Paul Abbamondi's reviews and writings

Check out his own video game blog, Grinding Down.

  • Minecraft

    First Hour Review

    Minecraft CoverInitially, Humble Indie Bundle 3 was only five videogames for whatever price you deemed worthy: Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight. After a day or two, a free pass for Markus “Notch” Persson's Minecraft was added, allowing HIB3 buyers to play the blocks-laden indie game until August 14, 2011. This might have had something to do with the fact that Notch was/is one of the top contributors to the cause, dropping well over $4,000 for a handful of games he surely already owns. But it's easy to figure out why he'd support indie games like so, and giving the wary a free looksie into his own thriving title is a smart decision.

    For some time now, I've been interested in Minecraft. Take note that I did not say interested in playing Minecraft, as the two statements are actually very different. Just interested. From the outside, it looks like a creative, germinal, easy-to-play game that is just asking you to open it up and go nuts. Plus, y'know, I grew up on Lego blocks. It's just plain ol' nature here, stacking and breaking blocks galore and building crazy fortresses loaded from ceiling to cellar with booby-traps. However, Minecraft could also share the same problems many other open-world games have, where there is ultimately little purpose.

    At E3 2011, it was announced that Minecraft was coming to the Xbox 360, my preferred gaming console. For now, I'll be giving the game a swing on my Macbook, and hopefully it can handle everything. It's struggled to run other games from Humble Indie Bundle 3 (and previous iterations). I am and always will be a console gamer though so if I do enjoy my time here, I'll more than likely download it from Xbox Live Arcade whenever it becomes available.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part One

    Half-Hour Handheld

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part one CoverSome months back, while browsing the shelves at our local GameStop, my wife picked out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One for the Nintendo DS; I had earlier warned her of the bad reviews for the Kinect-heavy atrocity of the same name that dropped on the Xbox 360, and we both assumed that the DS version would almost have to be better than that. However, she did not play for very long, returning to her staples of Animal Crossing: Wild World and The New Super Mario Bros. She either lost interest or got stuck; at one point, I had to help her through an unclear potion-making minigame.

    With the final installment of the final movie creeping closer, I thought this would be a perfect time to see how solid of a Harry Potter game it actually is. Plus, I had some time to kill while on vacation.

    Aparecium!

  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

    Half-Hour Handheld

    Legend of Zelda Links Awakening CoverMy favorite game is—and most likely will always be—The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It's a videogame that raised me, coddled me through the early years, showed me the potential games held, and reminded me that there's still good in this world. And strangely, there's never been anything quite like it since its debut way back in November 1992. I guess some games do come close: 3D Dot Game Heroes, Alundra, Beyond Oasis, and Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Not surprisingly, nobody does Zelda quite like Nintendo.

    Nintendo's 2011 E3 conference opened with some love for the Zelda franchise, now twenty-five years big, and a surprise announcement was that The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was going to be available very soon on the Nintendo 3DS eshop. Sadly, I never got to experience this game before on the GameBoy, and a quick bit of research revealed that it both looked and played similar to what I consider to be gaming nirvana. Well, I downloaded it as soon as I could. Let's hope it lives up to my lofty expectations...

  • Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar

    Half-Hour Handheld

    Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar CoverLike many, I was first introduced to the concept of farming simulation via an obscure Facebook title called Farmville. Not sure if that game flopped or not, but I didn't stick around too long to find out as the idea of caring for crops day in, day out did little to excite me. Sure, I like managing and being organized and earning faux money, but in the end, there wasn't really much to do with Farmville other than pester friends with countless requests and click on the same things over and over. After some time passed, I got the hankering again to water some crops and decided to give Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon a try; unfortunately, despite being a farming simulator with bonus RPG dungeon-crawling elements, I still wasn't entertained.

    Scanning the shelves of my local GameStop recently, I noticed a bunch of other Harvest Moon games on the DS. Like, a ton. There were at least three sitting eye-level, staring me in the face, begging to be watered. And I got that itch again. I decided to give the most newest title a chance. Let's see if Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar is different enough to grow into something fun, something edible. 

  • Tiny text is the plan, the plan is death

    Editorial

    Dead Rising CoverIf there’s one new videogame fad I absolutely hate more than 3D anything, it has to be tiny text. I'm not sure what specifics need to be required to obtain tiny text status, but they most likely sit somewhere between squinting and extreme squinting. Over the years, text in videogames has gotten smaller and smaller, and I'm not exactly sure why. If you look back at screenshots of, say, SNES games, you'll see the font used is generally huge and spaced far apart, almost taking up one-third of the game's screen.

    No mistaking what that fly is saying in Breath of Fire, that's for sure. This font size guarantees readability. Some might say this is a little too big. However, compare this font size with that of any modern game, and it's clear which gaming generation pandered to the literate more. Either way, this is a problem, and while not every videogame suffers from it, many big name titles shockingly do.

  • The Hobbit

    First Hour Review

    the Hobbit CoverMarrying my wife a few months ago came with a videogamey bonus: a Nintendo Wii. And it wasn’t until several weeks back that I kind of realized that this system can also play GameCube games on it. The Nintendo GameCube is a system I missed out on hard, having only really played two games to my memory: Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin. GameStops statewide seem to still sell a good selection of GameCube games, and I was able to pick up The Hobbit for less than a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the local market. As a true J.R.R. Tolkien fanboy, I couldn’t wait to play it. Alas, I had to wait. Long story short, I had to make a return trip to pick up a memory card so I could actually save my progress.

    Anyways…The Hobbit. It came out in late 2003, and I’m assuming that its makers were banking on a lot of eager fans awaiting more Lord of the Rings action would be interested in seeing how the journey all started. In fact, blazing bright and gold on the game’s cover is some silly marketing pullquote that says “the prelude to the Lord of the Rings!” Yeah, we know. Hopefully they don’t pull the same silliness with the upcoming theatrical adaptation. The Hobbit, Part 1 of 2: The Prelude to the Lord of the Rings! Bad enough there’s going to be two films.

    I’ve played a number of other games based on the Lord of the Rings over the years. Some were decent amounts of fun (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), and others just an unfair mess (The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age). Will The Hobbit soar like the Lord of the Eagles or sink like the One Ring abandoning its former master? Let’s find out with the game’s first sixty minutes.

  • The Worst Box Art of 2010

    Blog Post

    Cabelas Dangerous Hunt 2011 CoverFirst impressions do make a difference. Here at The First Hour, reviewers examine with scrutiny the very first sixty minutes (or thirty in case of Nintendo DS carts) of a videogame, determining whether or not it properly sunk its hooks in them. Imagine if games were based solely on their box art; sometimes, depending on the buyer, they are. Box art creates an uninformed gamer’s vision in milliseconds, solidifying a buy or bust. Or possibly even befuddlement. Gaming companies, certainly at this point in the industry, know this, and yet a good number of horrific box arts are produced, effectively becoming counterproductive.

    So how many would truly sink versus swim? Pretty sure all of the following examples would be spending a lot of time at the bottom of the (videogame industry) ocean. Also, quick apologies to Nintendo Wii and DS fanboys as they get the bulk of bad cover boxes year after year.

    Let’s hope we see no repeats like these in 2011!

  • Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

    Half-Hour Handheld

    Broken Sword Shadow of the Templars CoverBroken Sword is not a new game. In fact, it was released back in 1996, a year so far gone that I barely remember anything about it. I know I did not experience Broken Sword then or even heard of it; I was just a lad with a PlayStation and a little RPG called Suikoden to occupy my time. Broken Sword only existed in my mainframe later on as a cult thing, something people talked about playing, but were never caught playing. I later played other point-and-click games like Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle and Escape from Monkey Island yet never got to try this “classic.” Then I discovered it in my mother’s DS collection (yes, she plays) a few weeks back and found my chance to try it out for the very first time, some 14 years later. And this is the Director’s Cut which, I guess, means something.

    As it’s a story-heavy Nintendo DS game, this is only a half-hour review. I hope it hits all the points and really clicks! Um, I apologize for that…I know it was a stretch.

  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

    First Hour Review

    Lego Harry Potter Years 1 4 CoverI’ve played every LEGO videogame made so far. Of all my videogames on the Xbox 360, only the LEGO games have the esteemed honor of having all their Achievements unlocked. I played them to completion as fast as possible, almost as if in a fever. If they made LEGO Schindler’s List, I’d probably play it. Same goes for LEGO Requiem for a Dream. The point I’m making here is that I love these games, and I’m twenty-six, and I’m not afraid to admit that they are just my cup of OCD tea.

    Conversely, I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan. I’m one of those rare folks that actually read the first three books before the first movie came out and became a worldwide sensation. I had the sixth book spoiled for me on a Lord of the Rings TCG forum. I read the last book in less than 24 hours, locked up in my parents’ basement, only coming up once to eat dinner and not talk to anyone. The movies are hit or miss in my mind, but the world and characters and magic of it all is something I can’t get enough of. Neither can my fiancée. We’re getting married this October and heading to Universal Studios on our honeymoon to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

    I’ve been excited about this merging of two great entities since I first read about it. I always expected the next universe to be LEGO-ized to be Spider-Man’s. My expectations are high, and after having played the demo that was recently released I have no fears that the first hour for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 will be anything but spectacular.

  • XIII

    First Hour Review

    Xiii CoverBargain bins. Sometimes they hold treasures, other times just stuff better left at the bottom where no one can see. Still, I'm poor and always hoping for the best so I can't help but look around. Surprisingly, I found XIII in one of these dumpster dive sessions, and for $1.99 at that. All I really knew of the game was that it was cel-shaded, likened constantly to an action-fused comic book, and a FPS.

    A few weeks ago, Games for Lunch's Kyle Orland reviewed XIII's first hour. He died numerous times and was ultimately frustrated with the game's gameplay. Hopefully I'll have a better sixty minutes.

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