Thursday, January 31, 2013

Terraria Coming Soon

I had heard of Terraria, but didn't pay it much heed since it was a PC game.  I don't have anything against PC games (just the elitist players), but I don't like playing on computers near as much as consoles.  So once it was announced that it was coming to Xbox 360 and PS3, I decided to check out the trailer and some screen shots.

So, it's a 16 bit looking, side scrolling action rpg/dungeon crawler/minecraft.
Yeah, I want to play this now.  According to the trailer, it has split screen play on HD TVs.  I think I can find a person to play it with around here...

It's supposed to come in "February".  We will see when exactly if February it comes out, and I'm hoping it's soon.  Here's hoping I can get a review out for it, too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires (Japanese Demo Impressions)

Being a big fan of Koei's -Warriors games, you had to know I would be looking forward to trying this.  I was hoping that it wouldn't be too hard to figure out, since it isn't in English (yet?).  I can read enough Japanese to muddle through most of the menus, but some of them were way beyond me.  It took me a bit to figure out English is written on the back of the menu icons, so that should help people with even less skill at the Japanese language than myself.

The menu starts on character edit, which is perfect since that's what I wanted to try first.  There are lots of options to make a character, but I still wanted more.  If more are purchasable/ unlockable in game, I would be very happy.  If more were released as DLC...I'd be less happy, but I might still bite on them.  I ended up making my character look like Miles Edgeworth from the Phoenix Wright games, and named him "Edgey".  You can change the character input to the English alphabet, so I actually named him that, not just an approximation.  I also tried to give him posh-looking robes to match his personality, since I couldn't get 'the ruffles' his suit is so famous for.

I fiddled with the stats, but wasn't sure what I set the growth type as.  At least it seemed like the growth type, but since it's a demo, it's not as important.  Next was picking a primary weapon type.  After looking through them all, I decided to try new ones, since I know what most of the others are like.  First up was the rapier with a dagger on a wire attached.  It was ok, I just seemed to drop the combos a lot.  Next up was a giant ring blade (which my buddy DTJAAAAM informs me is Ding Feng's new weapon) and it was ok, but didn't seem that good compared to the numerous others offered.  Third was a pool cue...which I think I tried in Warriors Orochi 3, I can't remember.  It was gimmicky since you could get multiple balls and it would make the attacks stronger/better.  It's ok, but not one I would be itching to use.  Last one I tried was....a canoe.  Seriously, it was a canoe.  My friend tells me it's Huang Gai's new weapon...and surprisingly, it rocks.  Several charge moves throw out a big wave and then ride it, meaning big areas of damage.  It was also stronger than I thought it would be, and hit big groups, so it's really good.  It looks ridiculous, but I'm probably going to put it on a character I make.  Seriously.

The hardest part of the demo was figuring out how to actually enter a battle.  When on the edit character select screen, press the Square Button and you can do the mock battle to try them out.  Sadly, I failed this mission the first time, since I wasn't paying attention to the time limit.  Good musous will help you kill the officers, but you have to know lots of kanji to figure out what each is without using it.  I just randomly assigned two each time.  When the NA version releases in a month or so, it will be much easier.  It's harder for me to play those games with Japanese dialogue, but I'll easily live with it if it means we get the game.  I'm hoping to review it too, so here's hoping Koei helps me out!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ebay's Great Logic

In an effort to get rid of some of my excess crap and get a few bucks in the process, I reluctantly put some more stuff on eBay.  I started using that site years ago, right as it started to skyrocket in popularity in 1998 (holy crap I feel old now).  I didn't use it much between 2003-2010, so I didn't really pay attention to all the changes it went through.  A little over a year ago I decided to use it to (again) sell some crap and make some money, and was startled at some of the things they had done.

You pretty much need a Paypal account to do anything there.  That was ok, since the wife and I have one.  Still a bit extreme, but I can deal with it.  I was annoyed after selling something that I had to wait so long to actually get my money.  "You need 10 positive transactions to get your money right away" was pretty much what it said.  Well, 10 transactions since they implemented this.  I guess the 100+ positive and no negatives (half of those from selling) counts for nothing.  It's pretty stupid, but sadly not the height of stupidity they have.  Also, you need to actually get 10 people to leave feedback.  One thing that bothers me is that there are more than a few people who don't even bother.  Most times they are buyers, and it isn't eBay's fault, just terrible human behavior.  It sucks just the same, though.

The honor of 'height of stupidity' belongs to the "maximum shipping" charge.  It's some BS rate that is close to what Amazon charges.  That's great if you are Amazon, but I wager most sellers aren't (weren't, since I'm sure many left the site), so...we just lose money.  My favorite part is even if you select "flat rate priority", the max you can put is based on the item, not on what the actual charge for flat rate shipping is.  So for a video game, you can only charge up to $4 shipping.  The flat rate is $5 and change.  It's not even an opinion at this point, but simple math proves how stupid that is.

Really, someone needs to step up and offer an alternative.  I wondered why I would hear of people leaving eBay a few years ago, and now that I've tried selling things recently, I can understand why.  It's stupid, and if something else came along, eBay would get destroyed.  I guess the only other choice is Craig's List, so I'll have to start there.  It's sad how the might have fallen.  Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, eBay was awesome.  Now they concentrate so hard on helping buyers that they will chase away the sellers.  I guess you don't need to sell stuff to have buyers...wait a minute.  Idiots.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

EX Troopers (Japanese Demo Impressions)

This game is basically the manga version of a Lost Planet game.  Sadly, it isn't coming to this country, since it was pretty fun.  As much as I liked the demo for Lost Planet 3, I don't like that we get that instead of EX Troopers.  This is a much more colorful game, and would have been a great Lost Planet 2 instead of the Lost Planet 2 that we did get.

I did think LP2 was ok, but this game seems much better.  I really like the manga style the game has, and the characters look cool.  It seems a lot more action packed than the first, but keeps some of the multiplayer component of the second.  It makes the playable people characters, though, so they aren't just some faceless mercenaries.  Plus you can wear Rathalos armor, which is always cool.  Sure, you could do that in Lost Planet 2, but only for the PS3, and unfortunately, that was not the version I had.

The controls are somewhat similar to the first two, but the jump button is now a dodge button.  This was fine for most parts of the demo, but on the boss the jump was sorely missed.  The boss is someone in one of the LP mechs, so it was pretty crazy fighting that on foot.  I hope the player gets a chance to pilot some of them, since they were lots of fun to ride in the first two games.  You can also jack the pilot out of the mech, which was pretty fun.  I'd like to play the full game, but it's not coming here.  Thankfully the PS3 is import-friendly, so I'm hoping to snag a cheap copy on ebay or something.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (PSP) Review

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is the sequel to the smash hit downloadable PSP game Corpse Party.  Thanks to XSEED Games, I can review it for you.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is like a "choose your own adventure" story in game form.  It starts off in the thick of things, quickly thrusting you into the story.  When a group of students get trapped in a hellish world, it is your job to try to help them.

Granted there isn't much motion in the game, but it looks really good.  I'm a fan of anime styles, so of course I like the look of the game.  Locations look tattered and creepy, although many of the hallway screens look the same or similar.  Most of the rooms you encounter are very distinct and very detailed, though.  The artists did a great job of making the rooms very unsettling, some of them containing several corpses or other forms of visceral matter.  When there are rooms labeled "Death Room" and "Body Pool", you know what to expect and won't be disappointed.  The scenery definitely sets the mood of the game.

The game follows the exploits of several students trying to escape and survive a decrepit, demolished school filled with malevolent spirits.  It's not a cheery game by any stretch of the imagination.  They will find items and other students that may help them escape the ever-shifting school and avoid whatever dark fate awaits them.  It's kinda depressing, since with all the bodies, you don't get the impression many people survive.  A few parts may make you uncomfortable, but I don't think it's too bad for a mature audience.

Each chapter opens up with lots of story to set up the main character you will guide through that part of the game.  These can get fairly long, but they do a great job of fleshing out the characters and giving them backstories.  There are lots of characters in the game as well, so there can be long sections of exposition.  One problem I had was you don't often see a good picture of who you are playing as, so it was hard to keep track of who I was and how they related to the other characters.  I unfortunately have not played the first Corpse Party, so I don't know what characters return and if they were covered in that game.  This is something I'm going to look into, since there is a very interesting story being told.

In a few of the chapters, the perspective switches and you control another character for a time.  You can usually tell this if your "Darkness" meter is at 0% and doesn't move.  Since I had some trouble picturing who I was playing as sometimes, this could be a little jarring.  I kind of wish that the separate people you played as each had a chapter so the player could piece together how they all intersect, but it's fine.  Playing as several characters has an upside, namely seeing Heavenly Host Elementary and its horrors from different perspectives.  Jumping characters also helps flesh out more of the people trapped there.

You should be so lucky, but it's no dream.

The game plays like part digital novel and part point and click adventure (think The Walking Dead).  In between the story parts, you control a character and make your way through the school in an attempt to survive.  There is lots of wandering, trying to find an item or run across a person to continue the story, and a few times I was a bit lost.  While it might be annoying, I liked it since it felt more realistic.  If you were trapped in an unfamiliar place, you would probably do lots of wandering, trying to find things or people that would help you escape, too.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is good.  I like playing it, although it would feel odd to say it was fun, given the atmosphere the game sets us in, it was fun to play.  There's also things to collect, namely student ID tags from the deceased and the different endings.  I felt weird, but I would get excited to see a body and get its ID tag, since I do like collecting in games.  I also would save a lot so I could try for the "wrong ends" in an attempt to get them all.  Another great thing: the game is on PSP (or Vita), so I can play without disturbing the little ones, since this game easily earns its M rating.

There are 7 chapters, and easily over 12 hours of playtime.  I recommend saving in several slots, so you don't get stuck and can mess around to get several endings.  I only had to restart a chapter once, but it was fine since you can easily fast forward through the dialogue and get back to where you need to go (a great function if you ask me).  There's also some good replayability, to collect things and replaying a chapter may give you insight that you missed the first time.  If you like lots of story, horror movies or even old school point and click adventures, I'd recommend getting Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.  It's creepy, scary and fun.  If you can, you should probably start with the first.  Headphones are also a great way to experience the game, although I'd say turn off the lights at your own risk...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Project X Zone Crosses Over?!

I was very excited when my friend told me that really cool looking SRPG Project X Zone was coming to North America.  And it wasn't his usual trick of it being a mobile game!

I read the official press release and sure enough, it's coming in the summer.  I'm ridiculously excited to play it, since it's one of three games that came out in Japan that I was sure wouldn't come here.  Since the 3DS is region locked (grrr...), I would have to buy a Japanese 3DS, and I certainly don't have money for that.  I figured it would be a pipe dream to play it, but no more!

It is very reminiscent of a PS2 game called Namco X Capcom, which was really fun.  I watched my friend play it, and eventually bought an import copy so my wife and I could play it.  The battle system was my favorite part of that game, and was excited to see a similar one in domestic release Super Robot Taisen: OG Saga.  Sure, it barely has robots, but the game is awesome.

The cast in Project X Zone is cool too.  Since I'm currently going through Gods Eater Burst, I'm pumped to see two characters from that game in here.  If the battle system of Namco X Capcom was my favorite part, the cast was a close second.  Project X Zone continues the tradition and has added characters from Sega and others to the mix.  Summer can't come quick enough now!  At some point, I'll have to have a review of it on the site, so look forward to that!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jak and Daxter (PS3 HD Collection) Impressions

I picked up the Jak and Daxter HD Collection for fairly cheap a few months back, and was hoping to get around to it one day.  I finally cracked it open a few days ago, and I've almost beaten the first one and recently started the second.  I figured I would throw out my impressions of the game, even though I'm sure most people won't agree with me.

The first game is pretty rough.  Not graphically, since it is an 11 year old game, I let that kind of stuff slide, HD or no.  I'm talking about most of the rest of it.  The camera is horrid.  I'm betting it's a holdover from the first release, since most (if not all) 3D games until recently had super crappy cameras.  It's still really frustrating and hard to use.  I don't like that right and left for the camera are reversed from what I like, but if I change that, then they are changed for the first person view too, which I not how I want.  So...stuck either way.

Really though, the platforming is what drives me crazy.  Jak has easily one of the worst double jumps in a game from recent memory.  You can only do the second jump during a certain part of the jump, and if you mistime the button, you get nothing, which probably dumps you into a pit.  I really, really, hate his double jump in Jak and Daxter.  I'm literally at the end of the game, I have to free the Green Sage (the last one, I may have the color wrong), and it's so annoying to jump up to where I have to free him, I stopped playing the game.  I just couldn't take it anymore.  The camera and the double jump tag team me something fierce, and I just moved onto the second game.  It's that bad for me.

There's a few other gripes, such as they don't really tell you any of Jak's abilities.  At one point Daxter commented that I should hit the logs from below, but I didn't figure out until later exactly how to do it (punch and quickly jump).  And it's not even the way you are supposed to do it (duck + punch).  I read an FAQ to learn there was a roll jump.  I don't want them to hold my hand, but I would like to know that these things are there (the tutorial for Jak II is much better in this regard).  These might be in the instruction booklet, but I've recently stopped reading those, since they cover the controls in the games most times, and companies have stopped making decent instruction booklets if they even include them at all.

Is there anything I do like in the game?  Yes.  I like collecting stuff, and it's really awesome that they have counters for every area so you can narrow down where you are missing stuff.  Even if it has loose controls, it's cool that you have several levels on the hover bike (although I don't like the platforming with it).  The game definitely has character, as the animations are good and Daxter, while annoying, is a great counterpart to silent Jak.  I'm particularly fond of the different animations when you acquire a Power Cell.

I know that the game is old, so a lot of these issues are legacy.  By that token, I expect most of the fans of this game have "nostalgia goggles".  I'm also not a big fan of platformers, so it's entirely possible that jumping fans may love this game.  It feels a lot like Super Mario 64, which is another game I don't like too much.  I think I like Jak and Daxter better, though.  The game also seems pretty short, since I got near the end in two or three days.  That would bother me a lot if I had bought (or played) the game when it came out.  Sometimes I do like shorter games, since I can get through the backlog faster, so it wasn't a problem for me, but would have been "back in the day".  So if you are a platformer fan, you will probably like this game, but I feel it didn't live up to its hype.  I've just started Jak II, and I'm hoping that ends up better.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Uncharted (PS3) Impressions

One of the things I wanted to do while the kids were away was finish off Uncharted.  I had started it...oh, 4 years ago or whenever it came out.  It was a game I didn't want to play around them, since you kill people and it looks kinda realistic.  It's a bit weird considering what I will play around them, but whatever.

I'll have to be honest and say I was kinda bored playing this.  I wanted to pick it back up and finish it off so I could play the second and try to get them both out of the old backlog.  I don't even think I got very far in it.  I'm at the part where I have to find Elena in some ruins after a plane crash.  I remember people saying it wasn't that long, so I was hoping to at least beat it and grab a chunk of trophies along the way.  Now, I'm not even sure I'll finish it, let alone get around to playing the second one.  I bought them both for really cheap and a few years ago, so I'm not going to miss sleep over not playing them.  Although if the second is a lot better than the first, I may just skip to that one.

The platforming is ok, but sometimes feels pretty loose.  Like the Assassin's Creed games, sometimes I jump in a direction I didn't want to.  Another small annoyance was not being able to turn.  When you press a different direction, Drake has to move a certain distance in that direction, meaning it's hard to change your facing without moving too much.  I will admit that the scenery in the game looks fantastic, and I see why that's the selling point.

Gunplay in Uncharted isn't that great to me either.  I think the platforming is better and more fun, since you get to check out the scenery.  Guys seem to take too many bullets, even on the normal setting, and of course they are near-robot accurate.  I don't really die that much, but I definitely get shot a lot while trying to line up shots.  They are also pretty good at running and ducking, which is nice from a realism standpoint, but annoying in a game.  It's not so much "frustrating" as it is "not fun", if that makes any sense.  I think I'll read up on the second to see what changed, and decide if I want to play that one from there.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (Japanese Demo Impressions)

I've had some time since downloading the Japanese demo of Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 (I believe it's Shin Hokuto Musou in Japanese).  So let's take a look at it and how it compares to the first one.

Off the bat, the game looks really similar.  The biggest difference is the new manga-like cut scenes, which are pretty neat.  I wish more of the cut scenes used it, though.  Any cut scenes in mid-level will just be regular cut scenes, which doesn't look as nice.  Granted, the manga ones look strange since they don't move, but it fits the origin of Fist of the North Star, so I'd like it most of the scenes were in the manga style.

If you've played the first Fist of the North Star or any of the Warriors games, you know how this will play.  Thankfully, they have made this one play more like the Warriors games and less like the first FotNS.  Yes, they are similar, but Ken's Rage 1 was a lot slower and most characters were good at 1 on 1 fighting, so fighting groups took way to long.  Kenshiro, who I felt was one of the worst characters in the first game is now really good.  His combos have been changed to have him hit larger groups of enemies.  Also, the game just plays faster and the musou attacks, which have sadly lost the kanji and name of the move at the end of the animation, are also faster, leading to a more action friendly game experience.  I can't wait to try the rest of the characters.

As mentioned before, the musou attacks have lost the kanji at the end, which was very Fist of the North Star.  It does make the fights faster, which is good, and they are still present at the end of the level, when it really matters (because it looks cool).  Also at the end of the level, the button sequence is now gone.  The only QTE is a single button press at the end.  I'm kind of glad they are gone, because it added stress to some of the harder fights.

There's a few other minor changes, such as you now open food and drink boxes instead of smashing them.  Characters cannot jump anymore, you get a dodge move that is hopefully better than the one in the first game.  The level up screen is different, but being in all Japanese, I'm not sure what I'm doing, so I'll have to wait until the domestic release.  Lastly, you only get one musou attack in the demo, so I don't know if you can still equip up to 4 of them, which was really nice.  I hope that stays.

As a fan of the Warriors games, I'm very much looking forward to Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 being released next month.  I enjoyed the first, but not as much as most of the rest of Koei's games.  Just seeing how they changed Kenshiro makes me excited to play the finished product.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Power Rangers Super Samurai Review

Thanks to Namco Bandai Games, the Stay at Home Dad Gamer (and son) can bring you a review of the Xbox 360 Kinect game, Power Rangers Super Samurai!

The best part of the visuals of Power Rangers Super Samurai is the function that puts you in the game.  The Kinect will use the image of the player and put it into the game and story.  It's not the best looking part, but it's a cool feature and my son really likes it.  It's also neat that to morph you have to draw the symbol (kanji) of the ranger you chose.  Then they attempt to put you into the Ranger's morph sequence, but I haven't had it place my face correctly yet.  It's not the most precise thing, but it's a nice idea for this type of game and one I'd like to see in similar games.  After certain parts of the game, you can take your picture with the Rangers, which my son adored.  You can also select things with voice commands, which worked really well for me.

The Rangers and monsters themselves look fine and are recognizable.  The stages you fight in are fairly bland, but honestly, that's true to the show.  You can only have so much detail when they take place in an abandoned factory, city street or grassy plains.  Some of the visual effects like explosions aren't very good, but the signature Ranger attacks look pretty cool.  When the monster grows to Mega Mode ("magic wand, make my monster grow!") and the Samurai Megazord forms and attacks, the game will show the scene from the TV show.  Thankfully, these are high definition reels, since they look really good on a 52" screen.  No compression blockiness here.  Also, all the people from the show supply their voice for the game, which is always a plus.  So all in all, the game looks and sounds faithful to the show.

The main mode of the game is Ranger Mode, which has the player picking a Ranger and going through 8 stages, usually ending in a Megazord battle.  The flow of most stages is the same: run through the level while fighting generic Mooger troops, fight the main monster and then fight the Mega Monster at the end in your Zord.  Attacking Mooger troops is pretty fun, but can get tiring since you have to attack to move forward.  Fighting the monster of the week involves more strategy, since you benefit from dodging the attacks correctly and counter attacking.  On both fights, it's fun to get your super attack and lay waste to some monsters.  Just like in the show, though, you have to use your signature attack to finish off the monster, so don't blow it before then (which I've done)!

Slashing all these guys will work out your "Ranger muscles".

The battles in the Samurai Megazord are a mixed bag though.  For the most part they operate like the regular battles, but this time the player is playing from the Zord's perspective.  It's not jarring, but it does seem slow to respond at times.  If you dodge a few of the monster's attacks, you can counter attack, which starts with lots of punching (which is fun) and then you have to do 2 swipes in a certain time frame.  The motion detection on these has been spotty at times, meaning you lose out on some damage.  This will touch a bit on playing with my son, but 2 player Zord battles were frustrating.  It seems like we both had to do the motion for it to activate.  Also, since my son is still small (he's only 5), it kept thinking that he was ducking, therefore our Mega Zord was constantly ducking, making it impossible to attack normally.  We had to dodge and counter attack to do any damage.  Playing single player, I didn't have that problem, but he did.  Readjusting the Kinect didn't seem to help him, either.  He should fair better when he's older (and taller).

In addition to Ranger Mode, there is also Training Mode.  These have the player mimicking a string of moves that the Rangers and Moogers do.  The first, Breaking Challenge, has short strings of moves that end with a chop to break blocks.  It's kind of fun, but 2 player on the first set (20 blocks) would have us do one set of moves, no blocks would appear, and then it would abruptly end.  I'm not sure why this happened.  The second, Ranger Training, has longer strings of moves, and at the higher levels can be quite a workout.  The third, Nighlok Training, has you mimic a Mooger.  This set is fairly difficult, because you do poses not in the other modes, and their is no voice telling you what the move is.  With the first two modes, the Ranger in front calls out what the move is, you don't get that luxury in Nighlok Mode.  I'm not sure if the new moves are the Mooger equivalent of Ranger moves, since they don't talk and mimicking the move as shown didn't give the impression that I had done it correctly.

The best part about the game is how much moving there is.  It's not so much like dancing games where you do a lot of leg work, but Power Rangers Super Samurai has lots of upper body movement.  Sure, you do some kicks, but there is a lot more punching and sword slashing than kicks.  There is a fair amount of jumping though.  It all adds up to lots of physical movement.  The days after playing it, I had some sore muscles from all the punching and slashing, so be careful from extended play sessions if you are "old" like me.  It is great activity for kids though, since they have the energy to burn.  It was really good to let my son run rampant in the game, jumping and punching to his heart's content.

The achievements aren't too bad for Power Rangers Super Samurai.  Be warned that there are a few that require two people, so if you might have to jump in there and help your kids out.  They are also spread across the modes, so you will be doing more than slaying monsters.  Several are specific from the show, like beating a monster with a certain Ranger.  Also, there are a few skill-based ones, like winning a fight without taking damage and similar things.  These can be harder than you might think, since the Kinect isn't as precise as a controller.  It doesn't seem like it would be too hard or time consuming for a kid to get lots of achievements if they so desire.

A few last bits before diving into my son playing the game.  First, the stages in Ranger Mode flow right into each other, making the player pause and select "exit" to either stop or do another part of the game.  The only reason I didn't like that was it is hard to find a stopping point without creating it yourself.  Doing several levels together can get kind of tiring.  Second, if someone walks in front of a person playing the game, it signs you out of the in-game profile, and you have to exit to the title screen to get it back.  You could keep playing, but then the points and badges you earn won't save.  This is sadly present in most Kinect games, but some don't react this harshly.  Of course, it's still better than how Seasame Street Kinect in that respect.  Lastly, there is lots of loading in this game.  I can understand loading for each stage or game, but it seems to take a long time to load anything, and it loads frequently.  My son actually remarked that it was taking a long time to load, which was surprising.

First Person Zord Action

Observing the 5 year old:
So how did my 5 year old fare in the game?  First off, he really loved playing the game.  He's a fan of Power Rangers, so he loved being able to "fight the bad guys" like they do.  The Kinect sometimes has trouble tracking him, since he's still pretty small.  When both of us are on at the same time, it's a pretty big size difference, which didn't interfere as much as I thought it would.  Together, the only really hard part was the Megazord battles, since it seems you both have to do the motions for it to actually do it, and the game thinking we were constantly ducking.  He also had difficulties doing the finishing moves, so it took him some time to beat the main monster of the stage.  Thankfully, when you lose all your health, you can punch a lot to get back up, which he did just fine.  He didn't quite understand how to fight the big monsters at the end, since he wasn't very quick at dodging the correct direction.

Training Mode was a different story.  Since you can't fail, he did pretty well at it.  He did several of the Breaking Challenges before moving on to Ranger Training.  This was the mode he did best in.  He's pretty good at mimicking moves, and while a bit slow on doing them, that's ok in this mode.  He played this for a lot longer than I could, since he has all that energy.  He may have been frustrated from getting hit a lot in the Megazord battles, but there was none of that in Ranger Training.

Since the tracking seemed pretty spotty for a 5 year old, I'd recommend the game for kids a little older, say 7 or 8+.  If you have a kid that's a fan of Power Rangers (or are one yourself!) and have an Xbox 360 with Kinect, they will probably like playing the game.  It wasn't the best experience for me, but it is a pretty decent workout for the upper body.  People might go through Ranger Mode pretty quickly, but with lots of unlockable badges, there is incentive to come back and keep playing.  It also lets the kids burn off some of that energy they have to run around the house.  Go Go Samurai!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Shadows of the Damned Impressions

Another of the games I played during my "vacation" was Shadows of the Damned, so I might as well share what I thought about the game.

Shadows of the Damned
It is a shame that this game was largely ignored by the masses.  It's a competent shooter, but has lots of unique elements that set it apart.  The setting and plot are fairly different from most things out there, but I  really like how immature it is.  Lots of sex jokes and the like.  Main character Garcia Hotspur is joined by his demonic companion, a floating skull that reminds me of Bob from the Dresden series of books.  Johnson, as it is named, is your torch to see in the dark (and can be swung like a weapon) and gun.  He can transform into many different forms, with the most notable being the different firearms you use in the game.  It's not revolutionary, but I think it's really cool.  Plus, the ammo for each gun is different bones.  Skulls power the shotgun, bones for the pistol and teeth for the machine gun.  Another cool idea that just sells the whole game.

It's pretty fun, sometimes frantic and occasionally gross.  I guess to be "The Underworld" you have to have lots of blood, guts and bones everywhere.  It doesn't bother me, it's just kinda strange looking to see fairly normal streets and building with random globs of flesh in corners and other things of that nature.  The placement is so random that it feels a little disjointed.  I think the two elements could be blended together better.  Of course, that might be the intention of the art, I don't know for sure.

The frantic part is when you encounter areas of darkness.  Garcia can't survive in them for long (it will drain his health after awhile.  These sections usually have you running through them or finding a light source (goat head) to hit with your "light shot" and banish the darkness away.  The annoying part is getting lost in there or having to deal with enemies while traversing it.  Mainly they both cost time that you don't have, and end up costing health.  It's not gamebreaking, but can get a bit tedious at times, especially when you are stopping enemies from creating it while battling others.  Boss weaknesses or puzzle switches can also be seen from the darkness, which is a very videogame thing to do; "hit the big glowing ball and you can move on".  I'm ok with it here since the game doesn't take itself seriously anyway.

Garcia drinks alcohol to recover health (a mechanic explained in the game), which while not the best idea, at least fits the theme of the game.  Shadows of the Damned is a very interesting game, and I also had a few chuckles at the humor.  When I feel like playing a 3rd person shooter again, I'll likely start back here.  Looking at the art style for the loading screens...I wonder if that became Black Knight Sword?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bloodforge Impressions

I snagged this the last time it was on sale in the beginning of November or so.  I had tried the demo and liked it since it was a fun action hack-n-slash with a striking art style (very dark characters with very light scenery).      It's pretty fun, although it has some downsides.  I like that the roll is very responsive and a helpful move.  I don't like that it's your only means of avoiding damage.  Having a block would have been nice.  Also, the camera stays too low to the ground during fights, making it harder to fight guys than it should be.  Yes, you can move it, but it has one of those auto-correcting cameras that will move back to where it wants to be instead of where you move it to.  Yuck.  Also, the magic is ok, but doesn't seem worth the cost.  You can also use your mana for powered strikes, but they don't seem that good.  I guess that makes it easier to spend the mana on spells.

I'm still having fun playing it so far, but I don't like that you have to have a friend that beat the game to enable the Blood Duels, which has a few achievements attached to it.  I won't likely get those since only one of my friends has the game and isn't as far as me.  It's not the end of the world (that was the 21st, right?), but it irks me when the have achievements that rely on lot of people playing a game when that isn't likely in today's age unless you are a AAA blockbuster title.  One last thing that bothers me is the massive file size of the game.  It's 1.9 GB, which I think is ridiculously large for a downloadable arcade game.  I do like the game, so I will eventually finish it.  It's probably not that long, which is nice when trying to smash through the backlog.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Japanese PSN Demos!

I finally got around to making a Japanese PSN account to try some demos and games they get but we (North America) don't.  I downloaded and installed Dynasty Warriors 6 (7 for us) Empires, Hokuto Musou 2 (Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2) and EX Troopers.  As far as I've heard, the first two are actually coming to NA, and digital only, too.  Here's hoping they are good.

Oh, and a pretty cool Hyperdimension Neptunia V theme.  I hope it comes here when the game does.  It's basically similar to the Mk2 one, but with updated characters.

In the next few days I'm going to try the demos, and I'll put up some impressions of them.  Good thing I still remember some Japanese, although I don't think it will help that much...

Also, I'm excited that in the next few days I should have review.  You might be surprised what it is!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Retro City Rampage (XBLA) Review

The XBLA release of Retro City Rampage is the post-patch PSN and Steam release, and since there were quite a few changes, I think it warrants a new review.  If you are just interested in how this version stacks up to the other release, I'll put that toward the end of the review.

I actually still like sprites, so the 8-bit look of Retro City Rampage is great.  There's lots of nostalgia packed into the game, from the look to the music.  Despite being retro and blocky looking, you can actually tell things apart, so it won't interfere in the game.  The in-game "cut scenes" look just as awesome as ones from the NES era.  There's also tons of detail crammed into just about every inch of the game.  Numerous references to games, TV shows and movies are all over the place, and I love it.  I'm a sucker for things like that, so I had fun just driving around looking at all the in-jokes and references.  The old school soundtrack that easily fits the theme of the game and sounded great as I drove around staring at all the billboards like a camera-happy tourist.  One more note about the look is the ability to change the filter on the screen to make it look more like an NES game, Atari game, or even a Gameboy!  Such a small touch shows lots of care, and I think it's really neat.

Controlling the character works really well.  Running, jumping and shooting all work fine.  Personally, I find shooting with the right analog stick to be much better, but the lock on function is really helpful in some circumstances.  I sometimes have problems lining up the stomp on people, but that's just because of the view and my lack of practice.  Switching the driving to automatic made it so much better and easier for me.  The other way was too disorienting to me and made it harder than it had to be.

There are 62 missions, which includes story missions, side missions and lots of collectibles (my favorite being the invisible walls).  The missions are sometimes short, but with lots of them, you will be kept busy.  In case you just want to mess around in the game, there is a Free Roaming Mode.  This is really something I would like in the Grand Theft Auto games.  You are given max money and can just run around and do whatever with no real repercussions.  You could do that in story mode, but would end up losing lots of money in the process.  Plus, you can play as different characters in Free Roaming Mode, including Steve from Minecraft, which makes all the citizens have big block heads.  It's two, two, two references in one!

Story missions start off easy, but can get pretty challenging.  Thankfully, there are checkpoints to ease most frustrations.  The side missions tend to be harder than some of the story missions.  Being that there are so many references, there are several missions that will make fun of annoying mission types in other games by...making you do them here.  It's a slippery slope making people do it in an attempt to say "this is annoying, huh?", and it has mixed results in Retro City Rampage.  Some people are going to hate them, and the rest will tolerate it.  Honestly, I'm not sure any game can pull off that kind of reference, since there is a reason people dislike doing missions like escorts, tailing and fetch quests.  A lot of the humor in this game will be hit or miss, but I, for one, am a fan.

Hey, I wonder if the Konami Code works, too?

Each weapon you wield in Retro City Rampage has a challenge mission associated with it.  These can be found on the map and also done from the main menu (once you have found the weapon).  Depending on the weapon, I found them moderately to very challenging.  I am pretty good with the rocket launcher and uzi, but I am absolutely terrible with thrown weapons like grenades and dynamite, and most of the melee weapons (because of the range).  There is an achievement for getting a gold medal in all of these and the secondary sprees, which will require lots of skill or a fair share of luck.  Secondary sprees range from using the power ups for kills to getting air time with the rocket launcher, and are more varied than the primary ones.  The best part while doing these sprees is the progress bar at the top of the screen.  It allows you to see how close (or far) you are from getting the gold.  A small touch, but very helpful to me.

As mentioned before, there is an achievement for getting all golds in the sprees, which can take awhile.  You get one for beating story mode and one for getting all the collectibles.  There are several luck/skill ones, like hitting 4 people with 1 shotgun shot, running over 25 people in a row, and knocking one poor chump off his/her bike into another person on a bike.  One that I found fun was avoiding the cops for one minute, on foot and maximum threat without taking damage.  It involved lots of jumping, that's for sure, but the hardest part was surviving to max threat.  A good mix of completion achievements and extraneous ones.

So, what all changed from the previous release?  For one, some of the more annoying/ difficult parts of the game were made slightly easier or more forgiving.  One that I noticed was the dreaded "throw dynamite at cars mission", which stopped me in the PS3 release.  The number of cars to destroy was lowered, making it much less painful to do.  To keep the balance, the side missions were made slightly more difficult.  This I also noticed rather quickly, since I actually died on one of the early ones.  I still beat it, but it was harder than it was previously.  Whether or not the creator liked changing up the difficulties, I ultimately think it was for the better.  It made it easier to complete the story (but not too easy) and harder to do the optional stuff, which I think makes sense.

All in all, I had fun playing Retro City Rampage.  If you played games or grew up in the 80s and 90s, at least give the demo a shot.  This game is so chock full of references, you have to try hard to not find one.  I find most of its humor spot on, and I love all the nods to pop culture from my childhood.  It really does feel like someone took VH1's "I love the 80s", put it in a blender, and poured it into this game.  It's crazy to know that one guy made this game by himself (except for the music).  Give it a try, you might be surprised how much fun it is!