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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Final Night of Paragon City

Well, tonight is the final night that one can spend in Paragon City.  City of Heroes (don't forget the Villains) will close for good.  It's still sad, the more I think about it, that it will end.  I knew that going in to the game (as I do with any MMO), but it still sucks.  I'm grabbing my last screenshots and demorecordings, playing until the lights go off.  Actually, I'm staying up late just to see it through.  I'll be really tired at work tomorrow, but it will be worth it.  City is worth it.  Once the end has happened, I'll compose more of my thoughts into more posts, and I'm hoping to make a video of them.  It's the least I could do for a game with still the best character creator and level up customization that will cease to be.  As I've said before, it's terrible that this happens to any game.  How can it be classic if no one else can experience it?

All I can do is stand tall and face the coming storm...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clan of Champions Review

Once again, thanks to NIS America, I can bring you another review, this time of the PSN game Clan of Champions.  In this game, players will take on the role of a mercenary for the king and root out the evil in an ancient ruin.

Graphically, the game is fairly standard.  There's some good detail on some of the equipment like rust, dirt and such.  There is also a good variety of armor and weapon designs, which is a plus.  However, there are not many different stage designs.  You will see similar courtyards and stone hallways several times while progressing through the game.  In a similar vein, there aren't many enemy types, just the three playable races and skeletons.  Though in a nice touch, enemies will have cuts on their bodies when you damage them.  There's also lots of blood, especially when you damage and enemy near a wall, and leave huge splotches of blood on them.  Thankfully, the skeleton enemies don't leave them, though.

There are no voices in the game.  Well, unless you count the assorted grunts and moans as voices.  All of the story is told through text on the quest descriptions.  While it's nice that it so optional to read the plot, I fear most players will miss it and think it's not there.  There's not much music, and some of the battle music reminds me of God of War.

The battle system takes a bit to get used to.  If you have played the PSP game "Gladiator Begins", then you'll know how this works.  You can attack high (triangle), middle (square) and low (X).  There are three different styles: sword & shield, dual wield and close combat (fist weapons).  Each has different strengths and weaknesses and can combo the attack heights a different number of times.  For example, the close combat style can chain attack high three times, mid two times, and low once.  Most times I wish that you could chain more attacks together.  There's also a roll/dodge move, but it provides no invincibility (as far as I can tell).  The enemy AI is expert at rolling and will frequently use it to escape constant attacking.  The few times I need it, it doesn't seem near as helpful as theirs.  I don't know if they actually have a different roll, or if their agility score is higher than it should be.

What really sets this game apart is how armor and damage are treated.  Armor on different body parts takes damage instead of the player's health bar.  After sustaining enough damage, the armor will be knocked off (shield or helmet) or outright broken (chest, arm and leg armor), which allows characters to take damage in the exposed region.  It's fun to start wailing on a poor sap and shatter his (or her) armor so you can do some actual damage to them.  Head attacks do the most damage, but helmets can be picked up again, so sometimes the best bet is to break the chest armor.  Personally, going for lots of head attacks works more often than not, so I stick with that.

The only thing more painful than the cuts is using bactine on them later.

However, the same thing can happen to you if you aren't careful.  Thankfully, equipment is not permanently gone, even if broken or pilfered by the enemies.  Yes, pilfered because equipment on the ground can be picked up by anybody.  This makes battles can be very fluid, but annoying when an enemy grabs your nice helmet or weapon.  The only time this was a huge problem to me was the second to last level.  While fighting the target, up to 4 skeletons at a time can  join in to fight you.  They also spawn in with no equipment, so they can steal anything you or your team drops.  At first I thought the game was nice for spawning naked skeletons so they wouldn't be too hard to kill, but soon realized that it was worse for them to have nothing.

I suspect there are nuances to the combat system that I just don't understand.  The in-game tutorial is fairly basic.  I couldn't find any info for mastering the combat.  Sometimes and enemy seems to counter attack (and are not using the skill that does this), as if there was a parry move of some sort.  They also seem very adept at rolling out of harm's way, but I can rarely pull that off.  Several times they get in a shot on me and I stagger back while being completely open to their teammate's barrages.  Whenever I am double or triple teaming an opponent, my hitbox seems to push me to the side while my AI just gets in my way.  Also, some of the "boss" characters have ridiculously high agility, strength and equipment durability.  Later in the game, they are capable of destroying your at-level armor with a few hits.  It's frustrating to get completely destroyed by the computer because they block, then counter, then unload on you while you stagger and you can't roll or block your way out.

Most level ups for the different styles will unlock an attack skill that you can map to the controller or a passive that you can equip.  There are lots of different attack skills, magic spells and passive skills that you can unlock in the game.  When you first make your character, you get bonus stat points to customize them, but these are unfortunately the only time you can upgrade your stats without passive skills.  Most attack skills are useful, but all are fairly mundane.  They are meant to be somewhat realistic, so you don't shoot giant beams from your sword or crack the earth at your feet to attack.  The magic spells are what will give the battles flair.  I especially like the ones that give your attacks elemental effects, so you can do damage through the enemies' armor.  There are lots of spells and skills to collect, and trophies accordingly.

He's not The Rock, but he sure is electrifying.

There are 24 stages in the game, and completing one will open the next.  Each stage can be done on 4 different difficulties.  It would be nice if beating a stage would open it on all difficulties, but they don't.  So, to get all the trophies, you have to do each stage 4 times, for a total of 96 stages.  There's also 3 different weapon styles to level up and lots of gear to collect.  This ensures that my completionsit nature kicks in and plays stages many times to stock the store with all the equipment.  There's a lot of stuff to do, but it is still grinding.  The stages are fairly short, though, which is nice for replaying them.

First off, I was surprised the game had a platinum.  Well, since my friend claims there was supposed to be a disc version for the Xbox 360, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.  Most of the list is pretty standard, as you will have to beat all missions, on all difficulties, and get high ranks on them.  You'll need to max out your levels and sell lots of things to the shop.  Unfortunately, there's a few trophies for playing multiplayer (co-op and versus), but finding a game is near impossible.  After sitting in a lobby for awhile, I got one person, but it would boot one of us when trying to start the level.  I attempted it a few times to no avail.  Admittedly, I have little desire to play versus, but I would try it out if I found anyone in those lobbies.  It would be much more fun to play the game with actual players, since the teammate AI isn't too great.  They have their moments, though.

While the levels are short, you are meant to do them several times to get more money, experience and equipment.  So even though you grind a lot in the game, it doesn't feel very tedious to me, since the levels are short and you get stuff fairly quickly.  I don't know how fun it will be to do all levels on 4 different difficulties, but I would certainly try if I could find some co-op lobbies.  The game is very average on all counts, but I still had fun playing it.  If you want to spend the $30, Clan of Champions is a decent game to play in short bursts or when you have some extra time.  If I can ever get into a multiplayer co-op or versus game, I'll of course put an update here on my blog.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's a Hard Lock Life

My friend recently picked up his WiiU preorder, and wanted to play Nintendo Land with him to try it out.  He at least updated the system so I didn't have to sit there for 5 hours while that happened.  On a side note, the "menu" screen looks like an absolute mess.  It's safe to say I'm not a fan of that.  Anyway, he popped in the disc and we...proceeded to sit there for another 20+ mins while that updated.

So we booted up the game and....sat there while the ever helpful "Monita" talked in small, slow sentences so we could understand her and told us all about Nintendo Land instead of letting us pick a game to play.  After that was done, my buddy wandered over to the Metroid mini-game so we could get started.  I figured he would start with the Legend of Zelda one, but I guess he wanted to be nice and try Metroid first.

We accidentally did the ship vs. people multiplayer, so after a round of that, we quit to do the co-op one.  After going through the controls again, we started it up.  While hard on my wrist (my friend puts his sensor bar in a terrible location), it was kinda fun.  After 3 rounds we decided to switch ship and ground so we could try the other.  Right as we went to start the round...the system hard locked on us.  Yeah, buzzing sound and all.  Ouch.  Since I'm sure something as basic as this was tested (despite only really promoting their friends there, yeah, still bitter), it must have been the system.

After unplugging the machine to get it to reboot, we again started Nintendo Land.  Again Monita came around to ensure we couldn't just play the game we wanted and explained about the train that would I guess take us around the 1 screen park.  I say "I guess" because I didn't really care and just wanted to skip her talking to me.  As I had the gamepad, I just started jumping while she was showing the train.

Can you guess what happened next?

Hard lock.  Again.  So...we assume the WiiU/ Monita doesn't want us to actually play the game and called it a night.  I think they obviously hired the wrong people.  My wife thinks they must have partnered with Bethesda.  Either way, not a good way to show off your new system, especially when it has barely been out a week.  Why did I want one of those again?

Oh, right.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I've Got Some Great Friends

While I was working the other day, one of my friends from one of my older jobs stopped by.  He's also friends with the store manager of my work.  He mentioned that he wanted to play Fear 3 with me, but of course I don't have the game.  It was on sale a few weeks ago on Gamefly, but I didn't know that my 3 buddies had it and would want to play it with me.  Instead of just letting me be poor, my buddy ran over to Gamestop and bought me a copy.  Damn, my friends are cool.  The horde mode called "Contractions" is really fun.  I've come to the conclusion from this, Gears 3 and Warhammer 40K that I really like the co-op horde modes against waves of enemies.  Thankfully the concept caught on, so it tends to be in several games.  It's a lot better than arena fights, even though they are painfully similar.

While working on Thanksgiving day, one game at our store had a game I wanted on sale for $5 (Shadows of the Damned).  Great price, so I was going to get it.  My other friend set it aside for me, but surprised me by buying it with his other stuff and gave it to me.  Again, I have some great friends.

I've got another game to review, called Sine Mora.  I'll get that review up soon after my Clan of Champions one.  Just another busy week around my house!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coming Soon- Review of Clan of Champions

I'll be working in the morning tomorrow, which is strangely ok with me.  Thanksgiving is all about eating, which I do in the afternoon anyway.  I'm not interested in the sports or parades, so I just play games, which is just like every other day.  I don't get any bonus for working holidays yet, which kinda sucks, but I can deal.  I'm also working for a few hours in the morning of Black Friday.  I've done it before at other stores, so I reasonably know what to expect, but who knows what kind of craziness will happen?  Although I will have to find a bit of time to buy Borderlands 2 while it's on sale for Black Friday so the missus and I can have a good Christmas gift this year.

Another bit of good news is that I have a review copy of Clan of Champions, so I'll have a review of that in a few days!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Retro City Rampage Update?

I just got an email that there is an update to Retro City Rampage.  I'm sure to check that out soon and see what it improved (or un-improved ).  Also the upcoming 360 and WiiWare versions are going to have that update day 1, but still no release date for those.

Other than that, I tried out the Epic Mickey 2 demo.  It was kind of fun.  However, my son really took an interest in it and kept hassling me to play the demo.  I let him play it yesterday, and he absolutely loves it.  I'm not even sure he got anywhere, but he played it for over an hour and a half.  I'm going to try and get a review copy so I can try it out with him (there is 2 player), as long as he does his homework.  Don't look at me like that, I'm have some responsibility.

It's also kind of cool that I have some fans of my Monster Hunter videos, and got a lot of hits (to me) for my post about MHU3.  I must redouble my efforts to get  a WiiU and a copy of the game so I can continue my videos of playing it online.  Oh, I'll also want a better capture unit, the old Gamebridge doesn't do HD, but it does get the job done.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

We're still a few months out, but I am really hoping I can play some Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate when it comes out in March.  I hope I can get a review copy, because it's going to be hard enough saving my pennies to get a Wii U.  I'm not sold on the system, but my Monster Hunter buddies are apparently getting one (mostly for MH3U), so....I guess I'm getting one too.  I don't know where I'm going to get the money for one, let alone both.  I did plan on eventually getting the 3DS version, since I have one of those.  I'm also still sore about the 3DS' price drop, hence my trepidation about buying the Wii U near launch.

It does look really nice though.  While Tri looked ok, it was definitely a little muddy-looking, so I'm really digging the HD graphics.  I'll deal with Jinouga being Zinogre, although I'm not fully sold on that, either.  "The replacement for Gobul" and "Hammer Tail" are two names that I really want to see the official English names for.  Regardless, I am very much looking forward to the game when it releases.  Even though it will have Deviljho and "dat tail".

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 Review

Hyperdimension Neptunia, the game about the gaming industry.  The first had a great concept, but had a fundamental flaw in the battle system (healing was terrible).  Will the sequel improve the game, elevating it to the highest of RPGs?  Thanks to NIS, we will now find out.

The characters and locations are done in the anime style, so if you like that (as I do), you will like the graphics.  Most cut-scenes use the 3D model of the characters instead of the HD sprite version.  I'd prefer the sprite version, but the 3D models look good enough that it's not really a problem.  Many times during cut-scenes characters that are talking don't always appear as one of the two characters that are animated on-screen.  It's a strange choice more than an annoyance, but I did notice it.  One thing that surprised me: most enemies I haven't seen in another game except the returning ones from the first.  There was a period where most Compile Heart (if you didn't know who Compa was representing, now you know) games all had similar enemies, and I'm glad they included lots of new ones here.

The dungeons can be a little sparse, though.  Especially the plains and the abandoned factory just have areas to run around in, but not much detail or atmosphere to them.  Some others are full of color and character.  I personally like the Tetris-inspired one.  A few of them remind me of Phantasy Star Online, and given the main character, I wonder if it's intentional.  Also, occasionally when running around the dungeon, the frame rate seems low.  It's not as though it drops or is choppy, it just doesn't look smooth.  That's admittedly a minor complaint.  Since I am reviewing the download version, it may not be an issue on the retail release.

The English voices sound fine to me in this game.  Compa, IF and the other returning characters have the same voice actors (even if some change pitch/tone), which is really nice when coming off a previous game.  While many purists will change it to Japanese, the English VAs do a good job.  The music is also decent, if forgettable.  Unfortunately, I haven't run across my favorite track from the first game, which was used in the tutorial dungeon.


It will be hard for me to talk about how this game plays without comparing it to the first one, so bear with me.  Last time, it was old school party vs. monsters, turn based combat.  This time there is movement in combat, allowing good placement and strategy to help kill multiple monsters or beat a strong foe.  If you've played Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, it's kinda like that.  A thing that bothered me was enemy attack ranges.  They seemed to have much bigger attack range and area (these aren't displayed for enemies) than anyone in my party.  They also had lots of turns in a row, making them pretty fast.  While they usually couldn't get in as many attacks as my characters could, it rarely felt like I had an advantage.

How about actually attacking?  Each attack takes a certain amount of AP, and the attack chains are chosen by the player and can be customized slightly in the menu.  You also build up SP which, allows special attacks, healing, and transforming into the CPU form.  This is gained from actually attacking, while AP is given each turn.  It's a lot of numbers to keep track of, but as I say, the more numbers you give an RPG player, the happier they'll be (probably).  Combat is fun and I like making my own combos even though I usually stick to the special "EX" ones for the extra damage.

If my explanation wasn't good enough, here's some pictures to help out.

Now for the real test...can you heal outside of battle, or even control it in battle?  YES!  Thankfully, you can use items to heal in and out of battle.  While it takes certain amounts of AP to use an item, it's miles beyond the system from the previous game, which is why my wife and I didn't finish it.  Compa (and others in a limited capacity) can heal people, making battles less tense.  Honestly, the change to healing alone is enough for me to recommend this game to anyone disappointed in the first.

The main game can run about 35+ hours for a first run.  Dungeons aren't very big and can be run through rather quickly.  This is good for playing quickly, but not as engrossing as lots of other RPGs.  There are multiple endings, but thankfully "New Game +" saves the day here.  Keeping all your stats allows you to run through the game multiple times fairly quickly if you want to get all the endings.  So even if you consider the first run a little short, there's replay value with the multiple endings.  Admittedly, I don't always have time to play through an RPG multiple times, but New Game + makes that less of an issue when I'm ready to jump back in.

The plot of this game, while not serious, is very funny to me.  Last time, it was a parody of the console wars and their fight against piracy (the enemies are called Arfoire).  This time, it's up to the handhelds to band together and again combat piracy.  One thing I love doing in each new dungeon is see what new enemies there are and what they were "inspired" by.  For example, there's a suspicious green pipe, a doctor's polygon head, and groups of four blocks whose names are all anagrams of "Tetris".  I really like parodies, and the ones in this game make me smile.

What about DLC?  There is a bunch on the Playstation Store, and some of it is free.  Obviously, grab the free ones, since they tend to be new dungeons and battles and such.  Most of the paid ones are costumes for the characters, which you can grab if you want to, but are ultimately skippable.  Before you buy, I'd check for pictures of them so you know what it is you are buying, since there is no picture, just a description.  The last two pieces of DLC (and maybe the best) are the added characters.  I'm hoping to get them soon, since they aren't too expensive ($3 each) and you get new characters to use in battle.  Personally I want Cave since I really like their side-scrolling shooters.  I'd also want to add on her death smile costume, because I like that game.

You thought I was kidding.

The Trophies this time aren't that bad.  The most tedious would be getting all the different CG Images (most are automatic) and all the endings.  There's not really any that you would have to plan out your entire playthrough, and New Game + makes getting all the endings and any missables relatively painless.

One last, and (to me) massively cool thing.  You can download a template to make your own skin for Nepgear in her CPU form!  Way better than making your own summon from the first game, this is a great addition that I wish more games could use.  If you don't want to take the time to make your own, there are many to download that others have made.  Be warned that some are NSFW (or NSF children, either).  Thankfully, the really good ones are also tasteful.

Even though I was doing a bit of grinding after each plot point before the next, I was having fun doing it.  The battle system is more fun than the first, and that really improves the experience.  One warning though: they don't really cover what happened in the first game, so you will have to research it or piece it together if you haven't played the first Hyperdimension Neptunia.  Nonetheless, I like this one over the first by a good margin.  If you like JRPGs, check it out to (re)live the imaginary wars the handheld consoles went through to battle piracy.  If you can't track down a disk copy, you can now buy it from PSN directly.  If you plan to take your time and get a few endings, it's worth the asking price.  After playing this, I'm looking forward to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory even more.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Of Orcs and Men: Review

Recently, Focus Interactive added another game onto the PSN.  It is the downloadable version of their latest RPG, "Of Orcs and Men."  It sounds really neat to play out the familiar orcs vs. humans story from the side of the orcs.  Let's jump into the Stay at Home Dad Gamer's review of:

I think the graphics are well made.  It definitely uses the more "earthy" tones of gray and brown you see in many western RPGs, but thankfully there are numerous orcs and goblins running around to add splashes of green.  The orc models look muscular and detailed.  You can clearly see their bulging muscles, veins and the like.  The settings also look appropriate.  Sewers have a damp and slimy appearance while castles look cold and dark.  I really like the look of Arkail's armor, too.  Armor all looks unique and interesting with lots of small details.  At first I wasn't sure I liked the smoky look the screen took while Styx was in stealth mode, but it quickly grew on me.  One thing I'd like to add: while these aren't the best graphics I've ever seen, I haven't encountered any texture pop-in or loss, which is a plus.

The music is what you would expect from a fantasy game.  Sometimes the battle music sounded a little weird, as though there was random woodwind instruments thrown in.  Now for the voices.  Main characters Arkail and Styx sound great.  They sound their parts and deliver the lines exceptionally well.  The other characters range from ok to not-that-great.  They don't talk near as much as the two main characters, so it doesn't bother me much.  The only thing I don't like about the audio is the sheer amount of F-bombs.  When playing around my kids, I had to turn the audio down low and skip dialogue that had "adult language" near the end (so I had time to read it).  I guess it could fit into the game's world (that our swear words exist), but I honestly didn't expect it.  I learned to work around it, but just be aware that it's there in case your time to play is when rugrats are around.

"Stick to the story, we found him like this."

It looks and sounds fine, you say, but how does it play?  I will first admit I thought this was an action-RPG, even after watching the trailers.  After playing I realized it's a lot closer to a traditional RPG.  You can drastically slow down time to select a queue of up to 4 attacks and targets.  This allows you to tailor-make attack chains and coordinate attacks between the two characters.  A simple button press switches which character you are controlling.  When you close the attack wheel, time resumes and the attacks are carried out.  It took me a while to fully get used to the combat system.  I actually like it, since it seems drastically different from most other games that I have played.  You get some variety to your skills, and can custom-make chains based off what you need at the time.  Do you need to hit lots of guys, or stun and debuff a single target?  It's your call.  Also you can just hit the X Button and it will fill in the generic "attack" option.

Admittedly, the battles can feel a bit like a crap shoot.  With Ark and Styx, I could easily take out small groups of 2 or 3, but 4 could be troublesome early on.  Once I had an AOE attack that didn't instantly fill my rage meter (or close to it), I could comfortably take out up to 6.  Just for reference, there are several fights that have you facing 8 or more enemies.  With the proper micromanagement, a bit of luck and a strategic assassination, few battles provided frustration to me.  Realistically, if you dodge/deflect a blow, who is targetted and if you hit can change the flow of  battle drastically, so that "bit of luck" seems more important here than in most games.  That's my only real complaint with the battles.  Sometime I would get destroyed in a fight with 5 guys, and next I defeat 7 without even losing 1/4 of my HP.

There are many side quests to do, but most areas are corridors, so there isn't much exploration.  You might need to do 2 play-throughs to get all the trophies, unless you start on the hardest difficulty setting (I don't like to do that) or do a little saving/reloading.  I like that armor is upgradable with "trade point", since you don't carry cash, making a good piece of armor better.  It would have been nice to see how the upgrade will improve the armor before doing it, though.

Going by the trophies, there are five chapters in the game, and the first took me about 8-9 hours.  My compulsive nature had me do all the sidequests.  Chapter 2 was about 4-5 hours, however.  The game seems to be a bit on the short side.  "Of Orcs and Men" sells for $49.99 on PSN, which is a decent price for a new release, and an RPG at that.  Total time playing through the game I estimate to be around 30-40 hours, so you can do the math and figure if that's enough time for your money.  I know I've paid more for games that don't last me as long (*cough*cough*godofwar*cough*), so I'm fine with the length of the game.

"Remember when I said I'd kill you last?  I lied."

What about the trophies?  A good chunk of them are for finishing the chapters and the many sidequests in them.  Others are for doing normal things in-game, like maxing a skill tree or equipping a full set of upgraded armor.  None seem really hard to get, or require you to go a lot out of your way.  I would like to note that the numerous side quest trophies are missable, since you move on from the areas.  Just be sure to talk to all people in the hubs if you care about "catching them all".  The only trophy I would see myself having difficulty with is the gold for beating it on the highest difficulty setting.  Knowing how to play and what skills/stats to choose would make it doable, if not time consuming.

All in all, I am having lots of fun playing Or Orcs and Men.  The battles might still sometimes feel a bit random if you win or lose, but I still like playing it.  The story is interesting to me, the characters are good, and I really like wading into a group of humans, swinging my club around, and laying them all out.  Once you get used to the intricacies of the combat system, hopefully you will enjoy it too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Under the Weather but Working

My review of "Of Orcs and Men" will be up soon.  I've been sick the past few days, right on the tail end of my parents visiting.  I was glad to see them, since my mom will go into radiation therapy soon (ugh) and won't be able to come visit for a little while.  I'm also very happy to have picked up a part time job.  As stated before (I think), it's 10-20 hours a week, and seasonal, but I'll happily take it.  It's actually a new store for the company, so they will keep about half of the seasonal people to actually work there.  That's a better average than any other place I worked seasonal for, that's for sure.  We will see how that goes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Retro City Rampage- SAHD Review

Thanks to VBlank, I got my hands on a copy of Retro City Rampage to review, so let's dive right in!

Once this thing hits 88mph...

Easily the first thing you notice is the super retro graphics.  If you don't like that style, then A. you didn't play games in the 80s and B. this isn't your game.  For the rest of us, this is a faithful throwback to the games of yesteryear.  I like the 8 bit style, but my favorite by far is the Nintendo-looking cut-scenes (see the next picture below for an example).  I loved those on the NES, and they look just as good here.  Another great thing included in the game are several filters.  It can change the arcade cabinet frame (if you have it), and slightly change the graphics to emulate the old systems. My personal favorite is the gameboy filter.  The playable screen is smaller, but it looks exactly like an old Gameboy game, and the music and sounds even change!  I'm a fan of small details, and the attention to detail in the filters gets my approval.

As is the case with the graphics, the music is also very retro.  They sound just like they came right out of an old NES game, which is a perfect fit.  Another cool touch is the different radio stations in the game when in a vehicle.  There's actually a fair bit of music in this game, which I did not expect.

The controls are pretty good.  The only issues I have is the auto targeting (hold attack) sometimes picks a seemingly random target.  Also, at first I had the vehicle controls on manual, which was very awkward.  You turn the car based on it's orientation, which works when not in top down, non rotating view.  After switching it to automatic, the vehicles controlled exactly how I wanted, so that problem was solved fairly quickly.

Da da da duuuun!

Another issue I have with the game is the difficulty spikes.  A few missions were completed with no difficulty, but a few had me swearing at the screen.  Occasionally, this was because the mission objective was not clear.  An example:  the mission said "Use dynamite to clear traffic".  I have a timer, but what it wants is for me to blow up 20 cars.  This counter is up at the top of the screen and didn't stand out until I looked around trying to figure out why I failed the mission the first time.  This problem also occurs in the arcade challenges.  Most start out with some objective that may or may not help you understand what you have to do to score/get medals.  It's frustrating to be sure, and there's no extra help in the game.  Very retro to a fault.  Getting the trophy for getting all golds will involve a lot of retrying, that's for sure.

After doing the first few missions, I saw my completion percentage was in the teens.  That was a bit misleading, since there are over 60 missions to do and many "arcade challenges".  Usually these involve using a certain weapon to get x kills or y points or other various timed challenges.  I like that these can be done on the map, or from the main menu, if you are just looking to get those gold medals without tracking down its location after unlocking it.  While some of them are frustratingly difficult, there's lots of other stuff to do to blow off steam (read: run over tons of people).  There's even an arcade that has 3 parody minigames and several collectibles (my favorite is the invisible walls).  Just like the GTA games, there is a huge chunk of things to do, or even just spend time screwing around.

If you buy the game on the PSN, you get the PS3 and Vita versions, which is amazing if you happen to be one of the 10 people who has a Vita.  A great touch is the Free Roam mode gives you max money to start, which means you can buy weapons and other crap to your hearts content.  That's great for pick up and play.  The trophies have several "get them for doing next to nothing", but several involve skill.  I'm not likely to get the gold medals on all challenges or a 99x multiplier, but the rest should be obtainable for most gamers.

Yes, paper boy.  Yes, they still try to kill you.

If you enjoy parodies (which I very much do), I think every screen of this game has some sort of reference to something else.  Some are far more direct than others, but I didn't feel they were forced, since the point of the game is to make reference to tons of stuff from the 80s and 90s (also a few current things).  You can purchase lots of custumization options for Player (yes, that's his name), including hairstyles and hats.  You can even play as unlockable characters in the Free Roam.  One last small touch (since I like those so much) that I loved was equipping the "Biffman" suit and using "Biffarangs".  When you attack with them, it bothers to write out the Adam West Batman sound effects.  Yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.

So, last and not least: is it fun?  Yes.  Even though there is lots of frustration with the challenges and some missions, the GTA-like structure of the game means you can just run people over until you feel better.  Or just wander around finding parodies.  Getting the PSN version is what I'd recommend if you ever think you will get a Vita, since you get a "twofer".  In closing, what I really want to say to everybody is:  If you grew up  in the 80s and 90s, you need to at least try this game!  There's so much content and so many references crammed into the game, this really is a love letter to 80s gaming, so go ahead and read it.