Five full days of first hour gaming have been completed, and talk about a blockbuster 24 hours! We played Modern Warfare 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2, and BioShock 2 for fans of the latest and greatest, and tried out The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story to see how Nintendo's latest portable offerings fared. In November, we featured a licensed games month, and played a bunch of first hours of a wide variety of games including Beetle Adventure Racing and Dragon Ball Z: Budokai.
We also introduced a new feature called Half-Hour handheld, for those portable games where playing for an hour is just too long. TouchMaster 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized have been played so far, with more to come in the future. I decided not to include them in the recap because introducing half-hour increments might get a tad messy.
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.
I've played hundreds of games in my lifetime, but most of them are long forgotten memories. But sometimes those memories can be dislodged from the deep to remind you of something. Maybe it was just about how simple games used to be, or how they invoked the imagination so much while doing so little, or that games actually used to be difficult.
Pixel Boarder is one of those games. I'll be completely honest: I'm not very good at this game at all. I always forget which to push the joysticks to rotate in a particular direction, and I never seem to have enough speed to do anything cool. But that is really not that big of deal to me right now, mostly because of how much nostalgia this game was able to produce in such amount short time.
I'll spend a few paragraphs talking about Pixel Boarder and then explore my past history in winter video games.
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.
Time for the third annual First Hour Super Bowl pre-enactment! With the big game just two days away, we play the upcoming Super Bowl match-up with a football video game. Now, we could play something fancy like Madden 2010, but that's no fun (literally), so we'll be playing one of the most entertaining football games of all-time: NFL Blitz on the Nintendo 64. I have a ton of great memories of this game, mostly of last second comebacks and aggressive rubber band A.I.
In 2008 and 2009, we played the Super Bowl with Tecmo Super Bowl, the epitome of classic sports gaming. NFL Blitz has some weird limitations though, you can't actually pick who you want to play against, so the only way I could match up the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints was to start a season. Thankfully, the two teams met in only the fourth game that season, so I was able to sneak a few practice rounds in. Unfortunately, this means I was only able to play the match-up once, instead of a best of three like I usually would. But like I said, the computer will simply not allow a blow-out to occur, so the game will be close no matter what side I play on.
So here we go, first we'll do a quick look at how the teams matched up back in the days of NFL Blitz (console versions were released in 1998) and then we'll play the game. In very un-Blitz-like fashion, we'll be playing the game with six minute quarters! The default quarter length is two minutes.
Post-game update: Blitz sadly fails to come through. Not only was the final score not 87-79, but the Saints won! Maybe next year!
GameTrailers.com has recently launched a new feature called Hour One, a "brand new show that gives you the first hour of an upcoming or newly released game." Sounds a bit familiar! GameTrailers.com joins the ranks of yours truly, Games for Lunch, and Kotaku Australia in focusing on the first hour of a video game.
I was enthused when I found out that Kotaku Australia has written a few of them, but with GameTrailers.com jumping into the fray, things just got serious! Of course, they're going for more of the video experience than an actual review of the game, but I believe it legitimizes the importance of the first hour of video games even more. It's really great to see more and more reputable sites jumping on the first hour train.
Zombie games are gaming's latest craze gone wild. With the popularity of zombie shooter Left 4 Dead at its peak, Call of Duty: World at War featuring a Nazi zombie mode, and old classics like Zombies Ate My Neighbors being re-released on the Virtual Console, a zombie outbreak is as ripe of setting as ever. Independent developer Sean Maher has brought the classic hobby of mowing down zombies to the iPhone now with Dead Panic, a tactical zombie shooter. Dead Panic is light on story, but heavy on difficult scenarios for your soldiers to survive. The premise is simple: strategically place your soldiers, and let loose horde.
Dead Panic is our first indie game review of 2010, we'll be featuring five more indie-developed games throughout the month of February. Dead Panic is available on the Apple App Store right now for the very reasonable price of $1.99.
For the second year running, The First Hour will celebrate the independent developer by focusing on indie games! We've got six great games lined up from a variety of developers for a variety of platforms. I'm really excited to show off what these guys can do. If you'd like to get a head start on the action, here are the six games: