Showing posts with label xbla. Show all posts
Showing posts with label xbla. Show all posts

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Open Letter To Chair Entertainment

Dear Chair,

(never thought I'd ever type that particular sequence of words)

I am writing to you today to ask a favour of you. You see, your company developed one of the absolute best video games last generation (no, sorry, not Undertow). The game to which I am referring is of course Shadow Complex. Shadow Complex was easily the best Xbox Live Arcade game at the time of its release, and in this (not so?) humble gamer's opinion, still is (maybe tied with Geometry Wars and Puzzle Quest but I digress). Let me tell you a little story:

I have been gaming since the late 80's. I grew up on all of the same games you all (hopefully) did. Namely (duh), platformers, shmups, adventure games and beat em ups. You all probably have your favourites from these genres, and many of them will likely differ from mine. However, one thing we definitely have in common is a love for the old school archetypal game designs of the eras bygone, one of the most prominent, and criminally (yes, criminally) underused being the so called “Metroidvania” (“Castleroid” to some, but they are from the wrong side of the tracks, so we can do as the government does and simply ignore them) design. Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night are the two most well known games of this type, but of course there are many more (just not enough). Clearly, you fine people noticed this travesty and decided to capitalize on the oversights of others far less badass than thou and release to the world a brand new game using this game design philosophy.

So, on August 19th, 2009, you released Shadow Complex and the response from both gamers and critics was overwhelmingly positive. The sales were great (despite that unfortunate little trial version exploit that you wish we would have forgotten (we didn't, but I bought the game, so don't worry)) and Chair Entertainment (now a subsidiary of Epic Games, ching ching!!) was on the map. All well and good, but how do I fit into this story, you ask? Well, I am glad you did. See, to make a longer story long, I, as I stated earlier, have been gaming since the late 80's, and while I still love gaming, I definitely fall into the rose tinted glasses nostalgic old school gamer camp. Games, for the most part at least, just do not satisfy, excite, challenge or engage me the way they used to (with few exceptions) (Bayonetta, anyone?). And then you came along and holy **** I was 12 years old again! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Strider Game Announced!!!

Capcom has announced that they are publishing a new Strider game for both current and next gen Microsoft/Sony consoles, as well as the PC. The game, which is being developed by Double Helix (the development studio currently working on the new Killer Instinct game for the Xbox One) will be released in "early 2014." Click HERE to read all about it, as well as to look at additional screenshots/video not posted below.

Here is a quick comparison between the old and new (click the link above to see several more screenshots of the game in action):

Strider For the Sega Genesis

Strider in 2014
Gameplay footage:

I cannot wait to jump back into the boots of the ninja Hiryu....2014 cannot come soon enough!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hilarious Double Dragon II XBLA Game Description (PIC)

Check out the hilarious description on Xbox Live for the newly released Double Dragon II: 

"That's Gold, Jerry! GOLD!"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Shadow Complex Review: Old School, Meet New School

Old School Meets New School

Shadow Complex is a side scrolling shooter with 3D graphics that focuses heavily on map exploration and character progression. This is the game that, as you likely have heard a multitude of times recently, is a downloadable game in the vein of Super Metroid (and a few others). Some go so far as to say this game is a Metroid clone. Either way you look at it, it's definitely very similar. However, for the purposes of this review, I am going to forget Super Metroid et al., and focus merely on this game and its merits. This will be a fairly lengthy review, and I will do my best to describe in detaii what you can expect from this game.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Geometry Wars 2 Review

Geometry is Fun Again.....Again

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is the sequel to the smash hit, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, which itself was an expanded version of a mini game found in the game Project Gotham Racing 2 on the original xbox.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, just like its predecessor, is a 2D top down shooter, that is essentially a modernized version of Asteroids, without the warping and with dual stick controls added in. You move the ship with the left analog stick, and fire in the direction you point the right one in. Instead of flying saucers and asteroids, your ship shoots at enemies that take several different geometric shapes, are coloured differently, and behave in different ways. There are simple enemies like the blue diamonds that move towards your position in a non aggressive manner, or the purple pinwheels that spin about randomly, not attacking you but causing your demise if you inadvertently make contact with them. There are green squares that hone in on you, and cowardly move away once you turn to fire in their direction.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Simpsons Arcade Headed to Consoles!

Simpsons Arcade Headed to Consoles!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sine Mora: Gorgeous New Grasshopper Manufacture Downloadable Shmup

Check Out This Game:


Gorgeous take on the old school, with a twist (no lives, you are timed, and each enemy killed adds time to the clock).

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Thoughtful Gamers Interview Xona Games!!

This is an interview with Xona Games, the development studio, manned by two man fraternal team Matthew and Jason Doucette, that brought us games like Decimation X2 and the totally phenomenal Score Rush, which I reviewed here on the thoughtful gamers. Most of the questions were submitted by myself, but my fellow TTG's and GT friends also threw in a few of their own, making this a combined effort. Thanks a lot to all of you, and Matthew from Xona who was nice enough to participate. 

Be sure to keep an eye on Xona Games in the coming months, as they set to take the world by storm with their awesome looking Duality ZF, which strikes me as being the culmination of two brothers' dreams and hard work. 

Let's begin!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeding Frenzy Review

Chomp Chomp Chomp

Feeding Frenzy, developed by PopCap games, is a casual styled 2D arcade game that has the player controlling a variety of marine life forms who are intent on eating as many other marine life forms as possible. The more you eat, the more you grow, and the more you grow, the bigger they variety of fish and other marine life you can eat. You start out as a small angel fish named Andy, and by the time you reach level 40 in the game's Normal mode, you end up playing as a very large Orca whale, who preys on sharks, as well as other whales. Essentially, this game can be summed up as a simplistic, lighthearted, marine centric circle of life simulator.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Upcoming XBLA/I Games (With Videos)

Upcoming XBLA/I (I=Indie) Games

Some great looking games in this list, but it's obviously not complete. If you know of any possibly good/great ones that are not included in this list, and you would like them to be, leave me a comment with the name of the game and a link to a video and I will amend the list to include it. Thanks!

Note: I'm not sure which of these are also going to the PS3/PC/Wii, but I know some are. I'm primarily a 360 gamer (I do have a Wii and both current handhelds), so I am looking at this as a 360 list. This is not done out of any fanboyish scorn or anything of that nature. I don't have a PS3 and don't game on my PC, so I am doing this through the lens of a 360 gamer by circumstance, not disdain for other platforms. I actually want a PS3, and will buy one in time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

After Burner Climax Review

It's Called Climax for a Reason.

After Burner Climax is the fourth game in the popular After Burner franchise, owned by Sega. The game was developed by Sega-AM2 (published, of course, by Sega) and released to arcades in 2006. Climax was the first new title in the After Burner series since 1992, ending a fourteen year long wait by fans. At least, for those fortunate enough to have access to an After Burner Climax arcade cabinet. Many fans did not have such access, and, as such, were left unable to play the new title. That is, until now. Fast forward to April 21, 2010, and owners of both the xbox 360 and Playstation 3 can now download and purchase a port of the arcade title for a fee of ten dollars. The xbla and psn versions of the game are identical.

After Burner Climax follows the formula of the original games. It's largely an on rails shooter, meaning your forward movement is controlled for you and you fly in a straightforward path. All you need to concern yourself with is moving and shooting. You move along the X and Y axises, meaning that you can move the plane horizontally and vertically, in order to dodge enemy fire and environmental obstacles. You can execute barrel rolls as another evasive option. Similarly to After Burner II, you also have throttle control, meaning that you can control your speed. Anyone who has played Star Fox will be familiar with this formula. The game removes the view options added in After Burner III, and has the player play only from the original After Burner view, which is comprised of a behind the back (or in this case, plane) perspective. This is a move that aids the game in really retaining the feel of the original two games.

In terms of shooting, it's classic After Burner. You have a machine gun, which has infinite ammo, and you also have a large store of missiles, which you can fire at after first locking onto an enemy. The locking on process is very straightforward. You simply move your reticule over an enemy, and they are marked. Once you are locked on, you can launch a missile and enjoy the ensuing explosion. Missiles replenish over time, removing the docking for missiles (and refuelling) seen in some other versions of After Burner. This serves to keep the action moving, which works well for a game of this nature. It's a pure arcade title, and fortunately, it plays to this with no remorse. It's usually to an arcade title's detriment when the developers try to inject simulation aspects into it. Ask any NHL Hitz fan, and they will tell you that Pro basically killed the series, as it lost the magic of the excellent formula found in 20-03.

The one major addition to the formula, and from where the game derives its name, is the Climax mode. It's basically bullet time, for anyone familiar with that concept. For those who are not, time, for a set period, slows down, allowing you to easily target and destroy enemies. In addition, your reticule greatly increases in size, allowing even easier targeting. You can enter Climax mode, target everything on screen, and, upon returning to normal time, watch them all explode in a very impressive display. This feature adds to the formula in a significant way without drastically altering it, and without changing the balance. For those worried that it detracts from the challenge, it doesn't. The climax bar takes time to recharge, and the developers compensated for this feature by building enemy formations around it. You will notice that there are moments which seem to have been implemented specifically for the feature. It's also optional. You can play the game without ever once utilizing Climax mode.

The gameplay takes place over 20 odd stages, some of which are hidden, only accessed by meeting certain conditions. This brings us to the one of the two main complaints that could be levied against this game: it's incredibly short. True to its arcade roots, After Burner Climax can be completed in ten to fifteen minutes. However, like the arcade games of old, fans of the game do not just complete it once and move on. You play it over and over, earning all of the accolades possible, including the special stages and being rated AAA in the three ratings categories that the game scores you on (enemies killed, longest combo, and completion speed). And of course, any arcade gamer will know, you also go for the holy grail of arcade gaming: the high score.

After Burner Climax feeds into the quest for the high score, providing a score attack mode in addition to the default arcade mode. The score attack mode is where the hardest of the hardcore will spend most of their gameplay time, as this mode tallies your score over the course of the playthrough, and uploads it to the online leaderboards upon completion, allowing you to compete with both friends and people around the world. Score attack mode can be completed by anyone, as, unlike the arcade mode, you are granted infinite continues. It's all about the score in this mode, as opposed to the arcade mode which you play more for completion.

For those who do not concern themselves too greatly with attaining a high score, do not despair, as After Burner Climax may still be for you. The developers have seen fit to allow gamers of all stripes the ability to play the arcade mode, which caters to many different playstyles. By default, the game gives you 3 continues, and 3 planes per continue. The arcade mode presents a fairly decent challenge, and may take several tries to beat with the allotted continues. If the player chooses to stick to the default. If they do not, they can play around with a vast array of options, known as EX Options. These are unlocked throughout the game, and more are granted with successive playthroughs, giving players other than the high score hounds incentive to continue playing.

The EX Options allow one to change many different aspects of the gameplay, and allow for one to make the game much easier, or much harder. You can increase or decrease the continues and lives granted. You can have your gun and missiles autofire. You can choose to remove particle effects, which means no smoke trails emanating from missiles and explosive effects, increasing visibility. Some options allow you to play around with enemy fire rates, even allowing you to remove the ability for them to attack altogether. You can increase the size of your reticule, enabling much easier targeting, you can allow infinite climax mode, and on and on. Basically, you can make After Burner Climax play to your personal specifications, greatly increasing the amount of people to whom the game will appeal, and increasing replay value by a large degree.

The original arcade version of After Burner Climax had a feature called dual play mode, which allowed for cooperative play. Two arcade cabinets could be linked together to allow for this. Unfortunately, this mode is absent in the home port, which represents the second drawback to the game. It's quite likely that this was due to lag, as any lag would kill the experience for a game of this nature, but there is no system link option for this either. However, it may not be all that prudent to lament the absence of this feature, as the co-op, from anecdotal accounts, consisted mainly of kill stealing, as the nature of the game, being one hit kills and all, does not play to a cooperative experience all that well. It seems to be the case that After Burner is much better suited to a solitary affair, although not having the option to try this for myself is somewhat regrettable.

There are three planes to choose from this time around, although the differences seem purely cosmetic. You can customize the paint scheme for each plane prior to take off, although these are preset. The last thing you get to select prior to starting is the soundtrack that plays over the game. You can play with the default soundtrack, or, for those who prefer the classic After Burner tunes, the classic After Burner I/II soundtrack can be selected, which provides a very hefty dose of nostalgia while you play through a new After Burner experience. Personally, this option has greatly increased the enjoyment experienced while playing this game, as the classic soundtrack has resonated with me for 20 years.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Great looking environments are coupled with excellent particle effects. Seeing missiles leave trails across the sky en route to exploding planes into bits, all taking place over beautifully rendered oceans and landscapes, through canyons, and even indoors, is thrilling. And all of the action does not hinder the smooth, consistent framerate one iota. The game is an aural and visual treat.

After Burner Climax is a no brainer for After Burner fans. It will also appeal to fans of fast, frenetic arcade action. It's an adrenaline fuelled, gorgeous rush, and for someone like myself, who loves the series and has very fond memories of the NES game, playing a gorgeous, updated iteration of the franchise while listening to the classic tunes in all their glory is absolutely thrilling. This is very much an arcade game, and it makes no apologies for that. If you are into arcade games, and you know that they are very short but very replayable, this game is for you. If you're not sure, well, download the free trail and give it a shot.

This game represents the perfect modern addition to a retro series. It maintains the formula while employing a few additions that do not in any way detract from the game, and it maintains the series structure of fast, frantic, fun, short, and replayable. A six hour After Burner would probably not work. This game is meant to be played in bursts. Keep that in mind, and, if it works for you, you cannot go wrong with this game. It knows what it is and it is brilliant at being just that. Kudos to Sega on bringing a fantastic new addition to the After Burner series.

Overall Score: 9/10

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Perfect Dark XBLA Review

Perfect Dark XBLA Review

Note: a more aesthetically appealing version of this review can be seen at

Development studio 4J Studios has teamed up with Microsoft to give us a touched up port of the classic N64 shooter Perfect Dark. This latest version of the game was released on March 17th, 2010, and is available on the xbox live marketplace for the very reasonable sum of 800 MS Points ($10).

Perfect Dark is set in the year 2023. Upon starting the game, you find yourself embroiled in an interstellar war between two races: the Maians, who look like the typical "greys" you see in science fiction media, and the Skedar, which are a reptile-like race who have the ability to disguise themselves as humans. On Earth, there is an on-going rivalry between two factions. The Carrington Institute, founded by Daniel Carrington, is officially a research and development center that secretly operates an espionage group who is in cahoots with one of the alien races (the Maians).

The second group involved in the earth based conflict is DataDyne, a defense contractor, who, predictably enough, has ties to the Skedar aliens. The player assumes the role of Joanna Dark, a Carrington Institute agent who is codenamed "Perfect Dark" due to her exemplary combat abilities. You are tasked with both investigating the activities of DataDyne and rescuing a Dr. Carroll from DataDyne HQ. The story then takes off from there, and I'll leave the rest for you to discover.

The single player campaign consists of 17 missions (as well as three bonus missions) and three difficulties: Agent, Special Agent, and Perfect Agent. The different difficulty settings not only change the difficulty of the enemy AI, but also the number of objectives that need to be completed during the course of each mission. This leads to a much varied experience as you progress from difficulty to difficulty. These objectives must be completed without the aid of maps, indicators or waypoints, so, true to classic gaming standards, the player must find their own way. This, in addition to the sometimes repetitive corridors and rooms will certainly lead to a new player getting lost from time to time.

Also, the mission objectives tend to be fairly ambiguous at times, and so, if you are not familiar with them, you can expect to find yourself restarting missions due to failed objectives. This trial and error sort of gameplay was quite common when this game was released, and as such, wasn't much of an issue then. It very well may be to newer gamers who aren't quite experienced with this sort of thing, as newer games tend to hand hold the players a bit more (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

The aforementioned navigation issues, in addition to the sometimes ambiguous mission objectives and the obviously dated graphics (even with the texture updates implemented by 4J Studios), present three of four caveats that any potential buyer faces when considering a purchase. Of course, these caveats only apply to newcomers, as gamers familiar with the game will likely know their way around the game and already be familiar with the graphics. Actually, any newcomer who has experience with games a decade old or older can remove the graphics from the complaint list as well. This just leaves the navigation and objectives issues, and of course, this is assuming you're not just purchasing this title for the rather famous multiplayer. If so, then the campaign issues do not apply.

The fourth caveat is the fact that the game utilizes a bounding box style of aiming for the so called manual aim (zoom mode, basically). This means that your reticule can only move within a set space on the screen, which stays stationary (as opposed to the screen moving with your aim), and you must revert back to the non zoomed mode (called free aim in this game) in order to move your aim beyond this specific area of the screen. Basically, if you zoom in to fire on an enemy and miss, and the enemy continues running by, you will have to zoom out to re-track them. Also, the sensitivity adjustment found in the settings menu, while it changes the sensitivity of the free aim (non zoomed), it does not seem to affect the manual aim, and, unfortunately, the manual aim is far too sensitive. Luckily, the manual aim is not really a necessity, and there is a hefty dose of auto aim available to you to make free aim quite sufficient (you can turn it off if you so desire).

These issues aside, everything in this game is as great as you may (or may not) recall. The notoriously bad framerate found in the Nintendo 64 version is now silky smooth. The amount of weapons available for use is staggering, and each has a secondary fire mode in addition to the standard mode. The weapons range from the usual pistols and assault rifles to rocket launchers and snipers, as well as some real oddities like a rail gun that allows you to see, and shoot through, walls, and a so called laptop gun whose secondary fire feature consists of it attaching to surfaces like walls and floors once thrown and acting like an automated turret. Another gun turns into a proximity mine. And so on and so forth. The guns are truly a spectacle, and a huge part of what makes this game so special. These guns are all available for use during both single player, co-operative, and multiplayer modes.

In addition to playing the campaign solo, there is a co-operative mode, which allows two players to play through it together. The second player assumes to role of Joanna's sister, and the two of them work together to uncover the conspiracy unfolding over at DataDyne. In what is a recurring theme with this incredibly innovative game, there is an original mode called counteroperative, which is the antithesis of the cooperative campaign. Rather than work together, one player assumes the role of Joanna, while the other takes on a role as an enemy. If Joanna kills the second player, that person respawns in control of another enemy AI. This patter continues until either Joanna or all of the player controlled enemies are killed (or the objectives are completed). This mode can be played both locally via splitscreen and online, as can the co-operative mode.

Rounding out the non versus multiplayer modes are the challenges and the weapons training events. The challenges are essentially multiplayer scenarios that find the player against bots with specific requirements to be met in order to achieve completion status. This mode, in addition to providing practice, is also the method through which additional weapons are unlocked for use in the multiplayer. The weapons training mode is self explanatory. It's a shooting range with goals to meet for each weapon.

Before moving on to the multiplayer, it should be mentioned that there are a substantial number of cheats that can be unlocked. The method of achieving this is to complete certain campaign levels within specific time limits. These range from quite doable to seemingly impossible, and will provide the non seasoned player with much extra challenge, if they so seek it.

And now, the aspect of the game that many of you are likely most interested in, the multiplayer. The multiplayer is fully intact in this version of the game. A multitude of maps, including the remakes of 3 maps originally found in Goldeneye are present and accounted for. The multiplayer is fast, fun, and furious, as well as varied. Bots can be added into games to fill out the roster of the amount of human players is lacking. All of the modes, including classics like King of the Hill, Capture the Base, solo and team combat (deathmatch) and Hold the Briefcase, are here, as well as two modes the were much more original at the time of release: Pop a Cap, and Hacker Central.

In Pop a Cap, one player is the target, and the other players are tasked with taking them out. If the target kills the pursuing players, he receives a point bonus. If the players kill the target, they receive a point, and the person who killed the target then becomes the new targeted player. Hacker Central tasks players with locating a data uplink, which they must then use to hack a computer system. Both of these items are randomly placed in the map at the start of the game. If the player carrying the data uplink is killed, it is moved to a new location. Once a player carrying the uplink reaches a terminal, they must initiate the hack and remain stationary while it progresses. It is always a wise idea to have other players providing cover during this time.

Multiplayer can be played both locally via splitscreen, which accommodates up to 4 players (who can also play with bots). As for the online, up to 8 human players and 4 bots can be present in a match at once, resulting in 12 total bodies available for you to dump bullets into. The only real issue with the multiplayer is the fact that, at least at present, there seems to be some lag present. This has been reported by many players, and while it is certainly not game breaking, it is worth mentioning. Whether or not this clears up (or is addressed via a patch) remains to be seen. As it stands, the lag is not in any way a serious hindrance. It seems to crop up in spurts, and then it dissipates, only to return minutes later, but it is only ever present for a few seconds.

Perfect Dark was an excellent FPS in 2000, and it remains so today. The gun selection is staggering, the modes available numerous and innovative, the options endless, the replay value unquantifiable. The framerate is now perfect, and perhaps best of all, it's ten dollars. Aside from the dated bounding box style of manual aim (and the far too high and unchangeable sensitivity) and the spots of lag that people, including myself, seem to be encountering, this game is nearly perfect, and frankly, upstages most modern FPS games. Perhaps not in terms of mechanics, and certainly not visually, but the options, customization, replay value, and the odd mix of simplicity and complexity make this one hell of a fun, old school game.
Oh, and no expansion pack required (N64 PD fans will know what this means).

Overall Score: 9.5/10

Monday, March 8, 2010

Aegis Wing Review

Aegis Wing is a free (no, really, it's free!) horizontal scrolling shoot em up (shmup) available to North American xbox Live members on the xbox Live Arcade. The game was released in 2007, and developed by three interns at Microsoft, who spent three months building the game. They then handed it over to Carbonated Games to add some finishing touches.

Your ship is only equipped with one gun, and, unfortunately, it cannot be upgraded. However, by grabbing powerups that enemies drop upon death, you can pick up secondary weaponry to utilize in your quest to rid the galaxy of the galactic scum who re trying to take you out. Among the available secondary weapons you will find a beam which shoots straight and in a fixed path, but destroys enemies and enemy fire on contact, an EMP pulse which disables enemies, a shield which deflects enemy fire back at them, and heat seeking missiles.

In a bit of a twist for the genre, one hit does not result in automatic death; rather, you have a health bar, and can take a few hits before you meet your demise. This does serve to diminish the challenge somewhat, although it remains far from easy. This was likely a concession on the part of the developers for the behalf of players new to the genre. Once you do die, you lose a life, and respawn right where you were at the time of death. However, lose all of your lives, your score resets to zero, and it's back to the start of the level with you. On Normal mode. On Insane mode, you have no lives.

Another, much more interesting (and significant) twist is that, during multiplayer (more on that later) you and the other players can link your ships together at the press of a button. In linked mode, one player controls movement, and the rest of the players control the shooting. This is advantageous in that the combined fire is stronger than one ships single firepower; however, this comes at the price of reduced navigational speed.

In typical old school shmup fashion, the game presents you with a high level of challenge and pattern based AI. The enemies fill the screen, shooting at you in tandem. The game also uses the environment to add to the challenge. In addition to the enemies, you must also look out for the mines that are placed throughout the levels. These detonate on contact, and serve to further keep you on your toes. This may not be the hardest shmup ever conceived, due in part to the aforementioned health system, and also the fact that the enemies don't fill the screen with fire as they do in many other games of this type, but it will definitely present a tough challenge to anyone who plays it. The hardest difficulty should suffice to present even those hardest of the hardened genre vets with some difficulty.

Graphically, this is a simple looking game. While there are some neat background effects present, everything looks fairly simplistic and somewhat bland. The poly count for ship models seems a bit low, and they aren't terribly detailed. This doesn't detract from the gameplay of course, but things don't exactly pop, either. Sound design is fine. The music serves to punctuate the action, but nothing is terribly memorable.

As I alluded to earlier, Aegis Wing features multiplayer. Both local and online co-op modes are available for up to four players. The way lives are handled is as follows: if a player loses all of their lives, they can re-enter the game upon another player picking up a powerup (which is then discarded). If all of the players die at the same time, or the last remaining player dies before reaching a powerup, the players are returned to the start of the level, and their combined score is reset to zero (as it is in the single player mode). Online runs well enough, no major issues are present, although there have been a few instances where it seemed as though a player was killed by something that seemed to miss them. This is likely due to lag, but fortunately, it doesn't seem to be a very common occurrence.

All in all, this is a fairly entertaining game. The boss and enemy designs suffice, but don't wow, the main gun cannot be upgraded, and the graphics aren't anything to write home about. However, the linking mechanic is a nice feature, there is a fully functional multiplayer mode which allows for up to 4 people to play in tandem, the game presents a good level of challenge, the controls work flawlessly, and, it's free. You can't really go wrong with free.

Overall Score: 8/10

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse XBLA Review

Bring the Apocalypse, or Get Feasted On.

In Zombie Apocalypse, you have two choices. Either expend incredible amounts of ammunition bringing the Apocalypse to a bunch of brain hungry zombies, or just give up and be eaten. Not sure which option to take? Well, then this review is for you. This won't be a terribly lengthy review, as the game is quite simple. It's an arcade style twin stick shooter, in the vein of classics like Robotron and SMASH TV (both of which are also available on the Xbox Live Arcade).

Remember this?

Now there's this:

This game follows the same basic pattern. You pick one of four characters:

and then you start out in an area, blast away everything in sight, then move on to the next area when you clear the one you're currently in. There are 7 different environments, and you move from one to the other and back again over the course of 50 days (each level is a different day). And of course, like the games of old, you work to increase your score, which goes up higher and higher via a multiplier. You earn 1 to your multiplier for every 5 zombies you kill. You do this until you survive the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.

So, you do this, along the way picking up various weapons, which include a shotgun, dual SMG, rifle, molotov cocktails, flamethrower, grenade launcher, and rocket launcher. Your default weapons are an assault rifle and a chainsaw, which you can use in two ways. Normal, and execution. Executions add 3 to your multiplier for each one you do, so they are very useful, but they also leave you open for attack for a second after you do one, so you must use them wisely. When the shotgun toting sheriff zombies (yes, seriously) show up, you don't want to be stuck doing an execution when one of them is nearby, you'll be open to a shotgun blast.

Speaking of shotgun toting sheriff zombies, these are the enemy types to be found in the game (weapon or attributes in brackets):

Dodge Zombie (side-stepper)
Shambler (regular zombie)
Big Boy (construction worker, can't break)
Granny (knives)
Queen (flying)
Puker (puke piles, slows you down)
Dynamite Guy (blows you up)
Infected Human (not attracted to bait)

That last one refers to two things I have not, as of yet, mentioned. There are survivors that randomly appear, and if you protect them for a short period of time, and they get picked up by helicopter, you get a score bonus. If they get attacked, they turn and then attack you. The bait mentioned is a talking C4 filled teddy bear (again, seriously) which you can throw to get the horde off of your back, and then watch as they gather around the lovable teddy bear.....and then BOOM, they explode into a pile of bloody gore. Well, this works on everything except the newly turned zombies.


The game starts out with one mode, and then you can unlock some new ones through normal play. They are as follows:

Turbo (faster)
All Weaons (you carry infinite versions of every weapon, which you can cycle through with the dpad)
Blackout (limited light)
Hardcore (start with one life)
Chainsaw Only (self explanatory)
7 Days of Hell (a long and very difficult mode)

As for the difficulty, it starts out easy and then ramps up, gettting quite difficult later on, although this is offset by infinite continues, which you can use if desired. Any score earned after continuing does not get posted to the leaderboards. You start with 4 lives, and you earn more as you gain score.

There is 4 player co-op, both online and off, in addition to the aforementioned leaderboards. The game is really fun, especially at first, but it's not perfect. So, a few downsides to the game:

1) Only 2 bosses, and it's really the same one twice

2) It gets repetitive, seeing as how it's a fairly shallow arcade game.

3) At $10, I don't think it's overpriced per se, but at $5 it would have been a sure bet for more people.

4) There isn't a huge community for this, at least on the xbox 360 version (I can't speak for the PS3 version). It's been out a few days, and the most people I have seen online at once is maybe 40.

Overall, this is a good looking, fun, modernized take on an old arcade standby, the top down shooter. Very fun, especially with friends, and it has a decent amount if unlockables, which is refreshing. It can also get stale fairly quickly. If you're a high score junkie, then you'll find more replayability out of it. The price is fair enough, and it really is fun. For the price of a movie ticket, you'll get two (or more) times the amount of hours of enjoyment. So, despite the inherently repetitive and shallow nature of the game, it's definitely a recommended buy for arcade shooter and zombie fans.

Final Score: 8/10.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Perfect Dark XBLA Remake Imminent (Footage!)

Due out in March, for a (rumoured) measly 10 dollars (800 MS points)! All I can say is, Perfect.

....Pardon the poor pun. But I'm really quite excited. Perfect Dark was a seminal console shooter, and they seem to have kept everything intact while improving on it in several key ways. I'm stoked.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bejeweled 2 Deluxe XBLA Review


Bejeweled 2 Deluxe was released in 2005 for the xbox 360. It's a sequel to the hit puzzle game Bejeweled. The concept of Bejeweled, as is the case with most puzzle games, is really quite simple. There is a board filled with gems, or jewels, of various shapes and sizes, and your goal is to swap places, two gems at a time, in order to cause three or more of the same kind of gems to line up. This results in them disappearing from the board, only to be replaced by the same number of a random selection of gems. Also as is the case with most other puzzle games, this simplicity is deceptive, as there are various strategies to be employed en route to clearing the requisite number of moves in order to progress. At least, this is the case for some of the modes. The end goal changes depending on which of the several game modes you are playing. We'll come to this momentarily, however. I'd like to describe the basic gameplay in just a little more detail before we get to the game modes.

There are seven main types of gems: the red square, the green circle, the yellow diamond, the white circle, the orange hexagon, the blue rounded (Reuleaux) triangle, and the purple triangle. When four of these are matched, a Power Gem is created. These are special versions of the regular pieces that explode when matched with other gems, destroying the surrounding pieces. When five gems are matched, a Hypercube is created. These special pieces destroy all of the gems of a given variety on the field when matched with one of that variety. For example, matching it with a purple triangle results in all of the available purple triangles being destroyed. These Power Gems and Hypercubes become focal points of the gameplay, as they play heavily into the strategies employed in the game.

As alluded to earlier, there are several game modes found within Bejeweled 2 Deluxe. There are nine modes, to be exact. The standard mode is as described above. The Action mode is a timed version of the standard mode. Puzzle Mode is a mode in which you are presented with various puzzles which need to be solved by matching specific gems in a certain order, thereby clearing the board. Another mode available in the game is the Endless mode, which is comprised of a series of levels, which increase in length as you get farther in. The hook in this mode is that you can never lose, hence the title 'Endless Mode.' Unlike in the regular modes, you will never get the dreaded no more moves text popup, which signifies a game over. The rest of the modes are hidden, and are up to the player to discover.

Visually, the game is pleasing to the eye, especially in high definition. Nothing ground breaking, but it's a nice clean, simple look, with sharp detail and beautiful backgrounds. The gems have a shine to them which catches the eye.

The game, like many other in the genre, is seemingly innocuous at first, but gets devilishly harder as time progresses, and if it grabs you, will hook you in for many, many hours. The developers tried to play to this with the achievements, which are very, very difficult to attain and almost incomprehensibly time consuming for the most part. The one for reaching level 280 in Endless mode, for example, will take about 100 hours to complete. Then you add in the 10000 power gems/1000 hypercubes achievement, and you have yourself a lot of gameplay ahead of you, if so inclined.

As far as negatives go, there are but a few. It's not incredibly complex, but that seems to work to its advantage. There's just enough depth to keep you interested, while at the same time remaining simplistic enough to be accessible and fun. However, this lack of depth may be seen as a downside to some gamers. Another possible downside is that there is no multiplayer. This is a single player only affair. The game design is not one that strikes me as particularly conducive to multiplayer, but some people may feel otherwise.

This is a good game that will appeal to most puzzle game fans, save for those few who require vast amounts of depth in their puzzle games. Other than that group, this will be a good purchase, and at 10 dollars, it's a good value, especially considering the gameplay hours you can squeeze from it. It's the type of game that's good for those times where you don't want to play anything too engaging, but rather, just sort of zone out and play something that will help you unwind after a long day. And if you're an achievement hunter, you've got your work cut out for you.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Friday, January 22, 2010

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Review

Geometry is Fun Again.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is a game with humble beginnings. The game began as a mini game found in the game Project Gotham Racing 2. Now, expanded and released on the xbox Live arcade service, it has become its own entity, and while modestly priced at $5, provides an experience quite above its meager means.

This is a 2D top down shooter, that is essentially a modernized version of Asteroids, without the warping and with dual stick controls added in. You move the ship with the left analog stick, and fire in the direction you point the right one in. Instead of flying saucers and asteroids, your ship shoots at enemies that take several different geometric shapes, are colored differently, and behave in different ways. There are simple enemies like the blue diamonds that move towards your position in a non aggressive manner, or the purple pinwheels that spin about randomly, not attacking you but causing your demise if you inadvertently make contact with them. There are green squares that hone in on you, and cowardly move away once you turn to fire in their direction. There are also more complicated enemies, like intensely aggressive seekers, ones that split up into smaller pieces when hit, long snakes that slither about and present a challenge due to their movement patterns and near invulnerability, or tiny blue particles that fill up the screen almost faster than you can shoot them.

There are also black holes (well, red holes with the properties of black holes) that appear on the grid once you start to earn enough points. These suck in the nearby enemies and even the grid that forms the background (for a cool visual effect) before exploding into a swarm of enemy shapes. These are supposed to present a challenge to the player, but can also actually be used to your advantage, as it's possible to lure enemies nearby, and shoot them as they are being sucked into the gravitational vortex.

You start the game with three lives and three bombs, and earn more as your score increases. The longer you go without dying, the bigger your score, as there is a multiplayer in effect, which increases the more you destroy the enemy shapes. The game is over when you run out of lives, and in theory, can run indefinitely. There is no real objective other than survival and setting a high score, which is a great throwback to the golden era of gaming, as it is fondly recalled.

The aforementioned bombs are a staple of the genre, and although not revolutionary, they serve you well, clearing the entire screen of enemies at the press of a button. In addition to the bombs, you have your ships main weapon, which has unlimited ammo, but also grows stronger earn points. Once you hit the 10,000 point mark, you get either a spread gun or a super concentrated but powerful machine gun, and the game randomly alternates between the two every 10,000 points.

There are two modes of play in the game. Evolved mode, which is likely where you will spend most of your time, is a remade version of the Geometry Wars from PGR2, with vastly improved graphics and a pulse pounding soundtrack, complimented by some of the coolest sound effects ever heard. The graphics in this mode are often referred to as 'psychedelic' and that seems to be an apt description. The colors pop off the screen, shapes explode into smaller shapes, the screen fills with enemies as the game progresses, and the very background itself is effected b both the black holes, as previously mentioned, and your machine gun fire.

With lights flashing, sparks flying, enemies exploding, and the music pumping, as the screen gets filled up more and more with enemies, shrinking your travel route inch by inch, you'll find yourself intoxicated by the intensity of the experience. This is definitely a twitch game, heavily relying on reflexes and quick decision making. And it all looks beautiful.

The second mode is the Retro mode, and it's an exact port of the game from PGR2. So, it's the evolved mode minus a chunk of the, excitement, although it's novel in its own right as there are a few small gameplay changes to be found. It's the mode you'll try out a few times before inevitably heading back to the evolved mode where you;'ll get, well, the evolved experience.

The game starts off deceptively easy, but the longer you survive, the harder it gets. Survive long enough and you'll see the screen completely filled with enemies, black holes exploding every few seconds, and you'll wonder if you even blinked anytime in the last few minutes. It's really quite a sight to behold, and, at $5, it's a no brainer for shooter fans.

The only real flaws present are the lack of co-op play, and the lack of any real differing gameplay modes.

Gorgeous to look at, beautiful to hear, and intense, challenging, and thrilling to play, this game is excellent. Another mode or two and some co-op play and this game would be hard to beat.

Overall Score: 9/10