In my December blitz of full reviews, this is my last one of the year. I'm not going to say I saved the best for last, because that falls to either Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Mass Effect 2 at this point, but Borderlands is certainly way up there. Like Mirror's Edge, Borderlands paves its own genre and does it beautifully. The mash-up of first person shooter and RPG with a zillion guns tacked on for extra destruction gels perfectly. The classes feel distinctly different, four player online co-op just works super well, and the game features over 30 hours of content on just your first playthrough (and you will play more than once).
Borderlands was released in October of 2009, so it's been out a while and is very cheap if you want to get into it now. The team is currently developing Duke Nukem Forever so there's no fear of Borderlands 2 coming out for at least a year and a half, I would think. I plan to continue writing about Borderlands well into next year as I still have three sets of downloadable content to review after just covering the first one, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. But as the end of the year is imminent, I really feel like I need to get my thoughts on the main game out on the table.
Mike has gone into great detail already on what makes Borderlands so great, and after re-reading his review, I honestly don't have a lot to add. This is one of my favorite games of the year and I'll detail why I personally liked it so much below, but if you're looking for an in depth review I would recommend you check out Mike's.
After every "day" we present a quick recap of the last 24 games. Nothing too special, but it's a convenient way to block off a set of reviews. Here are the last 24 reviews that represent the last 24 hours of gaming, presented in published order.
Think about your favorite part of any platformer game, it probably has something to do with excellent level designed coupled with you being in the zone and cruising through the stage on a perfect run. Like in Super Mario Bros. 3 where you bounce from goomba to goomba and take off in flight as Raccoon Mario.
Now think about the worst part in any platformer, for me, it's when a platformer stops being a platformer and tries its hand at something... less than adequate. This might mean boss fights that require more luck than skill or high action sequences that seem better at home in a much different genre.
Mirror's Edge is a prime example of a game where excellent platforming level design collides with obnoxiously out of place non-platforming. Thankfully, the highs outweigh the lows in this ambitious first person platformer. The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2008 and was planned to be the first game in planned trilogy. Sales apparently weren't good enough for Electronic Arts and no word of a sequel has been announced. Though in classic industry PR, they "haven't not not" announced Mirror's Edge 2.
This is the First Hour's second opinion on Mirror's Edge along with my conclusion after playing its first hour earlier this month. Here's my full review of Mirror's Edge.
I’m one of those people who enjoys reading novels set in familiar video game worlds. Growing up, I read Castlevania books starring some flavor of Belmont, and even remember finishing a Bionic Commando novella at some point (which, undoubtedly, did not end in Hitler’s head exploding). More recently, I’ve been enjoying the Mass Effect fiction that does a tremendous job adding to the already rich universe found in the video games.
But when I was asked to read a RuneScape novel, I wondered if maybe I was crossing the line of reading video game books. I’ve never played RuneScape, I’ve never even thought about playing RuneScape, and before I did some research, I found that everything I thought I knew about RuneScape was wrong.
I tried to limit my research though to just the facts about the game itself, and not the game world. If RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador was meant to be read by both fans of the game and readers who might not be familiar with the series, then it should serve as both fan-service and as a great introduction to the RuneScape universe. But really, there have been over 130 MILLION registered RuneScape players, there’s apparently no lack of market.
I don't think I've been this disappointed in a video game since Assassin's Creed. Zack and Wiki started off great, but then some realizations start to sink in, and then everything falls off the track. To say I didn't have fun with Zack and Wiki would be a lie, but there are some major problemms with this game.
Before we get into the review proper, Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure was released in 2007 by Capcom. I admitted in my first hour review of the game that this was the first non-Nintendo published title I was actually interested in playing. Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are incredible, but I was having a lot of trouble finding something that interested me on the Wii beyond those. Zack and Wiki had been nagging at me for a while and received great reviews, seemed like it was the right way to go.
I understand that my opinion probably differs quite a bit from the normal reviewer, it makes me question whether they actually played the entire game or if expectations of Wii gameplay has really changed this much over three years? But if I wasn't honest in my review, what's the point in writing?
I've been on a puzzle kick lately. I attribute that to playing the 60 hour epic Infinite Space and having to take just as many hours coming down from that high. What I love about the Nintendo DS is its instant on/off and games like Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming or Picross 3D are perfect for jumping in and out quickly. Next up on my list of puzzlers to try was Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, the fourth game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series that began on the Game Boy Advance.
I actually thought that this was the second Mario vs. Donkey Kong game, believing that the DSiWare game, Minis March Again, was the first. Surprise surprise, there were two previous: Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the GBA and March of the Minis on the DS. I think I missed out on all these due to me not reading Nintendo Power for a few years, how else do you hear about these curious yet under-the-radar kind of games?
Mini-Land Mayhem pits, just like the name says, Mario against Donkey Kong in an epic struggle to rescue Pauline, Mario's original crush. Mario doesn't feel like getting his hands dirty though (being a plumber and all), so he sends a bunch of robot mini Marios to do his bidding. But they're dumb, like Lemmings, and simply walk in a straight line until they hit something and then turn around. They'll climb the first ladder they run into or trod up stairs, but that's about it.
Can Nintendo really publish four titles with this basic premise in the span of just six years? (haha, of course they can, they're Nintendo) Here's my full review of my first experience with the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series in Mini-Land Mayhem.
Once a series becomes too large for its own good, spin-offs and genre breaking games are inevitable. The success of these tangents rests on many factors, including the potential new genre and charisma of side characters now carrying their own game (Wario did this particularly well). When someone thinks Harvest Moon, their mind is probably drawn to the obvious farming or dating aspects. The pace of the games are slow and require hours upon hours of playing for the player to feel immersed in their new agriculture world. When the series is focused on this, the games can be very good. They even managed to spin off the Rune Factory series successfully after injecting some action RPG elements into the somewhat stale formula.
What you can't imagine them spinning off though is a fast-paced puzzle game set in the Harvest Moon world, but they've tried twice already. Natsume's first attempt was Puzzle de Harvest Moon in 2007, a game I played for about 20 minutes before getting bored. The game was received poorly, I guess there just aren't a lot of gamers begging for a mediocre puzzle game based on crops.
Well, they tried again in 2009, this time with Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming. From what I can tell, it seems to be almost the exact same puzzle game as we played a few years prior, but this time wrapped in a text heavy story featuring the brain dead characters of Sunshine Islands. Yay... Here's my full review of Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming on the Nintendo DS.
Few games on the iOS platform get me excited. There's just such a surplus of bad that even when you hear about Super Popular Game X, you wonder if the masses are just falling for more of the same. When Plants vs. Zombies was announced early this year as a port of the PC/Mac release, I didn't think twice about picking it up. The $3 price tag didn't even make me think twice.
I had watched my brother in law play the full version on his Mac last year, and was intrigued by its porch defense gameplay. I had never even played a tower defense game before Plants vs. Zombies. A genre virgin so to speak. It was easy to see without even playing it why the game was so popular. The zombies would walk slowly from right to left and it's your job to fend them off with some bizarre garden variety plants.
This review will just be on the iOS version (played on a second generation iPod Touch). I have no experience with any other version (though I'm secretly planning to replay it on the Nintendo DS).
New genres don't come around that often, but genre mash-ups have been popular lately. Mirror's Edge is a first person platformer, with a dash of shooting and a few heaps of parkour thrown in for good measure. Plenty of first person shooters have tried to integrate platforming, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter immediately jumps to mind, but that was a disaster. Mirror's Edge takes what works from a game like Assassin's Creed with its assisted climbing and fluid action and sticks it in a first person view.
To some, this may sound great, others are undoubtedly skeptical, the rest of you have already played this two year old game and made up your own mind (nobody ever said the First Hour was timely *groan*). I've been intrigued by Mirror's Edge since its release, but the opportunity to play it never came up until Steam had it on sale for about $5 earlier this year. So I bought it and tossed it on my proverbial digital backlog, only to finally get around playing it now when my brother-in-law lent me his copy on the Xbox 360. No, I didn't play it on the Xbox, but it did encourage me to finally get around to it on the PC (odd how that works).
So here's my first hour review of Mirror's Edge, Steve previously wrote a full review on the game with a stunning gallery of self-taken screenshots at the bottom.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors... what an awful title. I'm not even sure if that is the right title, just look at its cover. Anyways, you're probably wondering what the heck 999 is exactly. Well, it's basically Saw meets Hotel Dusk. A point and click visual novel with bombs implanted into stomachs that will explode if puzzles are not solved quickly enough. Yes, this game really was released and has the Nintendo Seal of Approval on it. And yes, it's rated M for Mature.
I don't really know why I chose to try 999 out, I haven't exactly had great luck with visual novels *cough* Lux-Pain *gag* Hotel Dusk *puke*, but the whole premise was just too intriguing to pass up. I figured I would give it a half-hour of my time to see if it was worth it to go on.
999 was developed by Chunsoft, creators of very popular visual and sound novels in Japan, including 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de, one of the not-so-elusive 40/40 Famitsu scored games. They also handle the Shiren the Wanderer series and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, so they're not exactly slackers. As for 999, well, I'm going to give my opinion on its first half-hour right now.