Greg Noe's reviews and writings

  • The Stanley Parable

    Indie Impression

    Stanley Parable CoverIs The Stanley Parable a game? Does it matter? We're about to present our impressions for a title that doesn't really fit any existing definition. The Stanley Parable is sort of an experiment in game design, but also presents questions in how storytelling influences gameplay. Saying anything more would be saying too much, it's a short experience that will have you questioning previous games you have played and their intentions.

    Our impressions for The Stanley Parable are unique in that all three of us "beat" the "game." And six times each, no less. This isn't an amazing feat, as six times through Stanley would still leave time on a clock for a first hour review, but it also made me question whether I should be filing this under a full review instead of an impression. This game makes me ask too many questions.

    So I apologize if we're too vague, but The Stanley Parable experience suffers from over-explanation to those who haven't played it. Here we go.

  • Mega Mall Story

    Full Review

    Mega Mall Story CoverAs I reflect on Mass Effect 3 before I attempt to write its full review, I’ve been catching up on games in mobile land. Angry Birds Space and Cut the Rope: Experiments were just released, but I’ve sort of grown into a Kairosoft fanboy over the last few years so they beckon even stronger. Mega Mall Story is my latest go at their games after Pocket League Story, and it brings some new ideas to the “Story” series and merges some of their existing ones, as well.

    In Mega Mall Story you run, well, a mall. In lots of ways it feels like SimTower, the Maxis published simulation where building up was just as important as fattening your wallet. But it also feels like a traditional Kairosoft title, with all the charm and number crunching seen in some of their more sportier titles, plus the layout challenge founded in Hot Springs Story.

    Mega Mall Story is available for both Android and iOS for a few bucks, I played it on my HTC EVO 4G phone.

  • Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

    Indie Impression

    Barkley Shut up and jam Gaiden CoverThere have been only three successful basketball parody video games: NBA Jam, Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, and Make My Video: Aaron Carter's "That's How I Beat Shaq". In 2008, as an attempt to broaden the market, amateur game developers Tales of Game's Studios released Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa, more often known simply as Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden.

    Our Indie Impression column has been our own attempt at broadening our content and giving us a reason to try out those sometimes lesser known games. Barkley is a rather special case, as it was released free as basically a parody of Japanese RPGs, the NBA, and of course, Charles Barkley. Created with RPG Maker 2003 and Gamer Maker, the game undoubtedly started as a joke among friends and grew into something... bigger, to say the least.

    We present our impressions of Charles Barkley's second game below, and they vary widely, much like his golf shot.

  • Blackwell Unbound

    Full Review

    Blackwell Unbound CoverHaving just finished The Blackwell Legacy a few days ago, I decided to waste no time in jumping into its sequel, Blackwell Unbound. These aren’t long games by any stretch of the imagination, clocking in at just a few hours each, but they don’t waste any time spinning their wheels or forcing you through gameplay hoops that aren’t essential to the plot.

    Developed by Wadjet Eye Games, Blackwell Unbound was released in 2007, less than a year after Legacy. The game tells the story of Rosa’s aunt, Lauren Blackwell, the previous medium in the family and former detective of all ghostly things.

    Unbound was originally intended to just be a short flashback sequence in what is now the third game, Blackwell Convergence, but was fleshed out into a standalone title as development progresses. Let’s see if the game manages to stand on its own in the adventure gaming genre.

  • Win a copy of "3D Classics: Kid Icarus" for the 3DS

    kid Icarus Cover

    CONTEST IS OVER!

    Would you like to own a copy of the original Kid Icarus? Here's your chance! Enter our contest for a chance to win what Nintendo is calling "3D Classics: Kid Icarus", which is the original NES Kid Icarus game enhanced with some fancy 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.

    How To Enter

    1. Create an account
    2. Leave a comment
    3. Wait until Tuesday, April 3rd for the announcement of the winner!

    Creating an account requires an email address, which we will use to contact you upon winning the game. We will never spam you, and probably never even send you an email beyond registration.

    Rules

    1. One entry per reader
    2. Anonymous comments, even with an email address, will not count
    3. Don't leave spam in your comment because we'll just be forced to delete it
    4. Contest closes at 11:59 PM Monday, April 2nd
    5. Writers for First Hour are not elegible

  • The Blackwell Legacy

    Full Review

    Blackwell Legacy CoverI played a lot of point and click adventures growing up, from the Monkey Island series to King’s Quest, but I figured the genre for dead over the last decade. What a pleasant surprise to find that it’s alive, well, and kicking in the indie community. Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentleman, Please! have been covered here before, and now I’ve discovered the delightful Blackwell series.

    The Blackwell Legacy is the first game in an ongoing series of point and click adventures from Wadjet Eye Games. Set in modern day New York City, the game already sets itself apart from most of the fantasy elements Lucasarts and Sierra raised the genre in, except for one thing: the main character is accompanied by a ghost.

    Recently featured in our Indie Impression column, The Blackwell Legacy was well received by all participants, and knowing it was a relatively short game, I had no qualms in playing on. Here are my thoughts on The Blackwell Legacy.

  • Cave Story+

    Full Review

    Cave Story CoverIn the last few years, I’ve had trouble focusing on beating games. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve built up such a huge backlog from Steam sales and Humble Bundles, that I was getting closer to owning more games that I hadn’t conquered that had. This was personally my big reason for green-lighting the new Indie Impression feature: it would give me an easy way to at least try out lots of games without necessarily committing even an entire hour.

    Having recently featuring Cave Story+, I quickly plowed through it after finishing up my impressions. It is one of those games you hear about for years as being great, and it keeps getting re-released with newer graphics on more platforms, once Cave Story+ hit Steam the time was right.

    My initial impressions were positive, viewing the game as a pretty solid Metroidvania with tight controls, let’s see if I found the rest of the game as appealing.

  • Crusader Kings II

    First Hour Review

    Crusader Kings 2 CoverToday I learned that some video game genres are simply not for me. Well, I've known that for some time, I can't stand realistic racing games at all, but now I can add the so-called "real-time grand strategy" genre to that list. This is basically a fancy way of saying "real-time Civilization... grandified." The Wikipedia article reads like an economics-during-war piece with phrases like "horizontal integration", "consolidated roving army", and "pursue ultimate hegemony". Hey guys, I graduated from college six years ago.

    Crusader Kings II was recently released by Paradox Interactive, a Swedish developer that specializes in the grand strategy genre. You may recognize their previous titles such as Europa Universalis or Hearts of Iron, but if you're like me, have never had the opportunity to play them. Crusader Kings II is set in medieval Europe at the turn of the last millenium. The game is decidedly for history buffs and fans of the time period.

    I can't really decide if what you're about to read represents everything this site stands for, or if it reveals a total failure of the first hour review system. I'm kind of wavering between the two options, but I'll let you decide for yourself. Welcome to the age of history.

  • Mass Effect 3 - From Ashes

    Downloadable Content

    Mass Effect 3 CoverThere doesn’t seem to be a major release from one of the big name publishers that hasn’t received negative attention for one reason or another lately. Whether it’s nasty DRM, a lack of dedicated servers for multiplayer, or it simply doesn’t meet expectations in previews, a minority set of gamers love to complain vocally. The gaming press gives these guys attention and highlights the low-rated user reviews on Metacritic as evidence of either ignorant gamers or evil publishers, but the same development team is back in the office the next day making a sequel.

    Mass Effect 3 is the latest target, and while a variety of complaints have bubbled to the top ranging from complaints about the ending to homophobic insinuations that Shepard could never, ever be gay, the main factor seems to be about the day one downloadable content, From Ashes. Similar to Mass Effect 2’s launch day Zaeed: The Price of Revenge, From Ashes features a new level and a new playable character.

    I haven’t beaten Mass Effect 3 yet, but I have played this DLC and spent some time with the new character. Here’s my review on From Ashes, the first of undoubtedly many DLCs to come for Mass Effect 3.

  • Cogs

    Indie Impression

    Cogs Cover3D, steampunk, tile-based puzzler. That's Cogs in a nutshell. Remember those little square puzzles from your youth where there was one empty spot to slide the other squares around to form a picture? Well, combine that with a bit of Pipe Dream and slap on a really slick interface, and you have on of the more unique puzzle games of the last few years. As part of the third Humble Bundle, you may well own this title and not even realize it.

    Released in 2009 by Lazy 8 Studios on numerous platforms including iOS and PlayStation Home (yes, Home, that Second Life thing that hasn't received attention in three years), Cogs is a simple to play game that will challenge your wits and patience. If you can sit and play the sliding puzzle games for a bit, you'll enjoy Cogs for its extra depth on top of the base. If you can't stand that kind of puzzler, well, might as well just skip this game now.

    First Hour is happy to present to you another entry in its Indie Impression series: Cogs.

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