Greg Noe's reviews and writings

  • Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

    First Hour Review

    Ratchet and Clank all 4 one CoverSince picking up copies of PC Gamer back in the mid 90s, I’ve only ever played a few game demos that actually made me want to buy the final product. The free demo should be the ultimate introduction to the game, the perfectly crafted first hour. But for whatever reason, being tossed into the middle of the game just doesn’t sit right with me. Whether it’s out of context cutscenes or repetitive gameplay, it doesn’t take me much to cross it off my list.

    My only previous experience with the Ratchet & Clank series was a demo for one of the PS2 titles (it’s hard to nail down which one since they were released every 12 months like clockwork) which opened with what felt like a 20 minute cutscene. Unskippable cutscene. I didn’t even make it to the gameplay before the console was reset out of anger and annoyance. I don’t play a Ratchet & Clank demo to learn about its amazing storyline, I play for whatever shooting/platforming/clanking it has to offer.

    So here I am with the first hour of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One for the PlayStation 3. Released late last year, it’s still the newest game in the series... no, wait. Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault was released last week. So now we’re playing an out-of-date version of a has-been series. Here we go.

  • The Walking Dead: Around Every Corner

    Full Review

    the Walking Dead CoverThe penultimate episode of the first season of The Walking Dead brings our group of survivors to the edge with seemingly no hope for a happy ending. While I’ve certainly enjoyed the previous three episodes quite a bit, I feel like everything has finally clicked for me in Around Every Corner. There’s a great sense of dread, urgency, and horror as you progress, and it successfully caps off the previous three hours with a heart-stopping finale.

    Telltale Games wouldn’t have been my first choice for a Walking Dead game, as a popular graphic novel and the most successful show on cable television, the intellectual property owners should have had their pick of the litter when shopping their game. Could Call of Duty: Black Ops II have sold even more with a fully licensed Walking Dead zombie mode? Should the Dead Island developers been tapped? Capcom for their Dead Rising experience? Valve with Left 4 Dead? EA for their gobs of money?

    But Telltale’s interactive drama experiment has been a huge success, at least critically. There are bound to be more Walking Dead games in the future, but this will certainly set the bar high. Here’s my review of episode four: Around Every Corner.

  • The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead

    Full Review

    the Walking Dead CoverIf there’s something that Telltale Games teaches its Walking Dead players in Long Road Ahead, it is that everyone is expendable. While I don’t know if everyone’s experience was like mine, I lost four major characters over the course of the episode. Zombies are dangerous in the world of The Walking Dead, but humans are a lot worse. To quote one of the characters, “I don’t believe in strength in numbers.”

    I haven’t been quite as blown away by the episodes so far as the rest of the internet are, but I’ve certainly enjoyed them so far. The areas are generally small and there is little exploration or puzzle solving required. I’m reminded again of my original comparison of the game to Heavy Rain, but there was a greater sense of dread in Quantic Dream’s psychological epic than in this zombie-laden drama.

    Long Road Ahead was released in late August and it was during this time that I was first exposed to the game through social channels, which is certainly not a surprise considering some of the hellish scenarios the episode puts its players through. While I feel episode three was an improvement over Starved for Help, I’m still looking for a bit more from the game than frantic quick time events.

  • Games I am Thankful For: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

    Blog Post

    Legend of Zelda Link to the Past CoverIn the I-guess-this-is-an-annual-thing department, the game I am thankful for this year is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Not that I've played it in years, or even thought about it much lately, but the only Super Nintendo Zelda entry is just one of those perfect gaming experiences that you can never quite escape, not that you would want to.

    Last year I talked about Harvest Moon and before that a series of influential multiplayer games.

    I remember the first time I played it, probably around 1994 at a cousin's house in Neenah, Wisconsin (which also happened to be the first place I ever played Super Mario Bros., but that was years earlier). They were far enough in the game that they could summon the little bird with the flute that could warp you around the map, which made exploration a bit easier, but obviously would have ruined part of the game experience if I had understood the logistics of the world a bit better. But luckily, my future exploration of Hyrule wasn't destroyed by this brief warp-around.

  • Dungeon Village

    Full Review

    Dungeon Village CoverIt’s been a while since I played a Kairosoft game, not since May with the extremely lackluster Epic Astro Story. It’s easy to say it’s that game that put me off for another six months, but the Kairosoft formula as a whole can really drag on a gamer after a half dozen games.

    But Dungeon Village was on super sale at the Google Play store, and it seems like it should be right up my alley: build up a Japanese RPG village which will house an inn full of heroes. Some of my earliest gaming experiences were with Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy 1, the nostalgia of my youth was calling me to a game I could play on my phone in the bathroom.

    Dungeon Village was released in March for Android and iOS, this review is for the Android version.

  • The Walking Dead: Starved for Help

    Full Review

    the Walking Dead CoverI’m not any kind of expert on zombie apocalypse fiction, but from my point of view, there’s two crucial points in the story that every good zombie story needs, and needs to do well. The first is the tension build-up in Act 1. Everyone watching, reading, or playing some sort of zombie media knows there will be zombies. The ones who don’t know are the characters, the heroes whose lives are about to be torn apart by the undead. The more tension the author can build, the more satisfying and terrifying the reveal will be when hell is unleashed.

    The other crucial part of zombie fiction doesn’t involve the zombies at all, but human conflict. The zombie mythos rule of thumb says that the dead are never the true enemy in zombie fiction and that interesting drama lies in the living. This is true, but drama isn’t necessarily easy or obvious to write, so it’s not a given it’s executed well.

    The Walking Dead already featured their tension build-up and zombie reveal in Episode 1: A New Day, but it still surprised me that Episode 2: Starved for Help almost immediately dropped running from zombies in favor of arguing with fellow survivors, but Telltale Games is apparently confident in their story, so let’s take a look.

  • The Walking Dead: A New Day

    Full Review

    the Walking Dead CoverWord of mouth is a powerful, but nearly impossible to control selling tool. Growing up, I rented SNES games based on friends’ recommendations; during college, PC games spread from computer to computer like viruses. But now that I’m an adult working full-time, the break room doesn’t satisfy the gaming suggestion mill. So where do I turn? Twitter.

    Love it or hate it, your reaction to Twitter will be based entirely on the people you choose to follow, and I choose to follow a lot of people in the gaming industry. From developers to journalists, they all seem to be raving about The Walking Dead, Telltale Games’ newest episodic adventure for Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iOS devices.

    Fresh off my completion of Tales of Monkey Island, also from Telltale, I was excited to try out something a bit newer, and The Walking Dead fits the bill perfectly, especially with today being Halloween! So here’s my review of Episode 1: A New Day, I will continue to review the other episodes in the coming weeks, as long as I survive!

    Happy Halloween and happy gaming!

  • Trine 2: Goblin Menace

    Downloadable Content

    Trine 2 CoverTrine 2 was a fun game, and its simple but challenging formula of platforming meets cooperative puzzling should be pretty easy to extend. Thus enter Goblin Menace, the first DLC available for the late 2011 release. We don't cover a lot of downloable content here, and most of it is for games like Mass Effect or Borderlands where the developer has so many more ideas for new characters and storylines that just couldn't fit in the original game. Frozenbyte, on the other hand, is less concerned about introducing some new class to play as or world to save, but they do seem full to brim with ideas of completely awesome and insane locations to send our heroes.

    Goblin Menace was released in September and can be purchased for $8 on Steam. The DLC was not released on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, but will be available on the Wii U along with the full Trine 2 game when the system is launched next month. Two Steam keys for Trine 2: Goblin Menace were given to us by Frozenbyte.

  • Borderlands 2

    Full Review

    Borderlands 2 CoverAs the release date for Borderlands 2 grew closer, I was surprised at how excited I was for the game. I loved the first Borderlands, its challenge, skill progression, and charm had obviously stuck with me, so the sequel was an obvious buy. But I decided to push purchasing it to the first major Steam sale, that couldn’t be too far off, right? Well, thanks to 2K Games coming through and sending me a review copy, I was back in Pandora much sooner than I thought.

    Borderlands 2 was released last month on Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. I played the original Borderlands on my Xbox 360, but since then I’ve built a gaming computer and my Xbox Live has expired, it was an easy decision to switch over to the PC. I’ve honestly enjoyed the experience even more on my PC, essentially no loading times certainly help, and the superior graphics don’t hurt either.

    I wish I could have gotten this review done sooner, but I just finished the game for the first time and Steam reports I played for 50 hours! I completed every side quest I could find and helped a friend level up a few times, but this is a big game that is worth exploring. 50 hours of one game in a month though for me is pretty crazy. Here’s my review of Borderlands 2.

  • Prince of Persia

    First Hour Review

    Prince of Persia CoverThe success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time completely rejuvenated a left for dead franchise. From a series that was known for its challenging, timed gameplay, rose a 3D incarnation that was nearly beloved by both the gaming press and gamers themselves. Setting the gears in motion for sequels, spinoffs, and a movie, The Sands of Time was both a trendsetter for many future titles and an acknowledgement to its roots.

    A few years after its immediate trilogy sputtered off, Ubisoft tried to remake the prince once again with Prince of Persia, no subtitle. Much like the NES Ninja Gaiden and the Xbox Ninja Gaiden, Prince of Persia was annoyingly named the exact same as the original game twenty years its predecessor. But if fans were expecting an even closer imitation of the original, they would be quite surprised with the bigger changes made by Ubisoft.

    Prince of Persia (2008, not 1989) received mixed reviews with attention to the excellent art and animation, but some disdain towards the game’s reported simple difficulty. What attracted me to reviewing the game’s first hour was definitely the art style. Borrowing the watercolor look from Okami was definitely a brave move by a generally conservative Ubisoft, and I am hoping some of that creativity might have run over to the parkour and fighting elements of the game. Let’s take a look.

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