times. Here’s a list of the shooters I played online regularly in chronological order: Quake, Team Fortress Classic, Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike: Source, America’s Army, Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

That’s really not that much, but it became impossible to keep up with the audiences. You want to play the most popular games (or at least popular games) so you actually have other people to play against, but once there was a new shooter coming out every freakin’ year, I just gave up.

Until one night, when my friend came into town for a visit and explained to me he had another copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and said it was mine if I wanted it. I thanked him and declined at first, but finally caved and accepted the offer. What the hell, it’s a free game, right?

Final Fantasy XIII

First Hour Review

Final Fantasy 13 ps3 CoverI’ve played every single numbered Final Fantasy game up through XII, so playing the thirteenth entry was inevitable. But from the guy who bought Final Fantasy VIII, IX, XI, and XII on release days, finally getting around to XIII two years after release is a bit odd. But from a combination of some bad press and plenty of other games to play, I didn’t mind.

But here we are with the first hour of Final Fantasy XIII. I’ve also reviewed VII and VIII’s first hour previously, and had mixed success, though I can solidly point to the opening of Final Fantasy VII’s to be one of the highlights in the JRPG genre. Whether we can agree or not on the rest of game is irrelevant, but it sure does kick off with a bang.

And as you’ll see, Final Fantasy XIII also kicks off with a bang, but can it keep that momentum? Or is there something deeper required for a successful first hour? We’re about to find out.

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.

Rayman Origins

Full Review

Rayman Origins CoverI never quite bought into the whole Achievements deal this generation. It's nice to have a (rather arbitrary) tally of "gamerness" on record, and I do like to occasionally check my friends' progress. But the achievements themselves tend to make a goal out of lengthy tedium, a checklist asking the player to kill X enemies using Y weapon, in a way that mimics the worst parts of grind-dependent MMOs. It's far from the creative metagame that I'd hoped would evolve through the generation.

As a result, my PSN trophy list accounted for 65 games long but lacked a platinum trophy. I had ambitions to 100% my very first PS3 game, Uncharted 2, until I saw that the majority of the trophies were based on finding "treasures" in the game, essentially an overgrown pixel hunt. I don't regret giving up that chase shortly after it began, and it kind of soured me on trophies in general. Still, there has always been this nagging feeling that, having played so many PS3 games, I should get one platinum trophy before the next generation arrives. Some people aspire to run one marathon in their lives. I figured I should have one pointless digital knickknack.

Now I have one. It's a bit underwhelming, actually. Maybe that's because it only took about fifteen hours of game time to achieve. Or maybe it's because Rayman Origins is fun enough that, even if the game lacked trophies, I would have finished all the requirements anyway.

Rayman Origins

First Hour Review

Rayman Origins CoverI had never played a Rayman game before last year, when I tried Rayman 3D. A port of the most renowned Rayman game, it didn't exactly endear the limbless whatsit to me. So when Rayman Origins was released six months ago, I was too busy scampering through Super Mario 3D Land to care.

Thus, I was busy gazing into a 3D mushroom kingdom when Origins earned rave reviews. The acclaim seemed fruitless, as Rayman Origins found slow initial sales and an early price slash. Still, the game made enough cash that a sequel is (almost certainly) on the way.

I had intended to check out Rayman Origins since it was showered with critical adulation, but it was the sequel leak (and heavy discounting) that pushed me into finally buying the game. I'm pretty keen at picking apart platformers in just a few minutes of play, so my first impressions of the game all but cemented my new outlook on Rayman.

Mass Effect 3

Full Review

Mass Effect 3 CoverI love the Mass Effect franchise. Mass Effect 3 is the first console game I bought new in over two years (previous new purchase was Mass Effect 2). I beat the first game six times. I’ve read the novels and comics that accompany the games. I own two Commander Shepard action figures and a mini Normandy SR2. I have a one year old son named Shepard.

So you could say with some confidence that I was really looking forward to Mass Effect 3. I made the day one Collector’s Edition purchase and popped up my first hour review of the game immediately. The game doesn’t start with as much energy as Mass Effect 2, but it’s hard to argue that there’s anything more powerful than beginning with the Reapers invading Earth.

Mass Effect 3 has received a huge amount of controversy regarding its ending. Do you know how hard it is to take two weeks to beat a game you’ve been waiting for two years while seemingly everyone on the internet is talking about its conclusion? Ugh. I’ll say right now that I certainly didn’t hate the ending, but didn’t love it either.

Now for my review on the other 99.5% of Mass Effect 3. I also have my review of the first DLC available, From Ashes.

Mass Effect 3

First Hour Review

Mass Effect 3 CoverSequels to your favorite games of all time don't come out very often, and the results are often mixed. Chrono Cross had me giddy for a while until eventual disappointment set in, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was incredible and I love it more than the original, and Mass Effect 2 was a supreme success, a better game in almost every way than the first, but I still love Mass Effect more.

So here we are with Mass Effect 3. The first hour to the first two games were both great, each setting the tone and pace for the rest of their respective title. I'm excited to see where Mass Effect 3 will take us, was the demo from a few weeks back the opening, or does Bioware have something else in store? I don't think I've been this excited to play a game since, well, Mass Effect 2 came out. Heck, the last time I paid full price for a game was Mass Effect 2.

So let's just get right to it. I'm excited, honored, and extremely biased to present the first hour of Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 3 demo

Preview

Mass Effect 3 CoverFor reasons actually completely unrelated to me running this video game website, I was given early access to the Mass Effect 3 demo. This doesn't make me particularly special or anything, but since I am playing it a wee bit earlier than most other interested gamers, I thought I'd take a minute to write about it.

This is the first Mass Effect title with a demo available before the game's initial release, but if you've been following its hype in any reasonable manner, you'll quickly find out that the demo just gives normal gamers the opportunity to try out the levels that were playable last E3. They're probably in their near-final polished state now, however.

I've never taken the time to actually research my demo history carefully to see if this is true, but I have this general feeling that I've never played a game demo that actually made me want to go out and buy the real game. Something about just playing only a part of the package bugs me, I guess. This has me slightly nervous about playing Mass Effect 3's demo as it's my current favorite series and I have very high hopes for this last entry in the trilogy. Well, here goes everything.

Knights Contract

First Hour Review

Knights Contract CoverSo, it's been a long time since I wrote about video games. I very much miss it. Not just the playing of video games, which has also been very sparse lately as my wife and I are preparing to welcome baby #3 into the world, but actually writing, even just contemplating gaming, video games and the industry. With run-on sentences like that last one, you can really tell it's been a while.

Well, I had the opportunity to pick up a new game yesterday and even the chance to pop it into my incredibly dusty Xbox 360. The poor thing groaned to life as I realized that it was even louder than I remember. After a litany of updates and dashboard wizardry (the new dashboard is still growing on me), I was able to get my game loaded up and running. It felt good to dim the lights and nestle into my sectional for a gaming session.

Unfortunately, I didn't intend to actually play for a full hour and didn't think I'd care enough about this game to log it. Plus, since game time has been pretty sparse lately, I wanted to play uninterrupted and just enjoy it. For that reason, this first hour will be a little bit vague with regard to the minutes, since I'm writing it from memory, rather than from notes or my usual voice recordings.

So, without further to do, lets take a look at Knights Contract, a button mashing hack-n-slash developed by Game Republic, published by Namco-Bandai and released on February 22 for Xbox 360 and PS3.

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