Greg Noe's reviews and writings

  • 2011 holiday releases and no preorder for Skyward Sword

    Blog Post

    Legend of Zelda Skyward SwordWe’re just a few weeks away from the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which in turn caps a pretty amazing holiday buying season for console games. Gears of War 3, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and Skyward Sword are all being released within just weeks of each other.

    Every year, more and more huge titles are crammed into the holiday schedule, grade inflation becomes rampant, wallets are emptied, and I seem to miss out on more and more games. But this year, I’m missing out on them mostly because I just don’t have any time to play games these days. I’d love to play Arkham City and give Battlefield 3 a try, but I’ve only managed to play four whole hours of Professor Layton and the Last Specter in the past week, which is why our content has been a bit dry lately.

    Which leads me back to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I’m usually frothing at the mouth for the latest adventure of Link, but through a combination of Twilight Princess still stinging and just being sick of the Wii, I’m not preordering the game. I have preordered every console Zelda game since Ocarina of Time back in 1998.

  • Professor Layton and the Last Specter

    First Hour Review

    Professor Layton and the Last Specter CoverI’ve played and beaten the first three Professor Layton games, and while I continue to return to them every year like clockwork, they have been essentially the same game every time. Sure, the stories change, and the puzzles are a bit different, but the core gameplay has remained the same: move around town poking at stuff, solve puzzles, talk to people, eventually linearally solve the overarching mystery that ends in some bizarre manner. I don’t hate it, it’s just repetitive.

    But I love the puzzles, and the characters and setting are so charming, I can’t help but play. The fourth game in the series, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, has finally been released in North America after being out in Japan for nearly two years. Though we’re slowly catching up, the fifth game was just released earlier this year on the 3Ds, so we’ll hopefully be playing that come next fall.

    Last Specter also holds a special surprise: London Life. I don’t know much about the new game, let alone this super-minigame inside it, but there’s plenty of buzz around it on the internet. So for a special first hour, we’ll be playing the first half-hour of the main game, and then switching over to London Life, whatever that may be. Let’s get right to it.

  • Batman Forever: The Worst Game I Ever Rented

    Gaming Nostalgia

    Batman Forever CoverI rented a lot of games when I was younger. Video stores, rental shacks, and even supermarkets offered the chance to play games I had never read about in Nintendo Power or GamePro, and some of my all-time favorite games were discovered among their shelves. But I also rented a lot of bad games. In the time before the internet, and particularly before online video game criticism was readily available (N64.com aka IGN), the only sources gamers had to find out what was good were either magazines and friends. Money and time was wasted, as Sturgeon's Law was in effect even then.

    And while I rented a lot of crap, none of it was as bad as Batman Forever, undoubtedly the most misspent $3 ever given to Video Spotlight. This was a game so unplayable it took me hours to get past its first stage. This was a Super Nintendo cartridge game that had a loading screen. Batman Forever was a crappily-made licensed game based on a crappy movie. Ugh.

    Fifteen years later and Batman fans really have great things to cheer about. Arkham Asylum was a triumphant superhero game and this week's Arkham City may very well surpass it. We should have at least a first hour review of Arkham City from Nate this week, so look forward to that, but first, let's take a quick rewind to Batman's lowpoint.

  • Mass Effect: Redemption

    Book Review

    Mass Effect Redemption CoverIn Mass Effect 2’s opening minutes, Commander Shepard’s ship is destroyed and our hero is tossed lifeless to a desolate planet. After a quick title sequence, Shepard is revived in a state-of-the-art facility and the game kicks off properly. The period of Shepard apparently burning up in the planet’s upper atmosphere and then looking as good as new is quickly brushed upon but there are bigger aliens to fry in the galaxy.

    For the curious fan trying to put the pieces together, or just experience everything BioWare has to offer, a series of comics were released by Dark Horse. Mass Effect: Redemption details Liara’s rescue of Shepard’s body from the Collectors and the Shadow Broker, and its delivery to the Illusive Man at Cerberus.

    Published as a set of four and kicking off in early January 2010 before Mass Effect 2 was released, Redemption also serves as what is, at this time, a series of six comic books covering a wide range of characters and locations in the universe. I plan to cover them all before the release of Mass Effect 3, but let’s start with the first one.

  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

    First Hour Review

    Recettear Cover2011 is turning into the year the Japanese RPG redeems itself in my eyes. Radiant Historia is still my favorite for game of the year, and Xenoblade: Chronicles had such a fun first hour that I can’t wait to play it in the evenings. Heck, even Golden Sun: Dark Dawn wasn’t that bad. So let’s give another one a try in Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, the tale of an item shop and whatever a Recettear is.

    Recettear is a Japanese indie game (known as “doujin”) for Windows that was translated and published outside of Japan by a pair of Something Awful users. Released last December on Steam (after a 2007 release in Japan), Recettear has seem surprisingly brisk and successful sales that will reportedly open up the market to other doujin games.

    I picked up Recettear on Steam during a fire sale and it has been calling to me ever since. How the heck does a game about an item shop work? Are these screenshots showing action fighting for the same game? Let’s find out and play the first hour of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale.

  • I am now in the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta

    Blog Post

    Star Wars the old Republic CoverYes, I am now a beta tester for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and that is literally all I can tell you. The NDA says everything is confidential except for two addendums:

    1. The fact that there is a Game Program.
    2. The fact that you are a member of the Game Program.

    So until the NDA is lifted, I have to be silent! Please don't tempt me!

    I am rather excited about beta testing, I recently went from seeing The Old Republic as a must-buy to being on-the-fence, so I see this as my free trial at the game before I plunk down $60 for the box plus $15/month. When I finally can write about the game, I will have plenty to say, with hopefully first hour impressions of every class. (yes, the game has classes and that's a well known fact, I can say that!) I'm also a big fan of Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic, and I usually put tons of trust into BioWare blindly, so that too will be put to the test.

    Hopefully this won't cut into my regular gaming too much, but I'm actually not playing much at the moment though besides Xenoblade: Chronicles, so they will definitely compete for time. In the meantime, I'll probably pop up some first hour reviews of a few of my Steam games, Recettear has been calling to me for a while.

  • Fallout: New Vegas

    First Hour Review

    Fallout new Vegas CoverThis is my third first hour in the Fallout series, played the original Fallout back in 2008, then Fallout 3 in 2009. Both games left me interested, but wary. I never went on with Fallout, but played the third game for about 10 hours before I became frustrated with what I thought to be iffy sneaking and overwhelming combat. I definitely feel like I gave the game a great attempt, but in the end just didn’t have the heart to go on.

    Fast-forward to 2011, and my brother-in-law gives me Fallout: New Vegas out of the blue. He says it is one of his favorite games, and like how some people give away their favorite book to friends, he apparently just gives away video games. I would have preferred something, anything else, but what can you do? Plus, Paul loves it.

    So here we are with October 2010’s New Vegas, the Vice City-esque sequel to Fallout 3. New setting, new characters, slightly tweaked gameplay, and from everything I’ve read, absolutely chock full of bugs. But hey, I really enjoyed Fallout 3’s first hour, so I’m hoping for a repeat with New Vegas. And you never know, I may go all the way with this one.

    Welcome to New Vegas.

  • Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips

    Full Review

    Airport Mania 2 CoverWikipedia says Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips' genre is "Click Management", which sounds like the category Microsoft Excel would also be filed under. But trust me, Airport Mania 2 is infinitely more fun. In the same vein as Diner Dash, Sally Spa, and all the hundreds of other click management, strategy, time management clones out there, the goal is to efficiently do something with limited resources. But Airport Mania 2 stands above the rest with high polish and attractive graphics.

    Developed by Reflex Entertainment and South Wind Games, the original Airport Mania: First Flight, was a mild success for Windows and OSX in 2008. Re-released on nearly every portable platform since then (including DSiWare), they've slowly been building their airport simulator empire. Airport Mania 2, released earlier this year, is an upgrade of the original but still carries all the charm.

    Airport Mania 2 is less of an airport simulator and more of an air-traffic control strategy game. Let's take a quick look at the Android version released a few weeks ago.

  • Dragon Age II

    Full Review

    Dragon age 2 CoverI was a bit worried going into my playthrough of Dragon Age 2. The first screenshots revealed a depressingly gray world with curiously pointy polygons, and reader reviews of the game blasted it for a variety of reasons. But my first hour review of the title cemented me firmly in the “I’m going to enjoy this game” category, and 40 hours later I emerged with some sore fingers and a smile on my face.

    It’s understandable why some gamers didn’t enjoy Dragon Age 2, in some ways it’s quite a departure from the stable, Western RPG tropes that Dragon Age: Origins employed, but deep down, it really is the first game’s sequel. Some aspects have been streamlined, for better and worse, but I always felt like I was in the Dragon Age universe I spent 50 hours in last time around.

    Dragon Age 2 was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, and OSX. I played a used copy on the Xbox 360, meaning I didn’t have access to any downloadable content that was provided for first-time buyers.

  • Best in Show

    Preview

    Best in Show CoverA few weeks ago I found myself addicted to a little iOS game called Turtle Fly. The idea is as simple as the title: you fly a turtle like you’re launching a rocket into space, avoiding obstacles until you run out of fuel or health. Sounds like a typical mobile game, right? Worth about five minutes of your time and then deleted? Well, toss in a shop and RPG elements and all of a sudden we have a real, solid game on our hands that will suck hours away at a time.

    I’m not going to argue that adding RPG-like elements to every genre will make it better - would Tetris be improved with hit points? - but sometimes the right amount of stats and level-up progression injected into the right part of the game will give it the boost it so desperately needs.

    The new indie title, Best in Show, is attempting to do just that, with solitaire. Here’s my preview of the soon to be released, canine-themed, solitaire card game with RPG elements.

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