Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie Binge

During my time away from the kids, I watched some movies (or finished them).  I'll give a few quick impressions.

John Carter
This was actually a good movie.  I'll agree with most of what I read, that the title and ads for the game did nothing to sell it to audiences.  It's one of those "the movie is so interesting that I want to read the books now" movies.  I liked the story, the characters and the action.  It's definitely a "nerd fantasy", since the main character goes to another planet where he learns to belong, gets super powers (because of the lower gravity) and gets to bed a princess.  It was very enjoyable, but a bit longer than I thought it would be.  As mentioned before, I haven't read the books, so I don't know how faithful it is to the source material.  I recommend seeing it if you can.

Hobo with a Shotgun
The reason I wanted to see this is because someone called Megatron from Transformers: Dark of the Moon "Hobo with a Shotgun".  This movie is pretty cheesy and very bloody.  I actually kind of enjoyed it, but I wouldn't say it was good.  It's almost worth watching for the concept alone, and I really liked the look and idea of a pair of villains called "The Plague".  I couldn't remember any really good (terrible), cheesy (quotable) lines, which movies like this usually need.

Fist of the North Star
I will admit that I thought the first half was pretty decent.  It appeared to follow the source material, which surprised me.  It didn't follow it 100%, but definitely more than I thought they would.  The second half wasn't as good (around "Vader Time" haha), and was more "hollywood" to me.  In the second half, Kenshiro just did martial arts and wasn't really exploding fools or anything that would make you know it was Fist of the North Star.  It wasn't terrible, but not good either.  If you are a fan of FotNS, I would recommend seeing this, even if for the cheese factor.

Amazing Spiderman
I was very worried about this movie, since the "first" one was great.  The second was even better.  The third sucked really hard, and was pretty much an offense to humankind.  When I heard they were rebooting the series, I had lots of doubts.  Those proved to be unfounded, as The Amazing Spiderman is a really good movie.  Unlike my friend Marcus Shadow, I don't think it was better than Avengers in any way, shape or form, but it is still worth watching.  It was a very well done movie, and the acting was top notch.  It was a bit longer than I would have liked, but it pretty much filled the time with important stuff to the plot and character development.  I know I'm late to the part on this one, but I recommend seeing this movie.  I will admit that I'm not 100% sure who the shadow figure is in the stinger, though.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Zombie Driver HD (PSN) Review

Zombie Driver HD is an upgraded version of a two year old game from Exor Studios.  Players control a driver that is being tasked with rescuing civilians and fixing other problems in a town overrun with zombies.  The military might not be much help, but at least they are footing the bill.  So let's look at the PS3 version of:

Zombie Driver HD has a pulled back, isometric view so you can see lots of action around you.  There is good detail in the environment, even though it is really small.  I think my favorite part of the graphics are when the levels take place at night.  You only get the ambient light of civilization (streetlights, houses, etc.) and the headlights of the car.  Things look really smooth, although sometimes when I'm driving and turning quickly in the game, it's hard to focus on it.  This of course, could be my terrible eyesight and not a problem with the game.

The music has what you would expect, a few creepy tracks and some fast paced ones when the action ramps up.  They fill the role they need to.  There's a fair amount of voices in the story mode.  They aren't that great, and most can't be skipped.  I'm not even advocated skipping them to not listen to them.  I read faster than people talk, so I can finish reading the text and then have to sit there while they finish talking.  You can skip the mission briefings, but not the in-mission jibba-jabber.

Controlling the car is simple in Zombie Driver HD.  Accelerating, shooting and backing up perform well, but the car turns really quickly while backing up.  This makes it easier to do a 180, but usually the turning was too sensitive for me while in reverse.  It's not a deal breaker, but it did bother me.  It can be hard to make some of the tight turns with the faster cars, and I couldn't quite get the hang of decelerating enough to turn and keep some speed.  Also, the handbrake doesn't seem to help much when driving forward.  When going in reverse, it behaves how I feel it should, but I swear it doesn't even work when I try it while having forward momentum.  To be clear, I'm not accelerating while trying it, but it doesn't seem to stop me at all.

You can get four different kinds of frontal weapons.  Each seems really good at one or two functions, but not so hot at others, making them pretty balanced.  Machine guns were good in the Blood Races, as was the flamethrower.  I can't hit the broad side of the competition with the rockets, though.  However, those same rockets are great at destroying the zombie hives, which take way too long with the flamethrower.  The rail gun amassed a ton of kills in the slaughter mode, but only when fully upgraded.  I actually like that the weapon you should use is different depending on what you need to do.  There's also a handy nitro boost, that can kill enemies behind the car too.  I'm not sure why there are nitro pick-ups in the story mode, since the nitro refills over time.  They aren't really hanging around in convenient locations to refill it instantly, either.

The story mode has 31 levels.  Most only last a few minutes, but they are really good for pick up and play.  There's a decent variety, too.  I personally like the missions where you can drive a special vehicle like an army tank and a bulldozer.  There's even a few bosses throw in for good measure and secondary objectives for each stage.  If you wan to take a break from killing zombies, you can participate in some tournaments that have different events.  Sometimes you race other cars, sometimes you kill them, but they all provide a good break from story mode.  Admittedly, I don't score as well on these as I'd like.  Tricky turns trip me up in races, and sometimes I'm just not close enough to rivals in Eliminator (or they steal my kills, the jerks!) to survive for long.  They are still fun, but not as much fun as Slaughter.

Slaughter is the game's survival mode, and it's pretty fun.  You have to survive waves to get weapons and upgrades, so the first wave is just driving over zombies until you get a weapon the next wave.  I like it, but there isn't much reason to play it again, once you have all the gold medals.  I think it would be fun to have co-op slaughter maps (with no trophies for them, though) if I had a friend or two to play with.

There isn't any kind of multiplayer in Zombie Driver HD, which is fine with me.  The only real online is the leaderboards, on which I was usually in the top 10 for slaughter, even snagging the top spot on one of them at one point.  It seems silly to mention it, but it's the first time I've been that high on a leaderboard, so I'm happy about it.  I won't be up there forever, but it was an honor just to be nominated.

The trophies are a good mix from all the modes.  Several are obtained by making your way through the story mode and unlocking the different cars.  You get some for doing the tournaments and for getting gold medals in the Slaughter mode.  It will take some playing to get them all, since you have to get all golds in Slaughter and Blood Race, and complete all 31 story levels.

I will mention a bug I experienced while playing.  When I tried my first mission using the muscle car, I had no HUD.  So, I had no idea how far the objectives were from each other, no minimap and no health bar.  I actually finished the mission, but it wasn't fun.  Quitting to the XMB and loading the game again fixed it.  This only happened once, but I thought I would note it.  And while not really a bug, per se, occasionally I've gotten the car stuck.  You can hold the select button to respawn, but it takes several crucial seconds, meaning you will lose the race or possibly get killed while you sit there.

I always have fun driving over things in video games.  Bandits, animals,'s all fun.  Yeah, there's probably something wrong with me, but my driving record is sparkly, so we'll let it slide.  The game doesn't stray much from its core concept of driving over zombies, even with the occasional race in the tournament mode.  If you like driving over people or shooting hordes of zombies from the relative safety of a car, then try out Zombie Driver HD.  It's not the most original game, but it has lots of 'pick up and play for a bit' fun.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

End of the Year Xbox Sale Time!

So I finally rented Dishonored to see if me pining over it was worth it...and yeah, it is.  The game is really good.  I love that you can kill or stealth your way through the game.  Given how easy you can find ways to go around (or over) all the guys, the game really feels like it lets you choose how to go through.  So far, it's better than Deus Ex in that regard (since there are no bosses in Dishonored).  I almost bought it when it was $25, but I wanted to try it first and I should just wait to save the money.  It will drop more than that by the time I get around to playing it, but I look forward to getting it eventually.

Recently, Xbox has been having the end of the year sale, and I've picked up Hell Yeah!: Wrath of the Dead Rabbit and Mark of the Ninja.  In a day or two I will snag Dust: An Elysian Tale (all 3 of these were 50% off, making it a good deal).  I would have picked up the Simpsons Arcade game, but it was only 25% off, so I'll just wait for 50% off again.  I think Mark of the Ninja will hold my stealth itch until I can buy Dishonored.

Hell Yeah is fun too, but some of the minigames to kill the monsters are annoying.  Most are press A at the right time or mash a button, but a few require something else, and it can take a few crucial seconds to orient yourself to what's going on.  That part reminds me of the Warioware games, where it can be frustrating when you don't know what to expect the first time you run across a game.  It's not game breaking, but annoying.  Also, you can apparently only go to the island (where you can get things from the monsters you have killed) from the menu, which is strange.  I'd like better stopping points, since all levels run into each other, meaning you just have to stop after an autosave point.  I'm liking it so far though, the game is funny and colorful (bloody).

I should also have another review for you in the next few days, so keep an eye out for that!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Black Knight Sword (PSN) Review

The new action platformer from Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality has recently been released on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade.  Take control of the Black Knight and attempt to defeat the evil Princess in this 2D action platformer.

So what happens when the art styles of Monty Python and Castlevania have a baby?  You get the look of Black Knight Sword.  The game is presented like a puppet show with background scenery changing as you make your way through the levels.  There is also a slight hand-drawn look to the game, which suits it well.  The border of the screen is the curtains for a stage, furthering the idea of this as a puppet show.  Since this takes up part of the screen, I wonder how it looks on SDTVs, since it doesn't interfere much with a widescreen TV.  Bonus points for the loading screen, which has silhouettes of the audience pop up, and one of them has steam from  Some kind of drink.  It seems like it would make more sense as a cigarette or something, but looks like a cup.  Either way, it's a nice touch that cements the look and theme of the game.  There is also copious amounts of blood in the game, so if you are squeamish, you might want to shy away.

The music is pretty good, and like most games, fits the style.  Blood sounds suitably gushy and monsters make appropriate noise like howling and clucking and such.  Intros and outros to stages are done by the narrator, who has a great, deep voice.  He sounds just creepy enough to really sell the crazy nature of this game.  Actually, he reminds me a bit of the late, great Tony Jay.

You don't get many buttons in Black Knight Sword, and you don't need them.  You can run, (double) jump, stab and throw out your sword (she's actually an evil doll-looking creature named Hellebore) to hit switches.  You later unlock magic and charged attacks (including a flash kick!).  One really nice and useful ability is stabbing in multiple directions.  You can attack straight up, up at an angle or croutch and stab for low enemies.  This is very useful for hitting airborne enemies.  You can roll, but it seems fickle on if you get invinciblity from it or not.  It might be like Monster Hunter's roll, where only certain frames are invincible, but I'm not sure.  You also have to be careful when trying to do it quickly, as you can't cut your attack animation to do it.  This usually leads to getting hit more often that you would want to

The game has fairly simple controls, but can get challenging.  It hasn't been controller-throwing hard by any means, but some parts and boss fights can be tough.  Thankfully, you can take some time to figure out how to fight a monster and what to do to proceed, so it wasn't that frustrating the first time through.  I will note that stage 3 reminded me of the dreaded "clock tower" stages from various Castlevanias, but thankfully there are no medusa heads (or equivalents) to be found here.  The end of that stage had a lengthy part that was very much like a plane shooter (shmup), and was a cool part to do.  The boss took a good amount of hits and was trying his best to make it a bullet hell (and partially succeeding).  I play several shmups, so I was right at home, but I don't know how others will fair.

The game only has 5 stages, but each is fairly long and ends with a boss fight.  You get some replay time from trying to find all of the cat grass pots in each stage and trying to go for the trophies will add a time or two through the game unless you are super good the first time through and beat the game without dying, on hard and without the shop.  Good luck with that, the rest of us will just go through the game a few times and save ourselves the frustration.  There's also some challenge stages, which thankfully you unlock in groups so if you are stuck on one, you can just try another.  The biggest fault with these is they don't really give you any info on what you need to do other than "reach the door" and how much life and magic you have to do the stage.  I don't expect them to tell me everything, but you have to fly blind the first time in each challenge to figure out anything.  They are timed, so your first run will likely be bad while figuring out what to do.  Some are really tricky, but fun once you figure out what to do.  I've only completed a few, since they get pretty hard.

If you like "Metroidvania" style action/platform games, you will feel right at home in Black Knight Sword.  I had fun with the game, even with some frustration.  The game is a bit short and linear, but you could get some extra time out of it going for the trophies and challenges.  It's a very quirky and unique game (it is a Suda 51 game, after all) that I recommend if you like jumping around and stabbing things to death.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition (PSN) Review

Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition has been released on Amazon and on the Playstation Network, courtesy of Rising Star Games.  In this game, players take control of a pilot in the final days of the war between the Union and Empire.  If you played Sine Mora on a PS3 or Vita, one of the pilots in this game will look familiar...and so will their subweapon.  Enough of that, let's get to the review!

I like the graphics in Under Defeat.  There's good detail in the background and no jagged lines.  Animations are fluid.  Smoke and explosion effects are nicely rendered.  There is slowdown, however, which can be helpful and annoying.  Sometimes the smoke can cover enemies, making tightly packed groups a bit more dangerous than they should be.  One part in particular I like is when the second boss is defeated.  The boat explodes, splits in half and starts to sink.  As it begins to submerge, water comes down from the sky, launched up by the previous explosion.  It's just a cool detail that I really like.  While the graphics are good, they aren't super AAA-title great.  That's fine for me, since as long as it looks good enough and plays great, I'm happy.

As with most shooters, the music is just kind of there.  It's fitting, but only one piece sticks out for me.  The music for level 1-5 "Graveyard" starts pretty melodramatic and then quickly ramps up.  I'd advise turning down the sound effects if you want to hear the music since they can drown it out pretty quick.

The controls mostly follow the standard of one button = shoot and the other = bomb.  If you refrain from shooting for a few seconds, a meter fills and when you next fire, an "option" will appear and help for a few seconds (if not destroyed).  As far as I can tell, the power-ups that can be picked up only affect the option (except for the chopper with no option).  The option helps, but doesn't really stick around long enough to be much help.  When the option is needed most, it's hard to avoid shooting long enough.

Since the firing line of the helicopter is so narrow, you can change your angle of fire.  If you move to the side while not firing, the helicopter will turn and firing will lock at that angle.  If you ever played the jeep in the SNES game Firepower 2000, it is similar to that.  This allows the player to shoot a bit to either side, but it is far better and easier to turn on right stick firing.  Try it out, and you won't go back to the default method.

Looking at the trophy list, you can see that there are 10 levels.  This might not seem like a lot, but each stage is longer than you might think and with the default two continues, can take awhile to get through them all.  As with most plane shooters, replaying is key to learn the stages, get better and raise your score.  I'm still having fun going through the stages and improving.

Don't get killed staring at the pretty explosions.

There's two modes: New Order and Arcade.  Arcade has a smaller screen, but the bullets are slower and the game is a little easier (to me).  New Order is basically made to fill the screen, but it's not stretched-looking or anything bad like that.  It's just slightly changed so it is the aspect ratio as a television and not an arcade cabinet.  There  is an option to have the screen displayed on the side, so you can mimic an arcade cabinet if you can somehow rotate your TV.  Going through both modes obviously doubles the amount of stages, although there isn't much difference.  In addition, there are four playable helicopters to try out.  One of them gets no option, but the power-ups effect its shot, which is neat.

The physical release is an Amazon exclusive, and includes the game, soundtrack CD and digital artbook.  It is $30.  The digital release is the game by itself.  It is also $30.  Unless you really want the digital, I'd recommend the physical, since they cost the same and you get the nice extra stuff.

Being a retail game, there is a platinum to gain here.  Most will be blatantly obvious how to get them, but a few of the score ones are really vague (hint: keep your bombs for these).  There's a few for beating the game on hard difficulty.  This isn't quite as bad as it sounds, since playing will unlock more continues and you will get better at the game, to boot.  Playing long enough will unlock free play, making hard mode a lot easier.  Continuing will still send you back a bit, so you can't just smash your way through.  You will still need to learn to beat the bosses within 3 lives to advance, so free play isn't a free pass to beating the game.  There's also 2 player if you have a buddy that wants to help out.

If you're a fan of plane shooters (shmups), you will like Under Defeat HD: Deluxe Edition.  It's definitely my type of game, and a worthy addition to any shooter collection.  It's not a constant bullet hell billion points game, but it doesn't need to be.  The game isn't groundbreaking, but it's fun, and that's what counts.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Page Chronica Review

Thanks to Red Hare Studios, the Stay at Home Dad Gamer can bring you a review of Page Chronica, the new action platformer where you have to spell to win.

The graphics are nice in the game.  They are colorful and really set the tone for the game.  The intro looks like a storybook, which looks really nice.  In game cut-scenes have 3D models with dialogue that reminds me of some JRPGs I used to play.  Stages look different from each other and really stand out from each other.

Music in Page Chronica is nice and really fits each stage.  It's pretty good and there is a wide selection of music.  As an added bonus, CDs can be collected in the levels which will unlock the song to be played in the base camp.  I always appreciate unlockable music in games.

Playing Page Chronica is a whole different beast than looking and listening to it.  First off, you will notice that you have to enter spelling mode and make a word before you will be much use.  You cannot attack nor double jump until you have made a word.  Even then, you only get up to 15 attacks and maybe 30 seconds of double jump before you have to make another word.  I realize the whole point of the game is a platformer with spelling, but I'd really like the ability to stack attack #s and double jump time.  Instead, they overwrite each other.  So if you manage to get a powerful attack, you can't refill the uses, as another word will just overwrite it.  Dying will reset you back to the last checkpoint with no word score, attacks or power-ups.  Yuck.  Also, if you figure out how to get stronger attacks, other than making the special word (all the sparkling letters), please let me know, since the game won't tell me.

The next thing you may notice is the timer.  For whatever reason, the game is timed.  I guess to make you spell quickly.  You are ranked on this, which is fine, but why does it count down?  There's no given reason for the timer, it's just there to annoy the player.  The time I actually beat the first boss, I had 18 seconds left on the clock.  That was making two special words, hitting him with all of those attacks, and attacking him every time he was open.  That was on normal difficulty, too.  Way too strict for my tastes.

Now for the platforming.  Ask yourself if you enjoyed old school platformers that had death drops, downright cruel enemy placement and disappearing blocks (think Iceman's stage in Mega Man 1).  If you enjoyed those, then you'll be right at home.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, those are all there.  It feels like they took all cheap aspects of platforming games from the last 20 years and rolled them into one game.  Several times I've jumped up to a platform to find an enemy right on the ledge, giving them cheap damage.  Sometimes hazards such as appearing/disappearing spikes await with little to no warning, just adding to the unfair damage you endure.  Being careful would be ok if you didn't have the timer reminding you to rush through as fast as you can.  The HUD sits on the bottom of the screen, obscuring that portion.  This is an issue when you have to fall down to continue, since you might find a pit, enemy or other hazard.

One minor gripe I have is the end of level rankings.  You can get a gold, silver or bronze for your word score, time and overall score.  That's not what I have the problem with.  I want to see what time or score to shoot for to get the gold medals.  Pretty much just do your best and see what happens.  At least let me see what is required for the next medal so I know how much more I have to do.  Not game breaking, but it was annoying to me.  It would also be nice if after every level it asked if you wanted to continue or return to the hub world.  It's not major, but I would prefer to save the 30 seconds or so of loading when I don't need to waste that time.

On paper, there might not seem like many levels, but each has a fair bit of length, and you will likely die a few times while trying to navigate them.  Completionists will play levels several times to get all the dream feathers and music CDs.  Also, numerous level playthroughs will help getting the trophies for gold medal word scores and times.  All in all, a fair amount of content, if you are willing to stick around and go for it.

Surprisingly, there is multiplayer in this game.  I tried it out with my wife (side note: now she's mad at me), and there isn't much difference.  The biggest thing to note is entering spelling mode will not slow the game down.  Each player can spell a word, but share the same attack and power-up pool.  It seems as though only one player should bother spelling, and can quickly refill the number of attacks.  There is no indicator of where the player is if player two falls behind, so the game will eventually kill you and respawn you near player one.  So, the multiplayer is there, and functions somewhat, but isn't very good.

I really appreciate how unique the game is.  Spelling words to power up and replenish ammo is pretty cool.  Having to spell words to be able to attack every 10-15 times and to be able to double jump every thirty seconds is not.  If you are a platforming wiz and love the old school mean type of platforming, Page Chronica might just be what you want.  For the rest of us, I'd recommend skipping it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (DS) Quick Review

One of the games I snagged for cheap recently was Transformers: Dark of the Moon Decepticon version.  I've recently finished it and felt inclined to make a quick review for the game.  So, let's review and roll out!

The graphics look exactly like the first Transformers movie game for DS to me.  That is to say, there are textures pasted on  blocky 3D models.  I still think the DS is capable or more, but that isn't what's here.  The graphics get the job done, but they are not very good.  Backgrounds are sparse outside of the playable area, and buildings noticeably pop in and out of view while moving.

The few lines of dialog/story in this game are voice, which is a plus.  The music is just kind of there, it's not grating but not memorable at all, either.

Controlling the Transformer is a little wonky at first.  Since there is no second stick to aim, you make do with moving and using the L and R Buttons to strafe.  It took some getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, the controls worked fine.  One thing that always bugs me, you have to use the touch screen to do all of the menu options.  It's fine if that's in the game, but I always want the D-pad and buttons to work on them, too.  One sad note: changing into your alt form (vehicle) is useless in this game.  You don't ever need to do it and there is no good reason to.  When in vehicle form, you have to press a button to engage "stealth" mode where your guns come out and it would be impossible to blend in anywhere.  This is the only way to fire guns in the alt mode.  Sadly, even Megatron, who turns into his Revenge of the Fallen tank form, has to engage "stealth" mode to fire the cannon.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Decepticon version has only 12 missions.  They do get longer as you go farther in the game, but the longest is still less than 30 mins.  You don't really get much game for your buck.  It's also pretty easy, so you aren't going to die and have to restart much (if at all).  Each level has a few collectibles, but they aren't too hard to find once you know what to look for.  No characters are unlockable, either, but you can use any of the four playable ones on any mission once you beat the game.  Yay?  A person could beat the game and get all the upgrades/collectibles in a day without much effort.  There is multiplayer, but it is local only, so I wasn't able to try it out.

I paid $5 for the "special edition" that comes with the toy car.  Honestly, that was the best part of the purchase.  I don't regret buying the game, but I can't recommend anyone get it either.  It was more fun than the Xbox 360 version of the Dark of the Moon game I rented months ago, though.  If you really want a Transformers game on the DS, stick with the game of the first movie.  There was much more content and fun in that game.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon Decepticon version could be much better if there were more playable characters and levels.  Even adding a "challenge" mode or something (even though I'm not too fond of those) would have been better.  I'd recommend skipping this game, even if you are a die-hard Transformers fan like myself.  The toy car does look pretty cool, though.  Glad I bought the Decepticon version, since I'd be more unhappy having a Bumblebee toy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weekends of Ups and Downs

This weekend, as the title describes, had it moments, but also sucked really bad.  On Friday night, I finally beat the final urgent mission in Monster Hunter Tri (spoilers for those who check out my Youtube channel).  It wasn't by myself, of course.  I was playing with a fan of said videos and some of his buddies, and the four of us emerged victorious.  I didn't make a fool of myself, which was pretty good.  They were obviously much better at the fight than I was, but that will come with more experience with the monster.  Now only one monster left until I feel ready for MH3U!

The sad part of the weekend?  It was the close of City of Heroes later that night.  Despite having work early the next morning, I had to stay up and say goodbye to such a great game.  Figuring out which character to see the end with and where to do it was a hard decision.  Do I say goodbye with my first lv 50 hero?  My first lv 50 villain?  What about the first character I created?  What about the one I had the most fun with?  The one that didn't get his chance to shine?  In the end, I sadly passed up my scrapper, peacebringer, warshade and brute to go with my main villain, Gear Master J.

He was one of my first concepts, but probably my third created character.  I started with villains and on launch day made my first three characters instantly, mostly to get the names for the first two.  Well, actually my first character was created to get the global name I wanted, but I don't really count him.  Anyway, Gear Master was my first and only lv 50 villain, based a bit off of me, and was tons of fun.  So where should he see the end?  Most people gathered in Atlas Park, so I wouldn't want to go there.  Plus, I'm a villain, so I can't.  How about the villain starting or ending zone?  They aren't as memorable to me as some of the other zones.  Eventually, I decided upon Ouroboros.  The place deals with time travel, which is a subject I like, so why not?  Also most of the plot there revolves around "the coming storm", so it seemed very appropriate.  I used "/demorecord" to try and capture the final minutes, I'm just not sure how to view it yet.  I also took lots of pictures.

As midnight rolled around, many said there goodbyes and lamented the game getting killed.  It seems as though the servers were turned off one by one, since it took a few minutes for Guardian to go down for good.  For yucks I logged in real quick again, and was greeted with this sad sight.

Freedom, was apparently, the last to go.  As I've said time and time again, this was a sad time.  The game was really fun and there isn't anything that can fill the void it leaves.  The other two superhero MMOs just don't compare to the sheer amount of fun, creativity and content of City of Heroes.  I backed up all my characters with the Sentinel program, just in case there is a way to bring them back to life.  It's the comic way!  Still, I wish there was some way to get a single player/ LAN capable version of the game, as that would be perfect.  I'd easily buy one (two) if I could.  City of Heroes and Paragon studios, thank you again for the great game.  I hope to make a video about CoH in the near future.

Lastly, on Sunday I scored a spectacular deal on a handful of games.  Lack of money or not, I couldn't pass up the deal I got.  Thankfully, I'm getting some money for Christmas, so that pretty much went to this.  Basically, I scored a lot of games for about $5 each.  I guess we'll have a good Christmas after all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rental Review: WWE 13 (Xbox 360)

Again, thanks to Redbox, I had just over a day to review WWE 13 for Xbox 360.  Originally, I took part in a group review podcast of it, but it can't be edited.  According to @ChrizAkaTheMole, whenever he loads it into Movie Maker, he gets the "Blue Screen of Death".  So....I'll just write up my impressions instead.

The graphics still look pretty good, detailed and faithful to their real-life counterparts, but the models look very plastic-y to me when they get sweaty.  The crowd, however, looks better than ever.  The don't look like flat sprites or low polygon people.  Sure, they aren't near as detailed as the wrestlers, but they move at different rates and don't look like copies of each other as much as they used to.

The sound...well, honestly some of the commentary sounds like it was recorded in a tin can in the "Attitude Era" mode.  My fellow Xpounders feel that is intentional to get a "retro" feel, but it never sounded like that to me.  It just sounds horrible and sticks out like a sore thumb.  However, the lines for the in-match commentary feel less canned than previous years.

I'll admit that I kept getting confused with the controls.  They switch them slightly each year, and some things that switched the previous year didn't stick with me.  Probably because I only played WWE 12 for a day, same as this one.  Since it was a rental, there was no instruction book and I had to look up the controls in-game.  Even so, I fell into habits from games past and hit the wrong button occasionally.

Instead of "Road to Wrestlemania", the story mode this year is "Attitude Era".  I love what they tried to do here, having the player relive significant moments from the best era of professional wrestling.  It's also a bonus that they have actual audio and video from the time in the game (with the appropriate censoring of the F in WWF).  However, you must do every match in order.  They have them divided up into sections, but cannot jump to different sections, which I would have liked.  They also seemed to get difficult pretty fast, and made even harder that there is a laundry list of things to do in each match to unlock an extra (that may or may not be worth it).  It wasn't as bad as WWE 12's story mode, but it wasn't very fun for me.  I'll just stick to Exhibition.  Universe mode is back and I didn't really notice many upgrades.  There did seem to be a lack of automatic story lines, which I've heard they will address in a future patch.

Matches were still fun when playing as the characters I create.  I didn't have much time for story creator, and it wasn't like I could upload or download anything anyway.  Create a finisher is still solid.  There a lot of moves to set this year, and I almost felt like there were too many, since it took so long to set them all.  The entrance creator is still the same, and unfortunately still won't loop the music to fit the entrance if you pick longer animations.

All in all, there is a good amount of replay in just the story mode, boring as it is.  I had the most fun in exhibition matches, but probably not $60 fun.  I'm going to wait for a price drop like the last few years.  The game doesn't seem quite as buggy as last year, at least on the 360.  I have no interest in playing online, so there isn't much to comment on other that doing the 1 match for the achievement had some lag.  So, the servers are still pretty bad.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sine Mora (PSN) Review

Thanks to Grasshopper and Digital Reality, I can bring you another review!  This is Sine Mora, a time-bending bullet hell game that previously came out on the Xbox 360, now available on PSN for PS3 and Vita.

As we usually do, let us start with the graphics for Sine Mora.  The game looks great.  The settings are fantastical and detailed.  There's almost too much detail which makes me want to look at all the pretty stages.  I can't, since that gets you killed very quickly.  Enemy design is also top-notch, with lots of variety.  There's barely any pallet swaps, either.  Bosses are all huge, imposing and unique.  As an added plus, the artwork for the characters looks really cool, too.  Enemy bullets are many different colors, but this is a mixed blessing.  It can make it easier to see different shots, but sometimes they blend into the background.  That's really my only gripe with the visuals, all the rest is superb.

All the in-game lines and loading screen story bits are voiced.  I had to look around to see what language it was, since I had no idea (Hungarian, apparently).  So if you have little ones, the "strong language" and "sexual themes" would only be an issue if they can read (or speak Hungarian).  The music is also pretty nice. It's not too memorable, but it is fitting.

So how does the game play?  You can shoot (of course), fire a sub-weapon and use a "capsule" ability.  In the main story, the capsule ability allows you to slow down time, making it easier to dodge bullets.  The concept of bending and travelling through time is also present in the story, so this isn't a tacked-on ability, it makes sense in context.  When playing the non-story modes, you can pick a ship (affects the shot pattern), then a pilot (affects the sub-weapon), and finally the capsule ability (slow time, reflect bullets or rewind time).  It's really nice that there's lots of builds available, which means everyone can find a build that works best for them.  The ship moves pretty fast, but sometimes too fast for me.  The only way to travel slower is to slightly tilt the analog stick.  This works well, but is very hard to remember to do in the heat of battle (read: while dodging a massive amount of bullets).

There are "prettier" pictures, but I really like this one.

I'll say that the difficulty of the game is really where I have my gripe.  I like that whenever you are hit, you just lose time instead of health, which I think gives more leeway most times.  However, there are several parts when hitting something immediately results in death.  To me, they were unexpected and I was usually confused as to why I just died.  To illustrate, there was a part where I had to sneak through some pipes by hiding in trash.  I didn't realize that I had to literally be in the middle of the trash.  I didn't want to ram into it, since these games (and also this one) condition you not to touch things that aren't powerups.  So after a couple of continues down the drain, I just ran into the trash and was unharmed.  I was a bit grumpy to say the least.

Bullet spreads and effects can also be downright mean.  There are bullets that move at varying speeds, change direction, home in on your plane and even disappear.  The final parts of the game felt more like they were just trying to be jerks than making it harder.  The arcade and score attack modes don't even have a "normal" difficulty option, just "hard" and "insane".  Even the hard difficulty is ridiculous to me.  While I'm never the 1CC guy in these games, I'm usually the 2CC guy, if you want a point of reference.  I'm also hopelessly bad at the one challenge I have unlocked in Challenge mode.  As far as I've learned, you have to beat one to unlock the next, which I can't say I'm a fan of.  It would be nice to have multiple open so players aren't just stuck and can at least attempt others.  One last gripe:  I don't think there's any invincibility time after getting hit.  This is especially bad when trying to get your shot powerups back after getting hit.

Sine Mora's story mode can be beaten in a day, but it's lengthy for a bullet hell game.  The best part of the story is how detailed it is.  The whole world and civilizations have backstories to flesh the whole game out.  The game spins an interesting tale of revolution and revenge, but it can be really hard to follow.  As far as I can tell, there are two separate plots that the game jumps between as you progress through story mode.  It can be hard to keep everything straight with all the jumping around.  I'm sure I have a decent grasp of the plot, and I especially like the outcome of Koss' quest for revenge.

Someone actually claimed this wasn't a bullet hell game.  Sure, buddy.

If you look at the trophy list, you don't get an indication of how much work you have to put into the game to get them.  In-game there is a list of requirements for each one, and there is lots of stuff required to get them all.  Several of the requirements are going to stop all but the very best players.  As good as I am at bullet hell/ space shooters/ shoot em ups, I doubt I'll be getting many trophies for Sine Mora.  Definitely a lot of playtime for your money if you go for trophies or the insane Challenge mode.

There is also a Vita version, but unfortunately there is no cross-buy.  It would have been cool to have cross-buy for an extra $5 or so.  I have no idea if it's possible, but this would be nice to play the game a bit when on the go to work on the trophies or challenges.

As mentioned before, the game can get really hard.  However, if you are a fan of bullet hell/ "shmup" games (I really don't like that term), you should pick it up.  The game can get frustrating, but it is fun.  Mean, but fun.  The story is confusing, but it's probably not why you would play Sine Mora.  If you aren't a fan of bullet hell games, this one isn't likely to change your mind, but as said before, fans of the genre should give the demo a whirl.