Updates every Thursday!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Batman: Arkham City

Genre: Action, Adventure

Developer: Rocksteady Studios

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

System: Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3 and just about everything else

I can't think of a time when I didn't like Batman. I mean, he's an everyday guy (admittedly a millionaire) that puts on a suit and uses gadgets to beat the snot out of criminals. What's not to like? By comparison, you can't relate to Superman, because you weren't born on another planet and you don't have super powers. Tony Stark? Well, the suit does most of the work. Still cool, though.

If you've played Batman: Arkham Asylum then you're looking to get a lot of the same from Arkham City. And, frankly, that's OK. Arkham Asylum is a lot of fun. There's fighting, sneaking, interesting boss fights, and a decent story line. So far, Arkham City has opened with all hell breaking loose. Batman's been kidnapped as his mild-mannered alter ego, Catwoman's stealing an SD Card filled with what I suspect are incriminating photos, and the city (Gotham that is) is in a tizzy about Arkham City, which, to alleviate confusion, is a giant city-like prison in the middle of Gotham, where the criminals seem to be more or less entirely in control. Guess we solved that whole prison overcrowding issue once and for all.

Batman, as Bruce Wayne, has been brought to the prison for speaking out against the prison by some elite commando team or the police or something. That hasn't really been explained, but he's being held there by future-scientist Abraham Lincoln. So Bruce Wayne escapes and blah blah blah beats up the Penguin who's just shown up. Naturally, all the prisoners hate Bruce because he put them behind bars and so far the story is your typical Batman scene.

Let's talk about game play. I bought Arkham City through Steam, which means I have to play it with mouse and keyboard (I cannot get my 360 controllers to work, don't ask). I'm not saying the mouse/keyboard combo is a bad thing, but I feel like it takes away from this game. It feels like the game was meant to be played with a controller so if you have the means, do so.

The combat is simple, but fun and reminds me a lot of Assassin's Creed. You just gotta keep countering and eventually you'll beat everyone up. And, if you're Bruce Wayne, you can to it all in style while wearing handcuffs! At this point, you have to wonder why the baddies just haven't given up.

Justice never sleeps. Goodnight!

 Happy Thoughts: Arkham City does epic well. The music adds about 40% on it's own, but I get a really sense of urgency right off the bat. Also, there's none of this slow climbing crap like in Assassin's Creed. When Batman shimmies along the ledge of a massive building, he shimmies like there's a bee in his tights.

Sad Thoughts: Oh, I hope they have more Scarecrow sequences like in Arkham Asylum. Those were my favorite.

The Bottom Line: I know it's the whole point of this review to unfairly judge a game based on its earliest moments, but I just don't know what to say about Batman: Arkham City. I guess it feels like I just never stopped playing Arkham Asylum and that's gotta count for something.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Space Engineers

Genre: Action, Indie, Simulation, Strategy

Developer: Keen Software House

Publisher: Keen Software House

System: Windows

Space Engineers is a spaceship construction and flight simulator. You can build a ship, piece by piece and then fly it. The controls are pretty straight forward, you can move forward, backward, strafe- just about anything you are able to do in a typical third-person game. The graphics are decent, but the animation can be a little wobbly when you're just playing the astronaut so if you're like me and you get motion sickness easily, you may want to take it slow.

But I only had ten minutes so I ran around as fast as possible and started trying to figure things out as quickly as I could. The game offered me a tutorial and, at first, I thought that might be good, but then it linked me to a thirteen-minute youtube video at which point I promptly said "screw it" and went back to the game.

I started off in building mode, which is to say I was playing the astronaut and he had the standard block building option selected, so I randomly placed a few objects. That got boring real quick. I'm excited to build stuff and all, but, again, time limits, I wanted to get into the action. So I hopped in the giant red starship docked before me and made my way to the control room. With a little help from the onscreen tips I was ready to go. "Punch it!" I shouted to my empty apartment.

The ship, every so slowly, like slower than molasses, began to inch forward. I held down the forward key as hard as I could. Maybe I could squeeze a little extra juice out of those engines if I believed in myself. That's when I remembered that the game was going for a more realistic approach to space. I had been wondering why there were no sound effects. Though the music is pretty intense!

With a bit of time the ship finally started going somewhere. It takes a little getting used to, but the game is designed so that if you start turning in one direction and want to stop you have to start turning in the other direction, so...space. Eventually, I managed to find the blue starship and with my engines to full I slammed into that thing full force! Then I kept going for a bit and, with time, was able to split the ship in two. Success! I had accomplished exactly what I had set out to do and I still had some time to spare.

I decide to attempt building my own ship so I made my way to the door of the red ship and started trying to build off the side, but in my haste I stepped off into the void and began to fall, which is strange, because, again...space. But the moral of the story is when you are a space engineer you bring a jet pack for these occasions.

Happy Thoughts: I am really excited to see where Space Engineers goes. Right now it's in early access phase so it may be some time before things begin to get super interesting. I am definitely going to attempt to build my own ship in the mean time. Maybe I'll build the Slave 1- oh, wait. Someone beat me to it.

Sad Thoughts: I know you can't have sound in space, but, like with Star Trek, sounds make things more exciting. I'm not complaining and I don't think they should change it, but it gets lonely out there in...space.

The Bottom Line: Space Engineers is a lot like Minecraft, but in...space. What I'm really hoping for in the long run is that, in that same vein, they make weapons for your ships, sure, but that they also allow the players to build weapons in game using basic building materials. One of the best parts of Minecraft is building elaborate traps for your friends to fall into. I want to be able to overload a reactor and hurl it at an enemy ship, like ejecting the warp core in all those Star Trek episodes and movies. God dammit, internet! Why are you always taking my ideas before I can get to them!

I tried to take pictures from this game, but the print screen option wasn't working so, once again, thank you to the internet for providing photos. I owe you guys!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

MirrorMoon EP

Genre: Adventure, Indie

Developer: Santa Ragione

Publisher: Santa Ragione

System: Linux, Mac, Windows
 When I first opened my eyes the console stood silent. Glowing pink buttons begged to be pressed, switches to be flipped. I was just following orders. Soon the console hummed. The screen came to life. I inserted the eight-track. In a flash of light I found myself on the planet surface. My planetary array arm fidgeted, waiting to drag and rotate the celestial object above. It would have to wait. It needed more strength. There was a pyramid ahead. A blue prism that stood out against the red waste. I approached it, ever wary of the black moon above watching me like some sort of eye or something. On a pedestal sat one of the crucial components for my arm. A small orange-red pyramid floating with magical power. As I drew close it flew up and snapped into place on my arm. I wandered.

Not too far off in the distance, to the east, I think, was another blue shrine. Many pillars, in two rows, leading to an ethereal monolith. Another pedestal waited inside with my next arm upgrade, a series of blue bars that revolved around the orange-red pyramid. I looked again at the black sphere in the sky. Upon it I saw a white arrow, like a mouse cursor. And the most peculiar thing happened. When I moved, it moved. And when I stopped, it stopped. And when I went toward the blue pillars...dear God. It's as though the moon mirrored the very rock upon which I stood!

I resolved to discover just what was going on. I scoured the surface of the planet, looking for signs of a story, but could find nothing. I did, however, discover that my planetary array arm could indeed roll the moon above me so that I could discover other landmarks of note. And my arm could also shoot light beams to the moon, which, as you might expect, appeared upon my planet as well. I could use these to navigate the dark and seemingly endless red terrain.

With this discovery, I made my way to the small, round temple that held the final piece of my arm, a blue disc that fit into the back of the arm and allowed me, if you believe it, to drag the moon above to a different location. I latched on to the moon and pulled it away, revealing the sun behind. The planet became bright and tall, shadowy rocks appeared that turned white when I glided through them. Above, the rocks turned white as well and were given names: Pillars of Yuri, Pillars of Neil, and so on in that fashion. When all of the pillars had been turned white, the planet began to send out a strange wave.

Several moments of experimentation followed. I dragged the planet to the epicenter of the wave, hoping it would do something, but it did not. I rotated the planet so that the waves mirrored each other, but nothing happened. I rotated so that the waves would be on opposite sides, but to no avail.

What dystopian hell is this?! Cursed to forever wander this barren rock, a lonely child lost to his people? Who the hell are my people anyway? Who am I?!

Happy Thoughts: I don't know if this game was meant to be existential, but it brought me to that line of thought.

Sad Thoughts: I just want to know what's going on.

The Bottom Line: This game is very strange, but also fascinating. It does a fantastic job by giving you just a tiny push and then encouraging you to explore. I still have no friggin' clue how to go beyond where I stopped, but I can't say I wasn't sort of sucked into the puzzle-like aspect of the game. Enjoy, if you can.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Genre: Action, RPG

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

System: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows

We all know how I felt about Assassin’s Creed III or, at least, we can all find out by reading it here. But when I found out they were making a fourth game I felt I had to suck it up and play through the rest of ACIII. Guess what. My initial prediction of what to expect from Assassin’s Creed III was actually pretty accurate! You climb buildings, you assassinate people, etc. But what really made the game stick out of the series were the ship battles. Well, guess what again. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is entirely ship battles! Apparently, Ubisoft read my review of ACIII and decided to pack more action into the beginning of ACIV. The game opens with the main character, Edward the shiny, in the midst of an epic skirmish the likes of Horatio Hornblower. The decks splintering beneath his feat, the cannon smoke still hanging in the thunderous air, shipmates yelling pirate-y phrases, “Y’aarr, the bar wench be loose from the rigging. Tack the main anchor and weigh the sail!”

And you’re told the helmsman has been killed.

It is time.

With a take-charge attitude fueled by adrenaline and rum, Edward grabs the helm and charters a course of destruction through choppy waves and broadsides. Vessels explode when they so much as glance at your ship. It’s almost as though the fight is supposed to be easy. But when the last ship sinks, you realize it was all for naught. The ship’s magazine has caught fire and with no Penthouse a crew of murderous pirates cannot go on. A fiery explosion ensues and we cut to Edward talking to his…wife...? Well, “lady-friend” anyway. Here we learn that his plan is to become a privateer (pirate!) to make his fortune. Plot set.

Meanwhile, back in the present day 18th century Caribbean, Edward awakens beneath the surface of the water surrounded by debris (pronounced deh-briss). As it turns out he is one of only two people to survive the naval battle. The other is a quickly dying assassin, who, by the way, showed up earlier aboard the ship. I didn’t mean to leave that out. They exchange pirate pleasantries before the assassin suggests they play a hardcore game of hide and seek using the island on which they washed up as their boundaries (Desmond’s room is off limits). Edward counts to twenty and they bound off into the jungle completely forsaking the rules of the game.

And that is where I called it quits.

Happy Thoughts: It seems that they’ve finally dropped the whole Desmond Miles story line. Thank god. I am so tired of jumping into the future for an alternate story line that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Sad Thoughts: So help me if my character suddenly wakes up as his future self I am going to lose it.

The Bottom Line: Did you like Assassin’s Creed Whatever? Do you like pirates? I think this is going to be fun.

Images provided by the internet.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG

Developer: Crackshell

Publisher: Crackshell

System: Windows, Mac, Linux

If I judged every game I played based on the first ten minutes starting with the moment I opened the program I would probably review half of them as shit. I wanted to jump right into Hammerwatch’s multiplayer, because I felt it would lead to a more interesting review of the game, but, like many gamers, I have a friend that uses a Mac. And Apple and Hammerwatch do not get along very well. In fact, you need to install an additional program that Mac users seem not to trust, which sounds silly since Macs are impenetrable fortresses.

Anyway, about an hour of fiddling around with this problem and we were good to go. We logged in and chose our classes. I went with the Warlock, a robed figure with a staff and a penchant for stabbing creatures with a short, poisoned, dagger. The warlock is best known for having the most health of the four classes and his ability to cast a lightning ball of doom that electrocutes everything in its path and does massive amounts of damage. In other words I took the overpowered class. OK, that’s probably not fair, because the ranger shoots arrows endlessly and poops bombs that make it easy to run away from enemies while dealing a lot of damage. Not fair.

The game begins in a dungeon – or a castle, I guess – and you are told that the bridge you just crossed has been destroyed and, well, that’s it, good luck. No tutorial explains the controls, no popup lets you know how to fight. This may be different in single player mode, and I suppose you can look at the keybindings, but if it weren’t for my good pal Sean I would have died in about ten seconds. I know this, because that’s about the time a cloud of bats came flying at me. I had to think fast, LIGHTNING BALL! The bats fried like a shattered egg on a sidewalk on a steamy summer day. It felt good.

Next came a wave of beetles, LIGHTNING BALL! Guess we’re serving up toasted bug-flesh for breakfast. Beyond those were the larval spawn of venom-spitting worms, LIGHTNING BALL! Piece of cake. I’m getting hungry. Then came more bats, LIGHTN- out of juice. RUN! So you can’t just spam your special ability, which makes sense, I guess. Instead, you have to get good at using your main ability (stabby stabby poison dagger) until your energy recharges or you eat some energy crystals, but once you get that energy back…LIGHTNING BALL! AH HAHAHAHAHA! BURN! BURN!

Happy Thoughts: Hammerwatch is very rewarding in that it is not easy. The controls are stupidly simple, but getting good at the individual classes can be difficult. That poison dagger work takes finesse.

Sad Thoughts: I never thought I’d ever hear myself say this, but the Mac version needs to be fixed. The least they could do is mention the need for an additional program on Steam.

The Bottom Line: If Hammerwatch posted itself on a dating site it would probably look like this: Fun, pixelated, dungeon crawler seeks nerd for a magical night. Friends welcome.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pokemon Y

Genre: RPG

Developer: Game Freak

Publisher: Nintendo

System: Nintendo 3DS

According to this scientist guy, I live in a world filled with Pokemon. They come in every shape and size and it is my job to catch them and train them to fight so that I can prove I am the best Pokemon trainer in the world. We also love Pokemon and cherish the bond we share with them.

The scientist asks me my name. I tell him it’s Ash, which is actually more of an unfortunate coincidence than anything else. He asks me if I’m a boy or a girl. This is an odd question since he’s looking right at me, but I do have a sort of androgynous haircut and name so I spell it out for him. Then he asks me what I look like. Apparently he is also blind so I give him a brief description, letting him know I’m white, with darker hair in the style that all the boys wear these days. On my head is a red hat whether I like it or not and on that hat is a pair of sunglasses and that pair of sunglasses is a tree and that tree’s in a hole and that hole’s in the ground and the green grass grows all around.

And so begins my adventure. I try to leave home, but mom says I need to change out of my pajamas. Ugh, she just doesn’t understand that we kids don’t care how the world perceives us. I get changed and then I head out. One thing I notice almost immediately is that no one seems to mind if I just open up their front door, waltz into their house, and begin rummaging through their belongings. In fact, these locals seem to be more than willing to give me good advice on how to become a good Pokemon trainer. I must be in Canada.

So I head to the next town over, cuz that’s where I’m s’posed to go, which is about five feet away on a straight path and meet some new friends at the nearby coffee shop/Panini grill. They nickname me A-Meister. I don’t argue. That one big guy looks like he could just sit on me and it would all be over. “A-Meister is cool, guys. It’s cool.” They ask me if I’m into Pokemon, and I’m all like, well duh, that’s why I’m about to take my 13 year old ass and wander around the world. One of them offers to give me one to get me started. I’m a little nervous, but I take the fiery fox thing and start to head back home to say one last goodbye to my mother who I suspect I will never see again.

On my way out of town, one of my new friends stops me and says she wants to battle. Foolish little girl, you have a grass-type pokemon and I a fire-type. Game over.

Happy Thoughts: The graphics in Pokemon Y are really pretty. They finally stepped away from the original look and I love it!

Sad Thoughts: Pokemon has come a long way graphically, but the new controls can be a little fidgety since you can use the joystick thingie to move around. Sometimes I find myself getting stuck on walls. Also, since when does your first rival-like person use a pokemon with a type that’s weak compared to yours. I miss the good ol’ days when your rival’s main pokemon was literally designed to kick your ass.

The Bottom Line: Pokemon Y is a game about creating a character with limited options so you can wander into people’s houses. If you’re into that, you’re going to have fun.