Nate's reviews and writings

  • MotoHeroz [Video]

    First Hour Review

    Motoheroz CoverAlthough it's common to see a physics engine mentioned in the opening credits of current generation titles, games that are driven by calculated friction, momentum, and the like are still so rare. Trials HD is one of the few I've experienced that uses complex physics as a gameplay core, rather than merely governing how crates jump and limp bodies flail after an explosion. Tellingly, Trials HD is also among the generation's most unique games, a blend of platformer, simulation, and racer that make it impossible to define with current genre labels and difficult for new players to grasp.

    Developer RedLynx appears to preserve that essence and curtail the frustration in MotoHeroz, a WiiWare title that replaces Trials HD's injury-prone dirtbike rider with durable, tumbling buggies. Trials's garage skatepark courses are also traded for platformer-adventure mainstays like forests, snowfields, and deserts. Strip away the Wii-appropriate aesthetics, however, and the game seems to be a kinder Trials romp, very much the approachable but deep physics showcase of its Xbox 360 and PC cousins.

    I spent an hour bounding through the Story Adventure and climbing the leaderboards in some daily online challenges. Check out some of the footage pulled from that sixty minutes.

  • The Legend of Zelda

    Full Review

    Legend of Zelda CoverAchievement Unlocked: Review a game older than you.

    Zelda may be the most beloved video game franchise, but I've never counted myself among series super-fans. Since cutting my teeth on the series with Ocarina of Time, I've merely enjoyed all but a handful of games in the series. Don't get me wrong, they're all great, but I wouldn't put any in my top ten.

    That said, I like checking out each title and comparing it with the rest of its ilk. Other than the experimental black sheep Zelda II: Adventure of Link, the first Legend of Zelda may be the series' most divisive game. Fans can't seem to agree whether the game's old school difficulty and unguided progression make it dated or just different. Lacking an in-game overworld map and never funneling players away from difficult areas, the NES original certainly requires more of its players than any Zelda since.

    Nintendo recently launched its 3DS Ambassador program, giving the system's early adopters ten free NES games. I had been meaning to check out several of the ambassador titles, but none more so than The Legend of Zelda. Fifteen hours and a princess rescue later, I'm ready to weigh in on the Dated vs. Different debate.

  • Let's talk about paid demos

    Blog Post

    Mega man Legends 3 PrototypeMega Man hasn't appeared in a game since March 2010's Mega Man 10. He's not scheduled to show his face again any time soon. That's so weird. The franchise has been the face of slapdash sequel profitability for two decades, so it's strange that we've gone a year and a half without any original Mega Man releases and may not see another any time soon.

    As recently as three months ago, two Mega Man games were in development. Both were announced last year. Both were canned this summer. While one of those two aborted games was on course for Xbox Live Arcade obscurity, the other was anything but ordinary. Niche series revivals, long-removed sequels, fan involvement, executive politics...the Mega Man Legends 3 Project opened plenty of worm cans in the nine months before its abortion.

    One can, in particular, piqued my curiosity: the paid demo. And I think it might have the most regrettable casualty in the game's cancellation. Before you groan, hear me out.

  • Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition - Video

    First Hour Review

    Street Fighter Third Strike Online CoverI have a soft spot for fighting games. Even though my multiplayer game time has dwindled to almost nothing, I relish the chopsocky action too much to quit entirely. My interest has further grown alongside the genre's worldwide revival, sparked by 2009's Street Fighter IV, which produces more and more games that exhibit extravagant martial arts action with tournament balance. This pleases me.

    Not content to milk just Street Fighter IV year after year, Capcom's digging deeper into its past to re-release what many consider its finest fighter, Street Fighter III: Third Strike. The fan favorite finds its way onto Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition, adorned with bells and whistles that appear to go beyond what fans would expect from a modern port. SF3:TSOE boasts visual filters, remixed music, concept art, detailed tutorials, expert trials, Youtube match uploads, and even renowned GGPO netcode that promises smooth and customizable online performance.

    I have played Third Strike a few times in days long past. I remember some of the game-specific basics, like parrying, but am unfamiliar with most characters. I'll see what the trials can teach me about the game's mechanics beyond parrying. Next, I'll see what trials are available for Dudley, a boxer I recognize from Super Street Fighter IV but have never used in Third Strike. Finally, I'll check out Arcade mode and see what the game has to offer as a singleplayer experience.

    Check out five minutes of parries, Corkscrew Blows, and everything else that makes up gentlemanly fighting.

  • Kyotokei - Video

    First Hour Review

    Kyotokei CoverLast year, when I checked out 3D Dot Game Heroes, I admitted my leniency regarding game copycats. Where some saw a sly attempt to cash in on the Zelda brand, I only saw a new adventure game in the same mold. The game's tone, both parody and homage, further erased any chance of disdain.

    I'm having a tougher time excusing Kyotokei, a WiiWare game that came out last week. My five minute experience with Ikaruga is enough to tell me that Kyotokei is clearly a copycat game, stealing the novel color-coded bullet hell stylings of the cult classic shmup. And unlike 3D Dot Game Heroes, I'm not getting a tributary or tongue-in-cheek vibe from Kyotokei. Instead, the game mimics the Touhou craze, which replaces the classic shmup players and enemies (spaceships and mechs and whatnot) with cute little girls for whatever reason. I guess that's not a big deal: Hello Kitty Chess is still chess, right?

    Mechanical and aesthetic burglaries aside, the game looks like it might be fun. And Wii could certainly use some decent software in a time where an above-par movie-licensed game is gunning for Game of the Year. I decided to throw $5 at Kyotokei and see if I could get my money's worth out of this downloadable doppelganger.

    I played for an hour. Check out this video of the first stage. Try not to blink.

  • Captain America: Super Soldier and Captain America: Super Soldier

    Full Review

    Captain America Super Soldier artAww yeah, it's a SHOVELWARE SHOWDOWN!

    In the last two weeks, I started Captain America: Super Soldier for both the PS3 and Wii. At hour's end, I decided to keep playing each game, but with the expectation that I wouldn't actually finish either. As it turns out, I stuck with both through the credits. And I didn't do it solely for masochism's sake: movie license hex be damned, neither version of Captain America is mere shovelware. They won't be gunning for any Game of the Year awards, but they are games worth playing for the right price.

    Okay, so they're not bad. But which version of Captain America: Super Soldier is the not baddest? The choice isn't as simple as HD versus SD, like in many Wii port afterthoughts: the parallels are there, but these are two very different games. In classic head-to-head style, check out how each of the versions stacks up against each other in their major elements.

  • Captain America Wii - Video

    First Hour Review

    Captain America wii CoverLast week, I checked out Captain America: Super Soldier for the PS3, a decision based equally on hope and whatever horrible curiosity entices people to play movie-licensed games. It was like approaching a derailed train full of puppies: you can't look away from what's sure to be a disaster, but also there's a chance everything turned out okay, and wouldn't that just be wonderful?

    Well, here we are again. Another game called Captain America: Super Soldier has been released for Wii. It has the same name and is capitalizing on the same blockbuster movie, but it's a very different game by a very different studio. The PS3 and 360 versions were handled by Next Level Games, a developer that quietly created some of my favorite gems of the generation (in addition to a few duds, apparently). In contrast, the Wii version was in the hands of High Voltage Software, a studio that hyped its first big project to high heaven before the final product would be condemned to gaming purgatory. Since then, the company has released an immediately forgotten sequel and made some noise about what will surely be vaporware in due time.

    That said, I can't help but admire the ambition and genuine enthusiasm High Voltage Software brought to trade shows, even if it didn't translate into a worthwhile package in The Conduit. HVS also seems to be one of the few developers that actually took Wii development seriously at some point, so I suppose it's qualified to bring Captain America to Nintendo's neglected little box. My expectations are about as low as you can get, but I'm curious enough to give the game a try anyway.

    And hey, video! Watch a superdeformed Captain America throw his mighty shield, solve some mighty puzzles, and even throw a mighty Shoryuken.

  • Captain America: Super Soldier - Video

    First Hour Review

    Captain America Super Soldier CoverI think I like Captain America because he's sort of the underdog. In a universe of telekinetic superbeings and indestructible immortals, Cap's basically just a buff dude with a shield with a penchant for punching Hitler. I like to think he's Marvel's Batman, the mere man who needs only his natural resourcefulness (and a liberal dose of super-steroids) to be a star player in the superhuman leagues.

    Apparently, Next Level Games sees a similar link between Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers. Charged with developing the game that would tie into Captain America: The First Avenger, the developer appears to have taken some inspiration from Batman: Arkham Asylum. Among other details, Captain America's context sensitive combat style especially reminds me of the dark knight's award-winning game.

    Despite favorable previews and some excellent games in the developer's back library, I haven't forgotten that Captain America: Super Soldier is a game with a movie license. Stunted development time, split effort across all systems, and NLG's inexperience with HD consoles kept my expectations low going into the first hour.

    The following is a video sample of some early goings in the CA:SS story mode. See Cap fight, decode, and get his gymnastics on.

  • Infamous and The Beast

    Blog Post

    Infamous 2 Cover(WARNING: This post discusses significant plot points of Infamous and Infamous 2 in detail. You are now at the gates of Spoiler City. Turn back if you intend to play the game with a blank slate someday.)

    One of the cornerstones of horror is mystery. People fear the unknown, enough so that they will fill in the blanks with their own personal hellspawn when presented with a few creepy clues. Things that go bump in the night don't need to bare glistening fangs or a bloody hook to terrify us: they just have to bump.

    This connection is easily exploited to make a good scare even better. It sounds crazy that so many left theaters spooked after the Blair Witch Project, considering the titular monster was never shown, yet that's exactly why the movie was a hit. Cloverfield saw that success and adapted it to trailers and TV spots, depicting a Godzilla-level monster attack from the view of those unable to see the monster directly. Video games are catching on as well, with many praising Amnesia: The Dark Descent for providing scares when nothing's there.

    Infamous 2 isn't a horror game, but it makes excellent use of this deprivation technique to ramp up the suspense. The story's core is Cole MacGrath's quest to prepare for the destined arrival of The Beast, a being of such power and wrath that only at his fullest potential could the hero hope to stop it. Throughout the game, chilling reminders of this impending cataclysm are ever present, casting a shadow of despair that even overcasts Cole's considerable predicaments in the here and now. And when the Beast finally arrives, revealing itself at last to the wearied but hardened superman, the suspense is replaced with a dread so thick that it suffocates the player in a way no game ever has before.

  • Uncharted 3 Beta Impressions and Video

    Blog Post

    Uncharted 3 BetalogoI held out on the HD console era for almost four years. Through late 2009, I was happy owning only a Wii, with its quirky library and dependable first-party franchises. Sure, modern online features and the robust third-party support made the HD twins appealing, but I abstained admirably. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was the game that finally forced my hand.

    I don't know why, but I had to have it. Whether it was the tone, the hype, or merely the timing, something about Uncharted 2 commanded me to buy a PS3. Weeks before the game launched, Naughty Dog held a public multiplayer beta; I bought the newly slimmed PS3 and jumped in. I had a great time in the trial, bought the full game, loved the singleplayer, and the rest is history.

    Two years is the standard wait for a sequel anymore, and in 2011, we have Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception to look forward to. Once again, the developer has opened a multiplayer beta to the public, this time nearly six months before launch. Naughty Dog has said their goal is to make Uncharted 3 THE multiplayer game for PS3. Based on my time with the beta thus far, its candidacy can't be denied.

    As I did for the Killzone 3 beta, I will outline the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta's game mechanics and feature set. I've also included clips from a few matches I played on the beta's second day (day one was a mess of empty matches and game crashes, later fixed through a title update).

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