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
Growing up with video game magazines in the early 2000s, it always stuck out when writers would mention the film noir genre. It didn’t happen often since there weren’t many comparable video games, nonetheless when they did, it was universally positive. Whether referencing typical themes, character traits, or distinct audio/visual elements, the writers conveyed to me that films belonging to this genre oozed a classic cool. It took many years before I actually watched a noir film but once I did, I was sold. Accordingly, when I finally got around to playing L.A. Noire I fell head over heels. Continue reading L.A. Noire [Xbox 360] – Review
When I began writing about Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, I considered it the high-water mark of the PlayStation 3’s library, at that point in the platform’s lifecycle. Having completed its sequel, Among Thieves, I can testify that it unquestionably usurped that role, and deserves recognition as one of the best games of the contemporary cinematic era. Originally released in North America on October 13, 2009, Naughty Dog maintained the excellent blend of third-person, cover-based shooting and wowing traversal that put the series on the map with the first game. What carried my interest however was the engaging narrative. Characters both familiar and fresh intertwined with Nate’s search for Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Danger and drama kept Nate busy across the game’s dozen hour runtime and the numerous set pieces often had me in disbelief and culminated in an experience that played like a greatest hits of the action-adventure genre. Continue reading Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PlayStation 3] – Review