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Random Game #42 – Advent Rising [Xbox]

Advent Rising

Arguably, video games had their strongest hold on me when I was in high school. It was the middle of the 2000s before the disappearance of practically all video game magazines in the United States. My friends and I were glued to them almost more than the games themselves. For us, it was hard to ignore Advent Rising, even if none of us had an Xbox, nor had the ability or the desire to get one. Particularly, Game Informer’s cover story comes to mind, along with EGM and Play’s coverage. When I finally played it a couple of years ago, I was able to experience the lackluster sci-fi epic myself. The story was undoubtedly the high point, and I did eke some enjoyment out of the combat, but it was a mediocre affair overall. I’m glad to have played it but feel no need to return to it.

Advent Rising was the sole game GlyphX Games developed. It wasn’t their sole output however. Curiously, it appears they also designed many box arts in the late 1990s/early 2000s. When the studio floundered, key personnel went on to form Chair Entertainment and they’ve produced many noteworthy titles since. The game was published by Majesco and is perhaps most infamously known for the million dollar contest that never materialized. It was released on the Xbox and PC in North America on May 31, 2005.

Nanostray 2 [Nintendo DS] – Review

Nanostray 2When I think of shoot ‘em ups, which happens from time to time, the Nintendo DS isn’t the first platform that comes to mind. It received a handful of great games, I’m sure, but I don’t have many. In fact, the only traditional shoot ‘em up I have for the DS is Nanostray 2. I put in a couple of hours recently, and while I didn’t surpass the halfway mark, I know I don’t necessarily want to play more of it. There’s plenty to do, I would even say it has a robust amount of content, but I didn’t grow an appreciation for the way it played.

The game had cooperative and competitive modes for two players.
The game had cooperative and competitive modes for two players.

There were a few modes to choose from and I mostly played the adventure mode. In it, I followed along to a sparse story revolving around a virus corrupting machinery – the nanostray virus. This amounted to fully voiced introductory and concluding cutscenes bookending each stage. There was an arcade mode where I was able to play the stages I had unlocked through the adventure, which wasn’t many. Of the single player modes, challenge and simulator were the final two modes. The former tasked me with completing specific objectives, which unlocked mini-games in the latter.

There was no shortage of content to experience, to be sure, but I never really gelled with the game. When I come to this genre, I generally come for fast-paced action. There wasn’t much of that here. On top of that, I didn’t find the controls to be as responsive as I would’ve liked. In general, the game left a sluggish impression on me. That’s not to say it was easy. I found it to be very tough, another reason why I didn’t get too far. The stages themselves were tough to conquer but progression in adventure mode was strict. I had a set of lives and three continues to get as far as I could, and after a handful of attempts, I got halfway through and decided that was good enough for me.

Graphically, the game was pretty impressive. I believe that's a calling card for Shin'en.
Graphically, the game was pretty impressive. I believe that’s a calling card for Shin’en.

Nanostray 2 had a lot to offer, but I just couldn’t dig it. The sluggish impression it left on me and tough difficulty turned me away. This was the first Shin’en Multimedia game I’ve played, but they were halfway known for this type of game when this game released in 2008. I suppose this game and its predecessor acted as spiritual successors to the studio’s previous works – the Game Boy Advance’s Iridion games. The studio has carved out a niche for their shoot ‘em ups on Nintendo handhelds (even the Nano Assault series on the 3DS) and while I didn’t completely enjoy this one, I’m not deterred to try their other games.

BloodRayne: Betrayal – Demo Impressions

When Rayne is initially summoned, she lands in a coffin from the sky. What?

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.

The game looks incredibly slick in motion.

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.

Advent Rising – Review

Sadly, the contest displayed on the front box never materialized with a payout.

Advent Rising is kind of an important game. It was supposed to be the first in a sci-fi trilogy, and garnered a lot of prerelease buzz, but flopped critically and commercially. It was developed by GlyphX Games and published by Majesco for the Xbox and PC in 2005. I played the Xbox version and came away mixed about it. I really enjoyed the narrative, but didn’t care for the combat until the final hours of the game. And overall, the game just lacked polish.

I thought Advent Rising began and ended well. The setup and conclusion of the narrative is particularly what drove my interest in these parts. The middle section of Advent Risingreally took a lot out of me. Perhaps it was because of the depression-like funk I was in during that section, but I just wanted the game to be over. A couple hours from the end however, I was absorbed back into the story and the gameplay.

Advent Risingbegan with little introduction, throwing me right into the shoes of Gideon Wyeth as he travelled to a human outpost in space. Soon after arriving he met up with his brother and fiancé. Gideon and his brother were there to escort a group of human ambassadors to a meeting with an alien race called the Aurelians. The Aurelians told them of the threat another alien race, the Seekers, pose to humanity. They want to destroy it.

Lifting enemies and throwing them around was very satisfying.

Soon after, all hell breaks loose. After surviving the destruction of a planet, Gideon is told by the Aurelians that humans contain mystical powers and through the course of the game, Gideon unlocked many deadly powers.

The first power Gideon obtained was Lift. With it I could lift enemies and throw them around. This was quite easy to do, and rewarding to watch. I controlled Gideon from a third-person perspective and could lock on to targets by flicking the right analog stick their way. Once locked on, a bracket would display around the enemy, changing colors depending on their health.

Hmm... I don't think guns are going to destroy that vehicle, at least not quickly.

Flicking worked for the most part. I enjoyed the immediacy of switching targets, but found it hard to target a specific enemy when I encountered them in groups. When firing a gun, Gideon would auto-target enemies (although the bracket didn’t appear around them) but to use his powers, I had to manually target an enemy. A lot of the time I would flick the right analog stick compulsively, checking for nearby enemies. I would’ve appreciated some sort of indicator that let me know there was an enemy in range.

Lift was the only power Gideon had for a while. The next he learned was Surge. Using Surge I could shift gravitational energy in a focused direction, or so says the manual. I only used Surge a few in the game but it was effective against large mechanical enemies, especially when I was out of ammo for my guns.

I believe the next power Gideon learned was Aeon Pulse. With it he shot energy pulses from his hands, very effective indeed. With Negate he threw up an energy shield, which I used once or twice. Time Shift was a favorite of mine. Gideon would instantly bolt into an enemy. This was very strong and allowed me to shoot from enemy to enemy very quickly. The last power Gideon learned was Shatter. Shatter was very similar to Aeon Pulse. With Shatter Gideon shot ice particles from his hands, which was also very effective.

By the end of the game, I had all these powers at my disposal, on top of whatever guns I found. The guns and powers each leveled up individually as I used them, unlocking alternate fire options and getting stronger with each level. At the beginning, guns and melee attacks were the only option for Gideon. Then it was Lift and guns, but towards the end, when I was unlocking powers and leveling them more rapidly, I dropped guns altogether. I had become lethal using powers alone.

I was satisfied with the final hours of Advent Rising. I was super powerful and was using my powers very effectively, making short work of groups of enemies. The narrative was coming to end in an interesting way too. In all honesty, it’s made me look back at Advent Risingliking it more than I really did. But honestly, I didn’t really find the combat that enjoyable, at least until the end.

Gideon using Shatter on multiple enemies.

I was very interested in the narrative from early on. I wanted to see how humanity would overcome, and how the Aurelians would assist in defeating the Seekers. I didn’t really care for any of the human characters however because I thought a lot of their dialogue was immature. The visuals weren’t terrible considering it’s a 2005 release, but much of the texturing was very bland and many of the indoor environments were similar. The majority of the cutscenes were poorly directed and by this I mean looked like bad machinima. It’s easy to tell the camera was controlled by human hands as it swooped through small scale battles and environments very poorly.

Advent Rising was a mixed bag for me. Once I had all the powers and had them decently leveled, I was lethal and enjoyed destroying scores of enemies with interesting powers. But the game was a chore for me for a large chunk of my playthrough and the game wasn’t that polished. The narrative is what kept me going and it’s kind of sad to think we’ll most likely never see how it was supposed to be continued. But then again, Advent Rising is a mediocre third-person action-adventure game at best and hardly recommendable.

Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack – Review

Don't forget, Mad Dog's wearing a bullet-proof vest.

In the early nineties, due to the increased space of compact discs, a new feature was being added to video games, full motion video. That craze ran its course in little time showing that it took more than actual video footage to make a game good, but playing games from this era can often times be humorous. Mad Dog McCree is arguably one of the most popular games that used real video, and Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack on the Nintendo Wii collects the entire Mad Dog McCree series. The package includes Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold, and The Last Bounty Hunter. They were all developed by American Laser Games and were originally released as arcade games in the early nineties. Digital Leisure, who now owns the American Laser Games catalog of titles, ported the games to the Wii and the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Packwas published by Majesco in 2009.

Nailing the enemy in the distance. Often times, the bad guys appeared in difficult to spot areas and this usually led to trial and error.

In Mad Dog McCree, Mad Dog McCree himself has kidnapped a mayor’s daughter and his gang of bandits are running amok in the old west town. An older prospector filled my friend and I in and gave us some advice on where to begin. After this conversation, we were able to pick where we wanted to go, the saloon, the sheriff’s office, etc. In the saloon for instance, the bartender waved us over and told us that the group nearby was Mad Dog’s men and we soon had a shoot out with the bunch. We could shoot them beforehand, but nothing would happen. We had to wait for them to get up and the game to register that they could be killed then and that’s a severe downside of FMV, especially when you know who to shoot. Also, whenever enemies are popping out behind cover, the game hitches for a split second as the footage is being cut of the scene with no one to the scene of that enemy popping out. I don’t really consider that too terrible, I mean it gave us a little heads up to start searching and that’s just how FMV games have to operate, although it was more jarring in Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold when there’d be animals on screen in one spot but then just appear somewhere else instantly.

Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold also had an interesting mechanic that gave my friend and I a choice on how to complete the game. In Mad Dog II, we were again on the trail of Mad Dog McCree, attempting to take him out, but this time with the added bonus of getting his treasure. After some introduction, we had the choice of three characters to lead us to Mad Dog McCree. Each one took us through some unique action sequences, but they all led to the final battle with Mad Dog McCree. The final scene in Mad Dog II was lengthy and challenging. We were led to a small town that was full of Mad Dog’s men. The sequence took a couple of minutes and strewn throughout were civilians who we had to avoid. Quick thought, if I was a civilian and I knew there was a deadly battle raging outside, I probably wouldn’t pop my head out of a window and yell don’t shoot. During this lengthy showdown, there was a part that had my friend and I stumped. We were able to continuously get to a section of the town, and then we’d get shot and we couldn’t find out by whom. We tried for fifteen minutes but to no avail. We finally got on YouTube and found that the enemy was in a door way, in the very back of the scene, barely noticeable.

Rescuing Buckskin Bonnie in Mad Dog II: the Lost Gold

The last game in the compilation, The Last Bounty Hunter, ditches Mad Dog McCree. Instead, my friend and I were the last, um, bounty hunters and were tasked by a Union Army official during the Civil War to track down some outlaws that have been causing trouble. They could be attempted in any order and we had the option to bring them in dead or alive; alive if we shot their gun instead of them, which is harder said than done. This game was probably the most humorous as each outlaw had a unique personality and the actors who played them overacted. But that’s one of the things that’s great about these games, it seems like every actor overacts and it’s funny to watch with a pal and commentate on how awful they are.

These games don’t take a lot of effort to beat, they are practically built on trial and error, and while I usually don’t find that enjoyable, I was able to persist with these games if only to see the overacting. My friend and I were determined to beat all the games in one sitting and it took us an hour or two, searching YouTube included. The actual game part is okay, staring at a screen, waiting for an enemy to pop up isn’t the most thrilling action video games have to offer, but having someone else with you, taking out the bad guys, watching explosions in slow motion, and chastising the acting is worth tracking down the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack for the Wii.