December 26, 2011
Twisted Pixel has been making a name for themselves in the past few years for developing critically and commercially successful games on the Xbox 360. Their first stepping stone to prominence was The Maw, released for Xbox Live Arcade on January 21, 2009 via publisher Microsoft Game Studios.
The Maw opens up with a cutscene showing Frank, the alien I controlled, getting thrown into a jail cell. Riding in a space ship that soon crashed, there were creatures all around Frank, most importantly was the Maw. After the crash Frank and the Maw were on their way to freedom. They soon came upon these small, cute creatures, which the Maw happily ate. After eating a few more he grew larger. This trend continued throughout the game and the Maw became enormous. There were some creatures that also gave the Maw special abilities.
The abilities were interesting but they didn’t stave off the boredom that grew on me. I had to feed the Maw until we were able to continue on to the next area or stage and that was it. The abilities added a new element, break this or fly over that, but I still needed to eat a lot of creatures. I led the Maw around each stage as I attempted to find more edible creatures and this didn’t do it for me.
Throughout the game there was one aspect I really enjoyed and that was the cutscenes. They were told exclusively through body language and they routinely put a smile on my face. Frank and the Maw had a good chemistry and it seemed like they needed each other to succeed; one was the brains and the other was the brawn.
I didn’t really enjoy the gameplay of The Maw but it was short enough that by the time I got bored with it I was close enough to beating it to simply plow through. The highlight for me was the production. Twisted Pixel had a solid vision for the game and they nailed it. The visuals and soundtrack were comparable to a CGI movie and the interactions between Frank and the Maw routinely put a smile on my face. Not too shabby for an initial stepping stone.
October 17, 2011
I don’t go to the movies that frequently but the past couple of times I’ve gone, I’ve seen previews for Real Steel and I couldn’t be less interested. The movie is set in the future where, for whatever reason, robot boxing is super popular. To get their fix, people remotely control robots and watch them duke it out, like Rock’em Sock’em Robots. I find the premise silly, but some reviews have said it’s a pretty good movie, but whatever, I personally don’t find it interesting.
To tie in with the release of the movie, a boxing video game has been released. Real Steel was developed and published by Yuke’s and was released last week on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Yuke’s, a Japanese developer, has been around a long time and wrestling games seem to be their wheelhouse, so developing a boxing game probably wasn’t too much of a far cry for them.
A demo was released for the game and I checked it out. All I had access to was the multiplayer, where I could play against someone locally or fight against the computer. There were a handful of robots to pick from and they looked unique, although I’m not sure how differently they controlled as I only played as Atom, the robot from the movie previews. I wailed against my robot opponent until he hit the floor. He had ten seconds to get back up before I got the win. I knocked him down a few times before I finally got the KO and I played a few more matches.
I’m not familiar with boxing video games but I didn’t have major complaints with Real Steel. The face buttons consisted and light and heavy punches, one for each arm, and I could block and sway with the triggers. I could also do a powerful attack when I held the right shoulder button and pressed a face button. I had a power meter that would deplete and fill up, so I had to keep this in mind. It doesn’t seem likes there much to the game, a very basic single player mode and multiplayer, and I really wasn’t wowed by the game, so in the end, like with the movie, I’m not that interested.
October 10, 2011
Ensemble Studios was an influential video game developer throughout the 1990s and 2000s. They worked almost entirely on real-time strategy games and on the PC to boot, so I haven’t had any exposure to them. They were shuttered by Microsoft a few years ago and as is the case with many shuttered developers, a few smaller studios form afterwards. Robot Entertainment is one of those studios and they have a new game called Orcs Must Die!
If it’s not clear from the title, a lot of orcs die in the game, and the character I played as (the war mage) did let’s say ninety percent of the killing. The impression I got from the intro cutscene was the war mage was inept, but I found that to be far from the case. He had many tools at his disposal even in the demo and placing familiar booby traps and watching orcs run through them was entertaining.
I played the demo version of Orcs Must Die and found the setup funny. A powerful mage has been killing orcs for a long time, preventing them from entering rifts and causing much chaos. One day this mage slipped on blood and cracked his head open, leaving this very important task to his naïve apprentice. Naturally I play as his apprentice, who happens to be a war mage, one who can use magic, swords, and crossbows.
Once the intro cutscene ended I was given control and I filled up a hot bar for quick access to my weapons and traps. I had two weapons throughout the demo that allowed me to deal with the orcs directly, a crossbow and a sword. They were both easy to use and effective, but it’d be mighty hard to hold back the orcs with these weapons alone.
The most interesting aspect of the game was my ability to set traps. The stages I played on were very linear; all three were hallways in fact, so the orcs didn’t have much of a varying path. In fact, I could see the path the orcs would take via lines making it even easier to set traps. I believe a new trap is unlocked with the completion of each stage and I had access to a few in the demo.
The first two I had access to could be placed on the ground. One was a spike strip and the other a tar pit that would slow orcs down. Another I could place on walls and it shot arrows at orcs whenever they passed. The last one I unlocked was an exploding barrel that would explode when I shot it with my crossbow. I developed a strategy early on by placing tar pits and arrow walls in the same path thereby slowing enemies down to make sure they get shot full of arrows. These traps weren’t free however, but my income was easy to come by. Each orc killed would give me some money and I could place traps on the fly.
The intial setup for Orcs Must Die! was amusing, but I don’t think there’s going to be any depth to the plot, and that’s fine because the gameplay was fun. I found it monotonous at first, but after I developed my tar pit/arrow wall strategy, a light clicked and I began thinking of other combinations. There weren’t many traps in the demo though so my experimentation went unfulfilled. But, the full game promises many more traps and weapons to utilize on the game’s 24 stages. I don’t believe the game has co-op which seems shocking to me, but I found the gameplay to be a nice blend of mindless hack ‘n’ slash gameplay and strategy. Orcs Must Die! was released last week on Xbox Live Arcade and is being released this week on the PC. It was developed by Robot Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios on XBLA.
October 6, 2011
When I was young I played a ton of NBA Hangtime on my Super Nintendo, I loved it. I’m not that big into sports games, but NBA Hangtime’s fast-paced and exaggerated take on the sport was very fun. After doing a little research a year or two ago, I realized that NBA Hangtime was developed by Midway, the same developer behind the super popular NBA Jam. This alleviated the grief I had whenever I’d hear people callout NBA Jam so fondly, but not NBA Hangtime.
I guess once Midway stopped developing the series (and created NBA Hangtime) the series went through a long period of staleness. That changed last year when Electronic Arts released the critically acclaimed NBA Jam for the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. This year they have a follow-up in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, a sequel appearing on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition was developed by EA Canada and published by EA Sports this week on XBLA and PSN.
These sorts of video games are always better when you have another person so I was lucky that when I decided to play the demo for NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, I had a friend over. We only had a few minutes of gameplay so we had to get acquainted with the controls quickly. I was a little overwhelmed at first, but once I realized the movements I should focus on I was much more comfortable. Trying to steal the ball, blocking shots, using turbo, this was all familiar to my friend and I, and it seemed more effective than it used to be.
Once we got used to the controls we became effective at defense, but also offense. We took many jump shots and began learning the timing necessary to hit three pointers. But it’s not NBA Jam without outlandish dunks and On Fire Edition delivers. We saw many different dunks, but they repeated often; we were only able to play as the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat so I wonder if some dunks are character or team specific.
The game looked really nice. The character models looked like their real-world counterparts with the exception of their cartoonish proportions. Everyone had an oversized head which conveyed expressions very well, especially during dunks. The announcer is another memorable part of the past games and again, On Fire Edition doesn’t disappoint.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition was a riot. My friend and I played three matches; the first was very close, the next game my friend blew me out, but I blew him out in the final game. EA Canada basically took the NBA Jam format and updated everything around it. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition appears to be just as fun as the past games and well worth the fifteen dollar price tag.
September 21, 2011
Have you ever wanted to be a god? Have dominion over creatures and wield unimaginable control? Well From Dust satiates a few god-like desires. Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft, From Dust is a downloadable video game where players take control of the breath, a visual representation of their influence. Appearing like a cursor, I was able to move it around the stages, highlight people or things, and most importantly, manipulate the environment.
The demo opened with astounding visuals and sounds, showing me the people I would assist. They were tribal, resembling African Bushmen or Australian aborigines. A narrator got me up to speed as to what’s going on and my task. These tribal people needed to get somewhere; traveling through portals and I had to get them there.
The stages I played consisted of a few islands spread about in clear blue water, very tropical and desolate. Before the portals would activate, the people had to build small villages. I led them to totems were they performed a ceremony and a village popped up around them. This also brought fauna and animals.
More totems were located on separate islands. To transport the people to these islands, I had to use my powers. I could absorb certain types of terrain, sand or water for instance, and then disperse the terrain wherever I wanted. I had to link islands together by absorbing sand and dropping it to create land bridges. Spreading the sand was a little difficult for me, at least spreading it evenly.
Helping these tribal people out could be rewarding and I’m intrigued by the game, but the few stages I played in the demo had me doing the same thing: leading the people to totems and finally to a portal. The final stage saw a tsunami come, but all I had to do was lead one of the people to a rock and they learned a song to avoid it. It looked great and the concept was fun, but I’m fine with playing as much of From Dust as I did especially if the gameplay doesn’t change a lot throughout the game. From Dust was released at the end of July on Xbox Live Arcade, at the end of August on the PC, and it was just released this past week for PlayStation Network.
September 19, 2011
Wow, I just played the demo for Renegade Ops and I think it is one hell of a game. I’ve written a lot recently about downloadable games and while I’ve enjoyed many of the games I’ve played, I didn’t purchase them immediately afterwards. Well I really dug the demo for Renegade Ops and I plan on purchasing it, a solid endorsement eh?
In the demo for Renegade Ops I witnessed the plot setup and played through one stage. A madman has dropped a bomb on a city and is threatening to destroy more cities soon. A council of politicians is meeting to discuss what to do and they’ve decided in favor of negotiation over retaliation. That didn’t sit well with a high ranking officer and he has decided to take on the madman himself, with the aid of other renegades.
The stage I played through was set in a tropical environment, in what could either be a South American or Asian country. I drove a vehicle around equipped with weapons and completed objectives as they were assigned. The game is played from a top-down perspective and I controlled my vehicle using both analog sticks; the left one to drive and the right one to shoot. The stage was very open and there was a lot to do. I had a secondary objective of rescuing hostages for the entire mission, but I was consistently being updated with timed primary objectives.
Renegade Ops looks to have a few hooks to keep players coming back such as leveling, upgradability, co-operative play for up to four including both split-screen and online play. The stage I played was a blast and it seems like the game will be very cool playing with a friend or two. The tropical environment looked gorgeous and I was surprised by the amount of destructibility. But I guess I shouldn’t be as it was developed by Avalanche Studios, the developer behind the Just Cause games. I’m really stoked about Renegade Ops after playing the demo and I plan on buying it, a ringing endorsement. Renegade Ops is published by Sega and it was released this past week as a downloadable game for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, with a PC release coming.
September 14, 2011
BloodRayne: Betrayal is a side-scrolling hack and slash game aiming to reboot the BloodRayne series. I personally remember the series pretty well. I’ve only played a smidgen of the first game but I remember it and its sequel receiving mixed reviews. BloodRayne: Betrayal was developed by a different studio however and it garnered a lot of positive prerelease buzz and after playing the demo I can see why.
I’m not sure how much the plot is related to the previous games, but the demo contained two stages that had me fighting to reach a castle. An army was trying to get to it, but they weren’t going to be able to handle the occultist enemies so they called in Rayne.
The game looked phenomenal. The animation was really slick and the graphics were dark but pretty. The same goes for the soundtrack. There were a lot of sad piano riffs and a lot of epic rock mixed with orchestral instruments.
I hacked and slashed my way through a few different types of enemies and tons of them. The stages were pretty long (each about fifteen minutes) which gave me plenty of time to experiment with combos. The action was fast-paced and open to combos, but for the majority of the demo I simply button mashed. I was graded at the end for my score and I got an F, really terrible. It seems like the game is going to require a lot of time to master the combat and receive really good scores. Regardless, I had a fun time cutting up bad guys by button mashing.
BloodRayne: Betrayal was super gory. As I cut through bad guys, blood would fly everywhere. And when they were stunned, I could suck their blood to refill my health bar, a very cool feature. I enjoyed plowing through my enemies, even though I wasn’t doing it very well. But as I did with Devil May Cry 4, it might be fun to replay to improve my skills. I was surprised at the production values of the game. The graphics and the soundtrack were really good, as was the combat. It seems like a really intense side-scrolling hack and slash game. It was developed by WayForward and published by Majesco for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network last week.
September 13, 2011
SkyDrift is a downloadable game released last week for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and the PC. It’s a racing game featuring airplanes and power ups, think Mario Kart and I thought it was pretty good. It was developed and published by the Hungarian studio Digital Reality; they also published Dead Block.
I played through SkyDrift’s tutorial learning how to maneuver my airplane as well as what the power ups did. It took me a few races before I really got used to controlling my airplane. I had to learn to plan my turns about a second before the actual turn. What helped was going knife-edge by turning with both analog sticks.
There was a decent blend of variety within the power ups. They were mostly focused on attacks but there were a couple of defense-oriented ones. I could hold two power ups at a time and if flew over a power up that I already had, that power up would level up and become stronger. Similar to Wipeout, if I didn’t want a power up, I could recycle it for boost. There were alternate ways to receive boost too. I got more for damaging and taking out other players or for flying close to the ground.
The demo also featured a multiplayer component but I forgot to try it out. There was only one stage in the demo, but it looked very nice. The demo ended touting a few more environments but I wonder how different the stages are visually. The soundtrack was very noticeable and it was rocking and upbeat, matching the tone of the races. There wasn’t much style to SkyDrift’s design; it seemed like everything was created realistically, but like I said, it looked very nice. I enjoy this type of racing game and SkyDrift seems like a fully featured power up-based racing game.
September 7, 2011
The third game to be released in the DeathSpank series is The Baconing, and it’s my first experience with the comedic action-role-playing series. It was released last week for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and on the PC via Steam; I played the PSN version. The Baconing was developed and published by Hothead Games with the exception of the XBLA version, published by Valcon Games.
Having become bored without foes to fight, DeathSpank tries on his Throngs of Virtue and inadvertently creates an evil version of himself that begins wreaking havoc and already the game is making callbacks to a previous game in the series.
The demo had me fighting through groups of enemies and meeting unusual non-player characters who issued quests to me. Although the demo was linear, the rest of the game should be fairly expansive and open to replaying stages.
When enemies, objects, or NPCs where on the screen, I could target them and a circle would surround them. If I was targeting an enemy or an object I could attack with one of the four weapons I had assigned to the face buttons. If it was an NPC, I could begin a conversation. I was given options as to how I wanted to respond in conversation and I was surprised to see that all of the dialogue was voice-acted.
I played the demo on normal and it seemed pretty tough, although it just threw me into battle without really explaining much. The menus seemed expansive and I was overwhelmed with information, at least considering I was playing a brief demo. The humor in The Baconing seems similar to that of a cartoon; DeathSpank was loud and boisterous and the dialogue was pretty funny. The world was very colorful and there was a lot of detail to the stages.
The Baconing appears to be a fun action-RPG similar to Diablo, but if it’s your first experience with the series like it was mine, the first game, DeathSpank, might be a better option.
September 6, 2011
Besides seeing commercials every now and then for the TV show, I have had no exposure to Comedy Central’s adult cartoon Ugly Americans. Not totally aware of the show or its success, I was surprised to see a downloadable game based off of it pop up on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network last week. Considering I’ve been watching Adult Swim on Cartoon Network since its inception, I figured Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon would be right up my alley.
After a brief intro, I was given the choice to play as four characters. Once I picked one, a cutscene began that set up the plot and gave me a feel for the characters and the humor; it’s typical of similar shows, such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Ugly Americans is very much a cartoon, and it’s very much an adult one. In the aforementioned cutscene, one of the characters was hanging around a sex doll hoping to make his girlfriend jealous, while another character was joyous that he just received a gun that uses anything for ammunition, his suggestion: a lamp to shoot into someone’s head.
I figured the game would be a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, surely easy for the developer to churn out, and I was kind of right. The game’s stages do scroll to the right and I fought a bunch of enemies, but the combat is conducted via the analog sticks. The left analog stick moved my character while the right analog stick shot my weapon in the direction I pointed. There were a ton of enemies to kill as I wandered through the city streets, but I knew I would only be interested in the game if I had a co-op buddy.
Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon reminds me a lot of Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am. The use of cel-shading between the games is very similar, as is the humor, and nearly the quality of the game, but Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon has more potential for fun. It seems like an okay game; I can’t imagine it taking too long to complete and leveling up characters could provide an incentive to replay stages. Without a co-op partner or a familiarity with the series however, it’s not recommendable. Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon was released last week for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It was developed by Backbone Entertainment and published by Comedy Central Games/345 Games.