February 21, 2012
Remember when I was ate up with Mass Effect and I played everything I could, including the DLC for Mass Effect 2 in a few month span? Well, to prepare for the release of Mass Effect 3 I figured it was time to revisit Mass Effect 2 and play through the two remaining pieces of DLC I saved. Luckily for me, I probably left the very best one to begin with.
Lair of the Shadow Broker sees Commander Shepherd receiving valuable information on the whereabouts of the mysterious figure whose influence Shepherd has occasionally felt. He, or perhaps it, is similar to a gang lord that deals in information. He has a supply chain consisting of an innumerable amount of henchmen that is able to span the galaxy and gather information. With this supply chain, he’s able to control information so well that little is known about him; it helps that no one who has seen him has lived to tell the tale.
When Shepherd left Liara T’Soni on Illium in Mass Effect 2, he left her as she continued her search for the shadow broker’s whereabouts. Liara has been tracking the information overlord with a vengeance, believing him to be the cause of a partner’s death. When Shepherd receives the information on the shadow broker, he naturally thinks of Liara. Thinking the information is too good to be obtained by just anyone, Liara believes the source of the info is her previously thought dead partner, giving her even more reason to ally with Shepherd again.
Before leaving the financial capital of the universe, Shepherd and his squad deal with the can of worms that hunting an information magnate opens up. An assassination attempt on Liara keeps her and Shepherd separated, but it’s not long before his squad, and Tela Vasir, an asari Spectre meet back up with Liara in an enemy-filled skyscraper. That Spectre double-crosses them, leading to a chase scene between the towering skyscrapers of Illium. This chase scene was very fun and reminiscent of similar futuristic chase scenes from popular science fiction movies. Liara and Shepherd eventually catch Tela, but not before waging battles against more henchmen and passing through a high-end brothel. Tela was a very strong adversary and I had a hard time with this boss fight – I was playing on the second hardest difficulty level however. Afterwards Shepherd gave the most fantastic line of dialogue (paragon choice) when Tela took a hostage. He subsequently chastised Tela with underwhelming reasoning that, when applied to Shepherd himself, doesn’t hold water.
With Shepherd, his squad, and Liara all together again, their search for the shadow broker begins in earnest and leads them to a planet with extremely harsh weather patterns. The shadow broker resides in an enormous starship that remains hidden in an ongoing storm. Landing on the starship, they have to deal with the shadow broker’s henchmen before gaining access to the interior, at which point they have a few more quick bouts with yet more henchmen before finally meeting the shadow broker.
The shadow broker hails from a pre-spaceflight race of aliens that are ferociously deadly, quick learners, yet they’re unable to cooperate with other races, let alone each other. Hence, the shadow broker represents the first (and possibly only) time players will get to see this race of alien. The ensuing battle was representative of a lot of video game boss fights; figure out the boss’ pattern, exploit the boss’ weaknesses, repeat two more times. Not that that’s bad, I really liked this boss fight; it was balanced much better compared to the battle against Tela, and it gave Shepherd a chance to flex his melee skills.
Lair of the Shadow Broker concludes with a fantastic role reprisal that should have major consequences for the upcoming Mass Effect 3. Thanks to the shadow broker’s diligent record keeping, there is plenty of fun information to sift through on Shepherd’s squad and other important characters in the game after the conclusion. And there is an epilogue of sorts with Liara and Shepherd having a heart-to-heart conversation of their strengths and weaknesses and the lack of clarity relating to what the future has in store for every living being.
Lair of the Shadow Broker was a lengthy addition to Mass Effect 2 with a conclusion whose effects should be felt throughout the remainder of the series. The DLC is well worth the price and should be required playing for anyone with a copy of Mass Effect 2.
December 21, 2011
Blue Toad Murder Files in its entirety consists of six episodic downloads wherein one to four players assumes the role of a detective and solves crimes. The first episode, Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma is available for free on the PlayStation Network and my friend and I recently played through it.
Developed and published by UK based Relentless Software, Blue Toad Murder Files is a departure from what they’re known for: the Buzz! series. At the same time, they’ve used their experience and crafted a game that is fun with friends, cooperatively or competitively.
Set in a picturesque British village with banal villagers who talk in a nearly foreign tongue, to me (an American) Blue Toad Murder Files seems as British as it gets. But that’s part of the game’s charm. When it comes to detectives, Sherlock Holmes and the work of Agatha Christie are forefront in my mind, never mind that Hercule Poirot is Belgian…
Anyways, my friend and I soon witnessed the mayor of Little Riddle get shot and we began questioning the villagers attempting to find the culprit. Nearly every time we talked with someone they had a puzzle for us. We were supposed to solve these ourselves but we worked cooperatively. The puzzles reminded me of the ones I saw in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Puzzles didn’t fall into one category and for all twelve of them we were asked to do something different. The difficulty was well paced and we had fun attempting to get the gold medal on each one.
Blue Toad Murder Files: Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma couldn’t be tackled in a free fashion; it was a guided adventure that gave us all the information it had and then tasked us with putting it all together and coming to a conclusion. I loved the setting and the character’s and dug the variety of the puzzles. It took us about an hour to play through and I suspect we might play through the rest. If that’s the case, expect another write-up over the game in full.
July 1, 2011
Project Overlord is basically the second major piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 2. The first being Kasumi – Stolen Memory, which I played earlier in the year, but forgot to post until yesterday.
In Project Overlord, Shepard and his squad are (like always) getting to the bottom of what happened on some random planet. The namesake of the DLC was a project attempting to control the robot geth. The researchers on the planet of Aite tried to do so by integrating a human with a virtual intelligence. They were successful, but now (like always) the VI has gone haywire.
Project Overlord was interesting because it attempted at setting a moody atmosphere for the on-foot portions. I thought BioWare was fairly successful in this regard. The VI appears constantly throughout the corridors I traversed, often times appearing to lead me in specific directions. The VI’s face would appear on windows screaming unintelligible things at me. And as I got closer to the VI, I unraveled more of how the project actually happened.
Project Overlord was a great addition to Mass Effect 2. It brought in some spooky atmosphere that no other mission set can lay claim to in the game. The latter part of the DLC had me venture through a visually pleasing on-foot portion, again, unlike any other mission in the game. Project Overlord brought many of the gameplay systems of Mass Effect 2 into an interesting couple of hours, and at seven bucks, it’s not that bad of a deal.
June 30, 2011
Kasumi Goto is an interesting character. She’s a thief, not the most famous, but the best, as she says it, and like the rest of Shepard’s squad in Mass Effect 2, she is interesting and a little different from everyone else. As Kasumi’s Stolen Memory unfolds I learned about her past and why we needed each other’s help; Shepard could obviously use all the help he can get and she needed use of his talents.
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory is basically her loyalty mission. It’s a fun mission and for the most part different from what I’d experienced in Mass Effect 2. Gunplay didn’t play a large part until the latter half, at which point it became a rather tedious shootout. The beginning had me undercover at a party and looking for clues to help her break into the vault of a dubious man, who had something very dear to her. Of course, they get discovered and it’s a series of shootouts to freedom. The ending was a little difficult, but it was a welcome change, up until then, it was monotonous filling guards with lead, or whatever Mass Effect guns use for ammo, until they keeled over.
Besides Kasumi, there is a small amount of loot and a new submachine gun. Kasumi was talkative back on the Normandy, but as was the case with Zaeed, she lacks a conversation wheel so she just spouts info when prompted. She has a unique ability that is both effective and fun to use, but I can’t see her being more useful than anyone of the current squad.
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory was a short play through, but an interesting one, and I not only got a new character from it, but a decent amount of loot. I think seven dollars was a little too much to charge, but I still enjoyed what I played.
June 28, 2011
When Clover Studio shut down, I was sad. I loved the games the studio developed for Capcom. Nearly everything they did was critically successful, but not always commercially successful. A little while after they shut down, many of the former employees went on to form Platinum Games, who have made a name for themselves in the past couple of years. Heck, one of the first games I wrote about here (MadWorld) was developed by them. With Vanquish, released in 2010 and published by Sega, they created a spectacular action game. Packed with an unraveling plot, fast gameplay, and variations on the genre, Vanquish is a game I highly recommend.
There’s a lot going on with the plot of Vanquish. On the surface, I was just playing as Sam Gideon, DARPA researcher ordered to rescue a kidnapped scientist. But the deeper I got into Vanquish, the more I learned about the true intentions of everyone and their interconnectedness.
Set in the future, Vanquish takes place on a massive space station, the United States’ 51st state. Seeing it’s cityscape in the background of missions was remarkable. It was fantastic to look at and did a great job of giving scale to my surroundings. The Order of the Russian Star has invaded the space station and taken over. After gaining control they attacked San Francisco with a laser and stated that unless the United States surrenders, New York City is next. Not wanting to do that, the President sends in the Marines to quell the threat, along with Sam Gideon.
Sam is a researcher at DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Interestingly enough, DARPA is a real agency in the United States’ Department of Defense that has made many notable developments, such as the foundations of the Internet. DARPA sees this as the perfect opportunity to test out their Augmented Reaction Suit, or ARS. This suit is quite awesome, less so is the Battlefield Logic Adaptable Electronic Weapons System, or BLADE; I‘ll talk about those acronyms and their features shortly.
I really liked Sam. He had a very casual attitude; even with the multitude of near death experiences he had he usually remained calm. He also showed signs of altruism, frequently rescuing his ally Marines when they needed rescued. Contrasting him was Robert Burns, the leader of the Marines. He was more concerned on finishing the mission he was assigned, no matter the cost. Throughout the game the two had much back and forth banter and it was fun listening to them.
So Vanquish is a third-person cover-based shooter. But because Sam is equipped with the ARS, the game is fast-paced, something most of the games in this genre can’t cop to. You might think I’m a little masochistic when I say I liked the game the most when the odds were stacked against me, but the gameplay really excelled in these situations. In battles I was either facing a lot of normal enemies, or a few really big ones. Using the features of the ARS made these shootouts challenging and entertaining.
The first cool feature of the ARS is the boosters attached to it. At the push of a button I had Sam boosting around the battlefield at a fast clip. I could quickly flank enemies or boost into cover when need be. I was limited on how much I could do this however; overdoing it would overheat the ARS. Boosting was easy to do and thrilling in the heat of battle.
The most notable feature of the ARS however is the AR Mode, aka Augmented Reaction Mode. With a simple button combo I entered this slow motion mode, allowing me greater control of my actions and more precision. Like boosting, I was limited by the same overheating gauge on the ARS. Regulating the AR Mode and boost was necessary to overcoming the enemy threat. By the end, I had become very accustomed to triggering the AR Mode, popping off headshots, and getting back into cover without overheating the ARS.
The last acronym at Sam’s disposal was BLADE, but it’s not that great actually. I basically had one weapon, but by scanning weapons I’d find on the battlefield, Sam’s BLADE would replicate them. He can only hold three weapons at a time (plus grenades) so it’s not like I could scan everything willy-nilly and have a stacked arsenal. Personally, I preferred sticking with a machine gun and the heavy machine gun, rotating my third spot out to experiment with the other weapons. The usual suspects were present but there were plenty of weapons that had interesting effects.
An interesting mechanic involving the weapons was the ability to upgrade them. Every now and then an enemy would drop an upgrade that I could pick up. But the most frequent way I leveled up my weapons was picking up ammunition. If a specific weapon had full ammo, and I picked up ammo for that weapon, a bar would appear next to that weapon. After doing this a few times the weapon would increase a level, eventually maxing out at ten. This had an interesting effect on my strategy. I really liked the machine gun, but I would refrain from using, hoping to find ammo to level it up. As weapons leveled up, they could hold more ammo and did more damage.
I was hooked on Vanquish from the start. Watching the plot unravel kept me motivated to play. As did the chemistry between Sam and Burns; they always bickered, but worked together; it was like a buddy film. Boosting around the battlefield was a blast and differentiated the game from its peers. The AR Mode was vital to success, as was managing the ARS’ temperature, which became second nature. Weapons felt good and upgrading them also set Vanquish apart from other games. Vanquish feels like a complete package; it’s well designed and a blast that I’m going to replay as soon as I’m done writing.
April 27, 2011
The past couple of times I’ve browsed through the game departments of Best Buy and Target, I’ve noticed a plethora of copies of Truth or Lies, and to my surprise Target had a pile of them on clearance for five dollars. I decided to take a shot in the dark with the game and pick it up after seeing if a friend would be interested in playing it as well. Truth or Lies was developed by Australian based Big Ant Studios, known for some Rugby and World of Outlaws games as well as a few ports. Truth or Lies is a party game that asks players questions that they then must answer truthfully to score the most points possible. A microphone is required to play the game but one was not packed in.
Truth or Lies asks players questions and the object is answer each question truthfully. The object is to ultimately win, after all this is a video game, and answering questions truthfully will net you more points. But what if an embarrassing question comes up? Then one would lie, but do so convincingly enough to trick the game.
Before my friend and I began, we each created a profile for the game. The game gave us a few questions and asked us to answer them truthfully or dishonestly, presumably to hear what we sound like in each scenario. Once our profiles were set up we jumped into the game proper. We picked a two person match and the game then asked how long the match should be; seeking the largest amount of achievements possible, we chose the longest match and it then asked us who was playing, kids, adults, etc.
Okay, now we were into the match. The questions we were asked were dumb. Even after selecting questions for adults, a lot of the questions seemed naïve. And most of the questions seemed uninspired, I mean on the front of the box one of the example questions asked what you would do if you had twenty-four hours to live? How would the game really know if someone was telling the truth anyways, it only gives you ten seconds to answer, and even then, my friend and I could’ve just horsed around when we were setting up our profiles? That said, we didn’t horse around when we set up our profiles and the game seemed to be fairly accurate when judging whether we were truthful or not.
The match we played was very long, about a half hour, and ultimately very boring. The format was similar throughout, all I remember is a lot of dull questions. Neither of us had any interest to play more of the game afterwards. We did check out the Hot Seat mode where we got to take turns asking each other questions, and that was pretty cool, but not enough to make us want to play more.
Truth or Lies boasts that it has over three thousand questions, thought-provoking ones no less, but the majority of the ones I saw were either naïve or just uninspired. After a match, I’d seen all of Truth or Lies that I needed to see. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun with the game, no, but the fun I garnered from the experience came from the dumb answers my friend and I gave, which became more absurd as the match continued. I would not recommend Truth or Lies.
Bonus: Check out the video tab on the Truth or Lies website (hyperlink) and watch some of the worst promotional videos for a video game ever. It seems like they were going for a sitcom vibe but they gave me serious wahjah.
March 8, 2011
I jumped into Mass Effect 2 right after completing Mass Effect and its DLC packs. I was late to the party on Mass Effect, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. Mass Effect 2 provides many changes to the formula set up in Mass Effect and many of these changes were to aspects that I enjoyed in Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 has forsaken much of the role-playing aspects from Mass Effect, for example loot. I enjoy the constant quest for better gear in games, so the removal of this, and other concepts turned me off initially, but in the end, provided for a more efficient adventure. Overall, BioWare has shifted some focus away from the RPG aspects of Mass Effect and made Mass Effect 2 a much better action game and a better game in general.
When I traveled between planets in Mass Effect, I either knew exactly where I wanted to go or I was just exploring. If I was completing a mission I’d make sure I knew the star cluster, the star system and finally which planet, sometimes I’d even keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of everywhere I needed to go. Mass Effect 2 has simplified this process; whenever you enter the galaxy map, icons related to your missions point out where you go until you’re finally at your destination and the actual travel in the galaxy map is handled slightly differently as well, which I prefer over Mass Effect’s.
When completing missions in Mass Effect, I’d land on the planet I needed to be on and first off, check the map, locating the closest object and going for it, whether it is a mineral, some loot, or where I needed to be for the mission. When I’d get planet side in Mass Effect I’d feel compelled to explore it, before tackling the mission. In Mass Effect 2, they’ve taken this sort of exploration out; instead when you land on a planet, you go straight into the mission or colony if it’s a location akin to the Citadel. This creates a more straight forward approach to the missions, and the game in general; it felt significantly more closed off. Personally I enjoyed exploring planets and scavenging for loot in Mass Effect, but I also appreciate the structure that Mass Effect 2 presents, I was able to get exactly where I needed to be without hassle.
Tied into the scaling back of exploration is the removal of loot. Instead of stumbling upon hundreds of weapons and various equipment that are unique primarily because of their stats, Mass Effect 2 has simplified all this by allowing access only to a handful of different weapons. New to Mass Effect 2 is the upgrade system. On the Normandy is a research station where you spend minerals to produce upgrades, either found while on missions or bought from stores. In Mass Effect, minerals were found by mining them planet side, now that landing on planets is removed, minerals are received from scanning planets in the galaxy map, which turned out to be a fun, fairly mindless, way to spend some time.
Mass Effect 2 is much more competent as an action game than Mass Effect was. First off, Mass Effect 2 does a better job of integrating biotic and tech abilities into the combat. In Mass Effect, I don’t remember using my allies’ abilities as much as I do in Mass Effect 2. Whenever I’m in a firefight, I use my squad’s abilities as often as possible. Of interest is the ability to combine effects to create more powerful reactions, in some ways shaping who I decided to take along with me on missions. Instead of having infinite ammo and overheating, weapons must now be reloaded; which didn’t really change the way I played; I never had a problem running out of ammo as enemies dropped it quite frequently and I had plenty of weapons or abilities if needed. As was the case in Mass Effect, the squad Shepard leads in Mass Effect 2 is diverse, both personality-wise and ability-wise, only more so this time around. Every character seems more developed, and more differentiated then the cast of Mass Effect.
While I don’t want to spoil much as it has a phenomenal story, I will say that Mass Effect 2 opens with a bang, surprising myself and everyone else as I recall when it originally came out. The opening paves the way for the story in Mass Effect 2 to come from a different angle then in Mass Effect. The overall objective of the game seems like a suicide mission, but the way I handled it, everything turned out satisfactorily. In Mass Effect, there was an enemy to target and something to qualify as an end, taking out the rogue Spectre, Saren Arterius. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t have that sort of singular enemy threat, leading to a feeling of lack of accomplishment upon reflection. I definitely completed what I set out to do at the onset of Mass Effect 2, but it feels like an insurmountable task, still, to defeat the Reaper threat in Mass Effect 3, which makes me want Mass Effect 3 even more to see how this series is resolved. Regardless Mass Effect 2 was an exceptional adventure and I discuss it often with others who have played through it, it’s a fun game to talk about.
Mass Effect 2 got of rid many of the things I enjoyed about Mass Effect, but I still came away liking Mass Effect 2 more. The game is still an RPG, and it’s still a third-person shooter, BioWare has emphasized the action more in Mass Effect 2 and as a result, it’s a much better action game. While I loved the exploration and the RPG aspects of Mass Effect, I think the simplification of these mechanics made Mass Effect 2 an improved game over its predecessor. I could write another thousand words about Mass Effect 2 but at this point it’s clear: Mass Effect was terrific, and one of my favorite video games, Mass Effect 2 is even better, and I can’t wait to play Mass Effect 3.
December 27, 2010
Here we are again with Doritos Unlock Xbox campaign. In short, Doritos puts together a competition for individuals to brainstorm some game ideas that relate somehow to the Doritos brand, judges go on to vote for the one’s they like the best, and eventually Doritos funds the winning concept(s) and the final product(s) get released via Xbox Live Arcade for free. In December 2008, Doritos Dash of Destruction was released and it wasn’t terrible, especially for achievements which were easily the main selling point to anyone who played it, like the two new games: Doritos Crash Course and Harms Way.
Doritos Crash Course is side-scrolling platformer that presents itself like a game show, similar to Ninja Warrior or Wipeout. You take your avatar through fifteen levels of increasingly complex platforming levels, boosting, jumping, swinging, and sliding your way to the end. Towards the end Doritos Crash Course became very complex and at times difficult, but what it required me to do was always within my means and in the end, down to timing on my part. I played through the game racing a pal online and I’d say it took us less than an hour. It was a blast and an easy game to get into and figure out.
Harms Way on the other hand is more of a complex game, both mechanically and visually. Doritos Crash Course looks
great, but Harms Way has a photorealistic aesthetic and looks wonderful considering it’s free; then again, there are a lot of yellows and browns in it… In Harms Way you can control either a vehicle or a stationary turret. When driving a vehicle you are, of course, competing for first place by finishing three laps the fastest, but along the tracks are shortcuts, which require turrets to blow open and power ups. Turrets are stationary and as a turret user you manually switch between them, with plenty scattered throughout the courses. When playing as a team, a driver and a turret user, the driver can pick up turret upgrades allowing the turret user different weapons. I preferred playing as a turret; the driving wasn’t bad, but I’ve played plenty of racing games like Harms Way, I haven’t played a racing game where I man a stationary turret and take out my driver’s competitors. I had a blast playing this co-op and strategizing with my driver, it felt like he needed me and we had to work together communicating.
Both these games are worth checking out, they’re free after all, and they’re both quite good considering. They’ll each take about an hour to get everything that you want out of them and they’re both better with more people, either online or off.
May 20, 2010
Before picking up Picross DS, I had only heard of picross through snippets in magazines and until I played it I had no idea why it received these mentions, when there had only been one game released in the US. Once I had got it, I was instantly hooked. I’m a fan of Sudoku and crosswords and for those who have never played picross, it compares to those games favorably to those kinds of games.
Before making the transition to 3D, picross was played in a grid (5×5, 10×10 etc.) and to complete it you’d fill in boxes by the clues given to you on the outside of the rows and columns; once completed, an image is revealed. I would have been happy with more puzzles for picross but instead they went and added another dimension which changes the game dramatically, yet it still retains familiar elements that make it picross.
In Picross 3D you are now given a 3D grid, that you can rotate and “look into” to figure out the image. Each image is completed the same as it has been in the past: each row and column still has the numbers that tell you how many of those boxes you need to fill in. The controls are superb and allow you to maneuver the starting grid easily and without any confusion. The game has a great, and lengthy, tutorial explaining every aspect of the game clearly and repeatedly which will help new players learn invaluable techniques and practice using logic to complete examples puzzles.There are more than 350 puzzles, and if my experience with the game is any indication, it’ll keep anyone busy for a long time. Whenever I play, I typically do a handful at a time or pop in some music when playing for extended periods; I seem to play it every night just before bed. Once you finish with the included puzzles, you can get online to download more, for free, for what looks like will be a long time to come. Even whenever I finish everything, I foresee myself going back and starting a new profile to do it all again, the game has a good ability to allow you that opportunity; once completed, I can come back to a puzzle and not remember how to quickly solve it, or remember the image until it’s revealed.
And if you’re the type of person that likes creating in games, Picross 3D also scratches that itch. There is the ability to create your own puzzles and then share them locally or submit them for themed contests. Without a dedicated community to share with, I can’t see the creation being that much of a draw, unless you have a friend or two who are into that aspect of games.
For only $20 it’s hard not to recommend, and with the amount of puzzles included, it’ll remain in your DS for a long time, but if you’re not a fan of games like Sudoku or crosswords, check it out before running to the store, regardless I highly recommend getting Picross 3D.
May 12, 2010
I’ve always wanted to get into the Street Fighter games but have never tried or really had the chance. I bought a copy of Street Fighter II Turbo for the Super Nintendo a long time ago at a garage sale but I probably haven’t put in even an hour. Recently, while over at a friend’s house, we decided to pop in Street Fighter IV; coincidentally, this was a few days before Super Street Fighter IV came out. My two friends were in a similar situation as me, they’ve played a bit of Street Fighter in the past but came away not liking it.
We played it that day and all that time was spent learning about the game. We were figuring out how to read the moves and what everything meant. This was a few hours of nothing but learning; we were fighting matches but they weren’t competitive.After this, I am of the opinion that if you want to get into a fighting game, you can’t do it alone, you need to have someone else who wants to learn as much as you do.
A day or so later my friend went out and purchased SSFIV and we’ve moved onto that. Throughout this I’ve stuck with Ryu, wanting to be able to perform all his moves on command (I still have trouble doing his Shoryuken and the two quarter circles for his Special and Ultras) but have tried a few other characters. They have each done the same thing, but with different characters. I have since purchased SSFIV and an arcade stick. The arcade stick, I think, has improved my technique and I can now play the game for long periods without a sore thumb. Now that I have the game I’ll probably write a review of the game once/if I play something besides versus.