In the lead up to my recent week of vacation, I planned out a few things I wanted to accomplish. Top of the list was getting some car repairs done. I also wanted to spend at least one day with my wife driving around a nearby Oklahoma county, hunting for historical markers and eating local BBQ. There were a few odds and ends to be done around the house as well but when it came to video games, I had only one objective: begin, and hopefully complete, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. That didn’t happen, but before I even started compiling my to-do list I was already preparing a contingency plan. Continue reading Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia [Nintendo DS] – Review
The God of War series never was my cup of tea. Without question the games featured unrivaled set pieces, fine-tuned gameplay, and epic storylines deserving of acclaim. But, my perception was that they were testosterone-laden gore fests. While I’m not puritan in my tastes, the way I perceived the series as relishing those aspects outweighed everything else, and I spent little time with them. The announcement and subsequent coverage of the most recent entry was different, however. It was framed in such a way that it seemed more mature, and not in an edgy “sex and violence” sort of way. Sure enough, the storyline, and the relationships and acting in particular, exceeded my expectations. It was entertaining to unravel the plot, and equally so to explore and survive the beautiful environments. Continue reading God of War [PlayStation 4] – Review
Follow the video game industry closely enough and you’ll hear a common refrain. Something to the effect that it’s a miracle any video game gets made, regardless of quality. Ensuing explanations cite a myriad of ways that development could have, and may well have, gone off the rails. Bearing this in mind, it’s astounding that Axiom Verge is the product of a sole individual: Tom Happ of Las Vegas. Never mind the fact that it’s a nigh-perfect action-adventure experience, paying homage to Metroid and many other classic influences while introducing mechanics that differentiate itself. Originally released March 31, 2015 for the PlayStation 4, it has since been ported to numerous platforms, including the Switch, where I played it last week. Continue reading Axiom Verge [Switch] – Review
Early in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it’s evident that life’s changed for Nathan Drake. His days of globe trekking in search of lost treasure and fending off cunning thieves are behind him, relegated to artifacts and journals in the attic. Nowadays he works as a recovery diver and spends evenings at home with Elena, discussing their day-to-day lives in a pedestrian, unfulfilling manner. When his long lost brother turns up unexpectedly, this allows him an opportunity to quench his thirst for adventure, but at what cost? Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony on May 10, 2016, Uncharted 4 tops the efforts of its predecessors in every way and nearly two years later, stands in my mind as a masterpiece. Continue reading Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End [PlayStation 4] – Review
Spurred on by my recent purchase of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I’ve returned to the series after a yearlong hiatus. Picking up where I left off, I’ve now completed Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the final installment on the PlayStation 3. Debuting in North America on November 1, 2011, Naughty Dog attempted to top its predecessor, which I deemed a “greatest hits of the action-adventure genre.” In many ways, this entry does. The set piece events and ancient mechanical puzzles were more frequent and extravagant than ever before. Nate and company explored a variety of new, visually impressive and incredibly detailed environments. Gameplay was enhanced by an increased emphasis on melee and improvements to stealth takedowns. And, per usual the acting and storytelling was top notch. All that said, the multitude of “one-shot” cliff-hanger moments and the dependable presence of a perfectly placed ledge was wearing thin and eroding the veneer of realism. Continue reading Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [PlayStation 3] – Review
Despite its status as a modern indie darling and years of rereleases and enhancements, I hadn’t played Cave Story until I picked up Cave Story + for the Switch. Boy was I missing out! First released for the PC in 2004, it was culmination of years of Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya’s spare time. That fact alone made me admire it as an inspirational game but what’s as impressive is how well polished and entertaining it is. Multiple storylines and background details were presented in frequent cutscenes that kept me wanting to play a little bit longer. And not just for new story revelations, it was a genuinely fun run ‘n’ gun platformer. It’s the video game equivalent of a page-turner if there ever was one. Continue reading Cave Story + [Switch] – Review
How cliché, yet how apt that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a breath of fresh air. The series remains one of the most prestigious in video games but after thirty years, has grown formulaic, stagnant even. Accordingly, it was no surprise when this entry underwent a traditionally extended development cycle before eventually releasing on two platforms (just like Twilight Princess on both counts). What is surprising is how with this entry Nintendo managed to remain true to the core tenants of the series, while bucking tradition in ways that resulted in a game that seems fresh, yet consistent.
At work were an array of gameplay systems and mechanics that coalesced perfectly, forming rewarding gameplay loops of exploration and experimentation. For me, this truly was a game where it wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey. I’d begin every session with a specific goal in mind but like clockwork, wound up distracted by a million other fulfilling tasks. Hyrule was absolutely enormous but it was packed to the gills with worthwhile things to do. Continue reading The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild [Switch] – Review