Review: Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.24GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, Windows, OSX, Linux
Release Date
7/25/2016/th>
Developer
Heart Machine LLC
Publisher
Heart Machine LLC
Modes
Single Player

Hyper Light Drifter is an old-school 2D action adventure game with RPG elements that harkens back to the original Zelda on the NES. Funded by Kickstarter, the game smashed its original $100,000 goal and raised over $640,000. The game is Alex Preston under the developing name of “Heart Machine”. Preston has had a terminal heart condition since birth and wanted to tell his story through his game. Hyper Light Drifter is an incredible game that feels simultaneously new and refreshing yet somehow classic and nostalgic. Every aspect of the game is developed with love and care and it’s bursting with a personality unique to itself. Few games leave me thinking and feeling the way I do about Hyper Light Drifter. And fewer still remain in my mind and heart for years to come, I believe Hyper Light Drifter is one of those few true treasures in gaming.

After a short cryptic opening sequence, the game plops the player into the world controlling a nameless hero known as a drifter in an open world. From the start the player can go in any direction in any order to progress through the game and story. There are four main areas to discover; North, South, East and West and it’s up the player to choose in which order to explore. This truly open world feels a lot like the original Zelda for the NES to me. The game opens in a small lively town hub. There isn’t a single piece of text in the whole game, the story is told through the world and through interactions with the characters of the world. Even the NPCs communicate through storybook style static images. Although the story is very mysterious it’s incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, and the added knowledge of understanding that the developer has a terminal condition fleshes out the story in even more intriguing ways.

The gameplay of Hyper Light Drifter is fluid and challenging. The main weapon is a sword but in time guns and bombs can be earned. The drifter has a dashing ability that can be used to dodge and maneuver around enemies. There are multiple guns to collect that all have varying attributes like a long range sniper and a powerful up close spread shotgun (my personal weapon of choice). Back in the hub town there are shops that sell upgrades to the guns, more room for health packs, new dash and sword moves, and more. These upgrades are purchased with yellow collectables that are hidden throughout the world. Speaking of things being hidden, Hyper Light Drifter is showered with secrets, yet another aspect that reminds me of old-school classics. There are hidden things everywhere and there’s always a reward at the end of the rainbow. The game can get perplexing at times, as there are few clues as to how to get to each objective. But it’s extremely rewarding discovering the answers to the various puzzles and they never feel unmanageable. Enemies are diverse and clever. Each enemy seems to have its own character and style and learning how to dodge and attack each enemy is key to surviving. And surviving is not easy! The game is very challenging, but in a completely fair way. I never died and thought that I had been screwed over or that the game unfairly attacked me, if I died it was my own fault for not managing the situation properly. And if I did die, it would always place me at a checkpoint that wasn’t too far back from where I was. There’s a fine line between satisfying challenging combat that feels amazing to master and overbearing impossible gameplay that drives the player crazy. And Hyper Light Drifter walks that line to perfection.

The world of Hyper Light Drifter is gorgeous. Every aspect of the game seems like it was hand painted, like it belongs exactly where it was placed. The game was partially inspired by Studio Gibli’s “Nausicaa of the Wind” and it can’t possibly look any better. Created in amazing 8/16bit, it feels both like something that could have been on the SNES or NES and like something that those consoles wouldn’t have dreamed to create. The enemy and character design is flawless, they all feel real and full of life. The carnage after a bloody battle is awe-inspiring and even with the entire screen filled with enemies and projectiles the game never even hiccups. The music and sound design is also remarkable, it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard and it fits the world perfectly. The sound design and music fit the tone like a glove and it never lets up. The quiet somber moments are met with ominous music reverberations echoing through the game. And the action packed moments are met with powerful melodies and sounds.

Overall I can’t say enough about how remarkable Hyper Light Drifter is. The gameplay is perfect. The story is cryptic and mysterious in the best ways possible. The art direction and music is unique and beautiful. Every aspect of the game is married to itself perfectly. Often times I play games that don’t agree with themselves. The world and gameplay and story and art direction just don’t fit, there’s always something that just doesn’t feel right. Hyper Light Drifter is that EXTREMELY rare game that somehow manages to pull everything together to create a game that fits perfectly in itself, every aspect of the game feels like it belongs and fits perfectly in its world. I haven’t played a game this magical for a very long time. Hyper Light Drifter looks and feels and sounds and plays like a game from a lost era, almost as if the 3D world of gaming never happened and this is what 2D games have progressed to. In fact Hyper Light Drifter feels like a dream—or possibly nightmare. Like the type of dream you wake up from wondering and wishing if it could be real but thankful that it’s not, but wishing you could somehow return.

PROS:
1) Flawless Gameplay
2) Gorgeous art style and music
3) Engaging cryptic story-telling
4) Perfectly executed tone and feel

CONS:
NONE!

10
Perfection

 

Review: Bridge Constructor Stunts

Bridge Constructor Stunts
image
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
353 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], Mobile
Release Date
12/16/2016
Developer
Head Up Games
Publisher
Head up games
Modes
Single Player

Bridge Constructor Stunts feels like a mix of the “Trials” series and bridge building PC games from the 90’s. It attempts to take those two game play mechanics to mesh them into one game. It’s a cool concept and in theory it sounds like it could be fun. Building bridges and ramps to skillfully launch yourself through levels seems like a nice idea; but in reality what we have here is a game that feels unfinished and like it would be found on flash gaming websites in 2002.

The gameplay of Bridge Constructor Stunts (BCS) is quite simple. Build bridges and ramps through the creation tools and then get to the end of the level by driving through to the end.

BCS’ game modes are very lacking. The only option for playing the game is simply the classic level 1 world 1 type format. When you beat level 1 you move onto level 2. When you beat level 2 you move onto level 3. Once you complete a world you move onto world 2 and so on and so forth. I was honestly surprised when I saw this and it instantly reminded me of the mobile game market today, it doesn’t feel like an Xbox One game. The game was initially on mobile, but why not update the game when you bring it to home consoles? Why is there no creation game mode? I don’t see why this game couldn’t have a gamemode where we have empty worlds where the creator could build whole levels to replay or send to friends through Xbox Live.
Each level feels like a tutorial, as the game adds a new gameplay mechanic often, like steel beams, wires, and “no-build” zones. Giving me one gameplay twist at a time and letting me master one thing at a time is smart, but when I’m playing level 6 of world 2 and I’m still being introduced to new things, it starts to get old. At some point the game just needs to give me full reigns. And it takes a long time to get there, it feels like a VERY LONG tutorial. The best way to teach a player how to play a game is naturally through the gameplay. In BCS whenever I’m introduced to something new I get some boring text that says, “here’s this new thing and here’s the very specific way we want you to use it to get through this level”. That’s not fun and it doesn’t properly teach the gameplay mechanic in a natural way.
When I finally get to levels that let me play with all the tools, I still felt limited. The level design is such that it feels like there’s only a few ways to properly build, and that’s just the opposite feel of what creation is. Building should be something I intuitively do and find my own way to complete the task, instead it feels like the levels have specific options on how to get past the obstacle. It’s just not fun.

The building tools and the controls on how to use them work great. In general the building aspect of the game is its strongest point. If I could just have an empty level to use the creation tools, I would genuinely have fun. There are also smart options like a “simulation” button where you can test out the bridge’s or ramps’ structure to make sure they hold up before actually playing through.

Driving with the trucks is a mess. The button layout is ancient, no one presses A to accelerate anymore, but that’s how BCS handles it. The B button is breaking. Why RT and LT don’t handle these features is beyond me! It feels like I jumped into a portal to 2005! Also you can’t drive backwards. This is insane to me because it looks like some of the levels are designed with driving backwards in mind but it’s just not a feature, which is ridiculous! The truck feels very light and airy, it just feels off. And accelerating feels sloppy at best, having the tactile control of the RT button would have fixed this easily.

The graphics are also hideous. I’m not gonna sugar coat it, it’s an absolutely disgusting looking game. There’s no need to go into detail about this because the developer seemed to not care about detail either. The simple music that plays during the building moments of the game is nice, but it’s jarring that whenever I pressed the “simulation” button to test out my work the music resets, it instantly takes me out of that tranquil mood of just building and having fun. The music when you drive around is terrible, it’s some crazy over the top rocky sounding song that again sounds super dated.

Overall developer Headup Games has a really cool idea here. And honestly the tools in the building mechanics of the game are really neat! I wish the game did a better job of teaching me the mechanics without stretching out that tutorial over dozens of levels. I took one peak at the trailer of the game and suddenly I learned more about the building features and how to tackle tricky spots than the actual game taught me itself. The driving aspect of the game is just not good. In my opinion the game would have been significantly better if they honed down on the building mechanics and just let the AI drive the trucks around. This way I could learn the minor tweaks I needed to make to adjust ramps and bridges and not worry about the sloppy driving controls. If you LOVE to build things and like the idea of grinding through level by level and mastering each challenge than you might have found a decent game here. However I highly recommend the $3 mobile version because the price tag and lack of new features on the Xbox One version just isn’t worth a buy.

PROS:
1) Building Tools

CONS:
1) Driving
2) Lack of game modes
3) No creation game mode
4) Long unhelpful tutorial

5.2
Dull

 

Review: Madden NFL 16

MADDEN NFL 15
Madden 16 cover
Cost
$59.99
Format
Digital and Retail
Size
14.96 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date
8/25/2015
Developer
EA Tiburon
Publisher
EA
Modes
Singleplayer and Couch/Online Multiplayer

When September rolls around, football fans rejoice for the new NFL season. Months and months of draft talk, training camp nonsense, and pseudo-football preseason boredom builds up and accumulates to a frenzy of football maniacs just begging for the season to begin. And just before the beginning of each NFL season, August brings us a new Madden, which goes hand in hand with the NFL as everyone just wants their football fix. The Madden franchise is a blessing and a curse. On one hand every iteration sells like popsicles in a desert because football fans need football. On the other hand it’s a series that has been running for so long; and it’s a yearly franchise that can and has at different times struggled with repetitiveness. Fans often wonder, what’s so special about THIS year’s Madden, do I need to buy the new one every single year? Other than a roster update, what kind of drastic changes are there going to be? For me I always ask this very important question about Madden, and I’ll answer it in my review as well. What was done right and what was done wrong in last year’s Madden? And has THIS year’s version kept the good, fixed the bad, and added more good?

Reviewing Madden can be tough, there’s SO much to talk about. So before we talk about features, game modes, presentation and more let’s just talk about the second to second gameplay. This isn’t hyperbole; the gameplay in Madden 16 is probably the best the series has ever had. It’s still not perfect; there are still some things that can frustrate. But as a whole it’s smooth, responsive, and the player really does have great control. On a play calling level the game feels very good. Just like in pervious Madden games you can select your play through many different means. From a personal standpoint (I-formation for example), from a play-type stand point (IE Screen Pass), recent plays, and coach suggestion. Every play also has a statistics on the side to glance at to help with your selection. Some plays are suggested by Madden players themselves, as a good option against a cover two defense for example. Or maybe based on the type of offense the opponent is using, a draw running play is a good choice. The plays also show how many times you have selected them and how successful they are by showing what the average yards per play are. As a recommendation for EA and future Madden games, I think this is brilliant but they should add more. Perhaps show how many touchdowns, sacks, turnovers etc have been attained with this play selection. I think that addition would be amazing.

The gameplay feels just like it did last year, so I won’t go over all the details. Let’s instead just talk about the new features in the gameplay and how they’ve dramatically improved the overall game. As a quarterback, you now have more control over the ball than ever. Bullet passes by holding down the receiver icon and long bombs by gently tapping it has been a part of Madden forever. But new to the series is touch passes and low passes. To throw a touch pass you must double tap the receiver icon. Touch passes are perfect for lobbing the ball over a defenders head and dropping it right into your receiver’s arms. Throwing a touch pass to a running back running a wheel route or a wide receiver running an out route to the sideline works wonderfully and is very satisfying. A touch pass can also be very dangerous however, because if you toss the ball high in the air into coverage where your receiver has a defender in front of him as well, it can easily be picked off. So this addition is very fair. Low passes using ‘LT’ while pressing the receiver icon are helpful for safe and secure passes where you just want to make a completion low to the ground where a defender can’t attack it.

To go along with the new throwing mechanics, the receivers have new catching options and these are really fun and an awesome addition. In the old Madden games you pressed ‘Y’ to catch the ball on offense and defense. Now that’s completely changed. There are three ways to catch the ball. Aggressive(Y), Possession(A), and RAC(X). As soon as the ball is in the air you can press and hold one of these buttons. Tapping isn’t an option, you must hold the button. You also don’t’ need to change to the receiver by pressing B, as soon as the ball is in the air you can hold the button and you will be controlling the receiver. If the ball is thrown high in the air and there’s a defender sticking you like glue, using an aggressive catch with ‘Y’ is your best option. With aggressive catches the player leaps in the air, attacks the ball, and attempts to pluck it out the sky. With aggressive catches the player is usually not going to gain any extra yards, as he is often going all out for the ball and will fall down when he catches it, although sometimes this isn’t the case. These catches are usually spectacular, and in fact the “Spectacular Catch” rating for a receiver is used for these plays. The better they are at snagging the ball one handed, leaping in the air over players, etc the better chance they will have at coming down with the ball. So Odell Beckham Jr. and Calvin Johnson will both come down with these grabs pretty often. The possession catch, using ‘A’ is completely different. If the receiver is running a drag route across the field and is about to get levels by a defensive back, the possession catch is the best choice to secure the ball. Even if he gets hit really hard, there’s a good chance he will hold onto the ball with the possession catch. This also uses the “Catch in Traffic” rating for receivers. Another reason to use the possession catch option is when you absolutely must get a catch in key pivotal places, for example on third down or a pass into the end zone. When you use the possession catch the receiver often catches the ball and drops to the ground to ensure the catch. So on third and 14 into tight coverage, the receiver can just snag the ball and drop right down to make sure you move the chains.  A third and exciting reason to use the possession catch is at the sidelines. One of my MAJOR pet peeves in Madden is how stupid receivers tend to be with not getting two feet in bounds. So many times in the past a receiver will have five or more yards to work with and they run in stride full speed and ignore the need to get two feet in bounds. Now however, if you use the possession catch button near the sidelines the receiver will ALWAYS attempt to get his feet inbounds. They don’t always do it successfully, and that’s fine and totally acceptable. But as long as you use a possession catch near the sidelines the receiver will always do his best to catch the ball in bounds. The last option is a RAC catch using ‘X’. RAC is the easiest to explain, it stands for run after catch. If you use the RAC catch the receiver will instantly try to run up field and gain more yards as soon as he catches the ball. This is the best option when a receiver is wide open and has tons of space to work with. The new throwing mechanics are great, but the new catching mechanics are even better. It changes the way the ball is played while in the air and it’s really special.

Of course all of that sounds very overpowered for the offense, what can the defense do? Well they can do a lot actually. It’s very rock paper scissor when it comes to playing the ball in the air. The defense has new options as well. When the ball is in the air you can press ‘Y’ to attack the football and go for an interception of pass deflection. Or you can press ‘A’ to attack the receiver and insure a tackle or knock the ball lose. Of the three options for catching the football, each of them can be countered by the defense. If the offense goes for an aggressive catch and leaps in the air, well the defense can try to do that too in an attempt to pick off the ball. But the defender can also go straight for the body of the receiver. Aggressive catches are susceptible to drops, because a hit from the defender can often knock the ball out. In the case of possession catches, the defense has fewer options. There’s a good chance the player won’t drop the ball from a hard hit, and intercepting the ball is a bit harder since the ONLY goal of the receiver is to snatch the ball and get down. But the receiver won’t pick up any more yards after the catch and it can still be intercepted if timed perfectly. Lastly RAC catches are similar to aggressive catches for the defense.  If the offensive receiver tries to catch the ball and instantly run up field, his eyes and focus aren’t’ on securing the ball as much, so knocking the ball out with a brutal hit is entirely possible. Interceptions are also easier if the receiver uses the RAC catch because he’s already positioning himself to run. So he’s not attacking the ball as much as waiting for it to come to him, meaning you can jump the route and snag the ball.

All of these new passing and defending mechanics work amazingly. In the past new gameplay features can tend to be a bit buggy since it’s a brand new addition. But in this case it feels very intuitive and it all works really well.

A less advertised but equally exciting update to gameplay is the adjustments made in the running game. Another one of my biggest pet peeves in previous Madden games, especially since they added physics in Madden 13, is how easily the running back get’s “stuck” while running through the hole. I love running the football and being physical. But in the old Madden titles, my running back would always stick to the offensive linemen’s backside when trying to squeeze through a blocking hole. Basically, as soon as the runner would contact the blocker he would magnetize to him. It seemed like every single time he would either fall down on his face or just run in place for 5 seconds until someone came to tackle him. I would try to “dis-attach” from the blocker but instead I’d be stuck no matter what I’d try. This year however, that’s almost entirely gone away. It still happens from time to time, but it’s very rare. Now the game has implemented a smart system where the running back will automatically do realistic movements to follow the blocker and pull away perfectly. Now I can ride the back of a blocker and hit the hole to perfection. The running back will use his arms to push off and away from the blocker, never get stuck, and sometimes even pull off a quick spin to break off. It works perfectly and makes running realistic and satisfying.

Coming up with new game modes in Madden is not an easy thing to do. Football is football, what can you change? But every so often Madden gives it a try, and as of late it’s worked out great. Of course the four main stays in the game are quick play (local), head-to-head online, franchise, and MUT (the card based fantasy-like game). I’ll talk about all of those in a bit; some of them have substantial updates. But first let’s talk about the new game mode, Draft Champions. Draft Champions is very simple, short, and fun. Basically in Draft Champions you get to select a team “draft” style and play either against the computer or online against other Draft Champions players. There are sixteen rounds, including the selection of your coach and the players you select are based on their “card style” players from Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). As soon as you begin the game gives you a set of random players with an overall rating of 70. Every round you can select between three random players at various positions and skill levels.  It’s up to you to decide which players you like best, what positions you need more, what style you want to play, etc. Because they are completely random, there’s a chance you won’t get a second shot at a given position. So if you have to select between that great corner back or great running back and you pick the corner back, maybe you’ll never get another chance for a runner. The idea is very simple but it turns out to be extremely fun. Once you select a player of a specific position, it’s probably best not to select another one of that position even if it’s a better player. You want to upgrade the entire team on every level. However that might not be the case quite as much at positions like corner back and wide receiver, since you can have multiple players of those positions on the field at once. Each round is different; sometimes all three options/cards are on the lower end, like 77 overall to 80 overall. Other times all three players are elite cards and in the 85 overall to 90 overall category. Both of those scenarios are risk reward and challenging. Do I want to have a lower overall safety perhaps? With those elite options, do I want to get an elite wide receiver and add depth at the position even though I already drafted one? Or do I want to get that awesome middle linebacker and upgrade my defense? Some rounds are completely random and have three different selections of totally different skill levels. But then what do you do, select the lower player you NEED or the better player you only want? The quarterback position often brings up the most excitement when drafting. You never know what you’re going to get. If you pass on a QB you might not get a second chance and be stuck with someone like Mark Sanchez. Picking up the 83 overall Joe Flacco doesn’t sound too thrilling. But if you select a different player instead maybe you won’t get another QB. On the other hand, if you DO select Joe Flacco and a few rounds later the 91 overall Aaron Rodgers could be one of the options and then you feel like you just HAVE to pick the better QB and you’ll have a wasted backup in Flacco. In the final round you get to select a legend for your team. These players are all time greats and have 90 overall scores or higher and can be anyone from Rod Woodson to Terrell Davis. My ONLY complaint in Draft Champions is that every so often there are whole drafts that pass by without a single option for a specific position. If a free safety or a right outside linebacker never shows, it’s not a HUGE deal. But if I never get an option for a running back or worse yet a quarter back, it kind of seems unfair. I think they should have programmed the game to always have at least one option from every position, even if it’s a low level card, especially the skill positions like QB. Once you draft a team, you can take that squad into a playoff type tournament either against the computer or online. As well as just being a fun game mode, you also get rewards that you can bring back to MUT. These vary from bronze, silver, gold, and even elite players as well as collectibles to add to sets in MUT depending on how well you perform. Overall Draft Champions is a lot of fun and a wonderful addition to Madden. It’s short and sweet replayable style, along with the ability to get rewards and bring them to MUT, is what drives home its success.

Since we just mentioned MUT a few times, let’s discuss Madden Ultimate Team. MUT has been the most successful game mode for Madden and has helped revitalize the franchise. This year’s addition has few major changes but quite a few small helpful ones. The base game is the same. Play solo challenges and online to get packs, coins, and collectibles all to try to gain better players for your team.  You can also use real cash to purchase packs that guarantee various things like gold players, elite players, and more. My biggest complaint of last year’s version was that it was just too time consuming and grinding to get good players. Although it’s still a bit of a grind, it seems better than it used to be. There are more solo game modes that guarantee high level players than ever before. I’ve put maybe 15 hours into the game and I have more elite players now than I had at all in Madden 15. If you want to put real cash into the game, it’s also worth it when compared to last year. I wouldn’t recommend it overall; I’m not a fan of dropping all that extra cash when it’s still a RANDOM pack. But now there are different pack options that become available for a few days at a time at different points for different prices that guarantee better things than last year. For example there was a pack buyable just last week that promised a random elite card, this week there’s another one that secures you a legendary card. So if you do want to drop a bit of cash you can get a great card. But remember, it’s still random. So if you get an elite full back and you were really hoping for a running back or wide receiver, you’re screwed. I also feel like it’s easier to get coins now, which makes buying cards in the auction house better. Overall MUT is still a grind, but that’s by design, many people love draining hours and hours into this game mode.

Franchise mode returns with a lot of new updates and features and it’s better than ever. Like always in franchise mode you can play as a player, owner, or coach. You can pick from real people already in the league or create your own custom rookie. I recommend being a coach. The biggest in game additions to franchise mode are the new goals and confidence. In previous versions, there have always been game, season, and career goals. Completing those goals can give XP (to upgrade the player’s skills) and legacy points (used as a meter for the player’s legacy). But now there are also in-match goals during any given drive. The goal might be to sack the quarterback or run for a touchdown. If these goals are completed the player or possibly entire team will gain confidence and XP. These in game/series goals keep franchise mode more interesting. It’s a lot of fun to have these extra targets to shoot for. So what is confidence? Confidence can help or hinder a player’s overall score. If you complete goals, win games, and play well then the confidence will boost the player’s stats and help him be a better player. Confidence is a small thing that ends up going a long way. It’s great if your offense is the strong point and it helps you win games, which gives the whole defense confidence as well and helps them play at a higher level. As a coach it’s tons of fun to draft, re-sign great players; pick up free agents, make trades and more. But just on a playing level; managing player’s goals, helping them build legacy as well as your own, building confidence and winning football games is rewarding and just plain fun. There is also a massive UI overhaul in the main menu of franchise that is clean, quick, deep, yet simple.

The experience is very different as a player however; I honestly recommend NEVER being a player in franchise even though it should be a lot of fun. If you are a player, be on offense, never defense. Why? If you are a player only, you get locked into that person and can’t play any snaps that aren’t yours. Meaning if you are a quarterback, you throw the ball and watch the receivers run. And when the defense rolls out there, the game is “Super-Sim’ed” and you just wait until it’s your turn again. This should be awesome and it was back when this was introduced years ago. Super-sim is designed to simulate plays in the game and can be used in many game modes. But specifically for franchise super-sim is used to simulate any play that you the player are not involved in. Bu it is utterly TERRIBLE!!!! I created a strong safety for the Steelers. My defense is pretty weak, but I was hoping my created safety can make some impact plays and help the defense out. Meanwhile the Steelers have one of the best offenses in the league with Ben Roethlisberger at QB, Antonio Brown at WR, and Le’Veon Bell at RB. But super-sim is absolutely broken. My offense would almost NEVER pick up a first down, let alone score. Without fail they would gain 2 yards, 3 yards, and then get sacked, time to punt. Throw a 6 yard pass, run for 2 yards, and then throw the ball away, punt again. Every single time they had the ball they would retain the football for less than 30 seconds and punt it away. With 12 minute quarters I was able to hold the opponents to 14 points or less in 4 straight games but my offense never scored a single point. I would even take the ball away and give my team the ball in field goal range and they still would find a way to fail. In one match I shut out my opponent until overtime, the game was 0-0, and I finally failed in OT. Each game my team would throw the ball for 50 yards or less, run the ball for 50 yards or less, throw 3 or more picks, and I would just have to deal with it. This is unacceptable and absolutely ridiculous. Did they test anything at all? In one scenario there was 45 seconds left in the first half. On a safety blitz I busted through the offensive line and crushed the running back behind the line of scrimmage. In doing so I caused the running back to fumble and my defensive end, Cameron Heyward, picked up the ball at the 5 yard line!!! Sweet!!! I gave my offense the ball with 40 seconds left in the half and still have two timeouts left. My offense should definitely score a touchdown, and if not then at least a field goal, right? RIGHT?!?! WRONG!!! They ran the ball and gained 2 yards. They then ran again and gained 2 more. And then…… end of the half. WHAT?! So they didn’t use the time outs? They didn’t score? They didn’t even stop the clock and try a field goal?! That was when I quit playing. I regularly simulated for ten seasons just to see what would happen. Simulating whole games or seasons works perfectly fine. It’s the in game super-sim that has major issues. When I simulated my team won two Super Bowls and went to a third. My safety had 40 interceptions, over a thousand tackles, and a great career. Yet his legacy score was 2. For winning Super Bowls and putting up awesome numbers I should have a legacy score in the thousands, maybe even hall of fame worthy. But… nope. Why? I don’t know. I just quit and played as a coach instead, where I had loads of fun.

Theonly major problem I had was a very strange glitch that did occur in franchise while in coach mode. And it happened twice. Each time you complete one of the in game challenges you can see in real time the confidence, XP, and OVR score updated above each of the players’ heads who were involved. But for me, on two separate occasions, Le’Veon Bell’s overall dropped by 32! Both times I was having good matches, so I didn’t understand. I went into my roster and sure enough, Bell’s Elusiveness and Ball Carrier Vision dropped all the way down to 3. Normally they are both in the 90’s. So I had to quit the match both times, I was afraid the glitch would save and there would be no way I could bring those two ratings back up to where they are supposed to be.

I mentioned in last year’s Madden review just how smart the game play has become. From the play calling options, to the audibles and changes at the line, to the skills trainer it all worked amazingly in Madden 15. This year is no different. Skills Trainer is a tidy and helpful tutorial on everything from mechanics to reading the defenses. Just like last year it is brilliant. I highly recommend every Madden player to take on Skills Trainer; it substantially improved my own game on Madden 15. Madden 16 has everything last year’s version had as well as all of the new mechanics.

Madden has become a cerebral game, and I LOVE that. Football is a cerebral game. Picking smart play calls, playing your style, adjusting your strategy, changing the play at the line, it all is needed for success and feels just like the real game. My favorite part about Madden has become the intellectual aspect and the enjoyment it brings.

Madden 16 is a beautiful game. The field, the weather, everything looks great. There have also been adjustments to the fans themselves; who now wear official gear from the NFL shop and they feel livelier than ever. On the field, players’ animations, how they react, it all looks great. However one complaint I have is that many players don’t act like there real life counterparts. For example I have NEVER seen Peyton Manning strut down the field and puff out his chest after making a 12 yard first down; but in Madden 16 the celebratory animations have no regard for who’s pulling them off. Another example would be someone like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He’s the definition of class, never smack talks on the field, and always keeps his cool. Yet in this game I’ve seen him dance like an idiot and get in player’s faces and push and shove. The emotion, mini scrums, and excitement from the players make Madden look and feel authentic. Yet the developers should have adjusted how different players celebrate and act based on how they act in real life, especially the notable and popular NFL players.

One thing they did NAIL is player’s faces. Eli Manning looks just like Eli Manning. Rob Gronkowski looks exactly like Rob Gronkowski. I mean it’s incredible!! I sometimes will just look at replays and scan the field to check out different athletes in awe. Not EVERY player looks perfect. But all the QBs, coaches and all the stars looks pretty much perfect. There are even a good handful of
“tier two” players like Martavis Bryant of the Steelers, their number two wide out, that look great. There was also an update just a few days ago that updated the “likeliness” of even more players which is fantastic.

Another big change to the presentation is the in game “augmented reality” type stats. What Madden 16 has pulled off in this area should actually make the NFL kinda jealous, and ESPN, NBC, FOX, and CBS should take notice. Often after a play is completed a box will pop up and follow a player with some important stats. For example if a wide receiver has now hit the 100 yard mark on the game the stat box will pop up and follow the receiver who is celebrating, walking back to the huddle, et c. These little touches really go a long way.

Phil Simms and Jim Nantz do the play calling again this year. In my review last year I blasted them for some terrible announcing. This year it’s honestly slightly better, but it’s still painful. They come across as complete know-it-alls. They do feel like they have a bit more energy this time, and when they jokingly bust on each other it can be amusing. Simms however just always sounds like he’s angry about not being able to play football in today’s game. Almost every drive he talks about how the rules make it so easy for quarterbacks and wide receivers, as if the skill level of the player is an afterthought. One thing that is not the announcers’ fault and instead is the developer’s fault is re-used calls. If you play a full game you will sometimes here the same thing a half dozen times. There are occasions where I’ve heard the same exact recording on back to back plays. It doesn’t seem difficult at all to me for EA to simply code the game so that Phil and Jim will never say the same thing twice in one match. To me that would be an easy fix to a problem that has existed since the beginning of Madden. Same thing goes for contradictions in the recordings. All the time I’ll hear Phil or Jim make a comment about something like how poorly the running back is playing, but two plays later they will praise him. On one instance the computer went for it on fourth down when they were down by 6 points with less than a minute left and Phil and Jim said it was a terrible decision and they should have punted it… 20 yards from the endzone? Sometimes the play by play is entertaining. But usually it’s either overly obnoxious, as I’m just not a fan of the Simms/Nantz combo or it’s just plain stupid because the things they say won’t even be accurate as to what’s going on. I’ve got one more idea that I really think EA would benefit from. In the NFL there are dozens of announcing duos that cover the games. Why not bring Phil Sims and Jim Nantz back next year but ALSO bring in two or three other announcing teams? How about Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock from the NFL Network? Joe Buck and Troy Aikmen from Fox? Maybe even a random radio coverage duo for local teams. The Cardinals have a great announcing team for example. It would be really cool if there were a handful of different teams that covered the Madden games so you could constantly get different perspectives. EA I know you like the idea, just give me some credit if you follow through. Also bring in Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth please. They are by far the best tin the business. Cris Collinsworth used to be in Madden for a few years and I LOVED him.

One last thing I want to point out, when you start up Madden it enters you into a Super Bowl scenario, Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco as the Steelers take on the Cardinals. As a Steelers fan this was the coolest possible way to start the game. Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant’s real voices were used, I noticed right away. The game sets you up in various situations to intercept the ball, score touchdowns, and finish a drive off by throwing a game winner to Brown. The production level, the Super Bowl feel—it is all perfect and as a Steelers fan I was geeking out big time!

The Madden franchise was in a real rut in my opinion for a half decade or more. Madden 2005 was the last game I felt like I truly enjoyed. Yet the last few years it seems like they’ve really figured things out again. Mut is probably what go them back on track; it’s a brilliant game mode that feeds off of the fantasy football craze. The adjustments to MUT in Madden 16 just help continue to elevate that great game mode. Franchise mode is better than ever, the overhaul and additions make it my favorite game mode to play in this year’s Madden. Skills trainer is as good as ever, and Madden’s cerebral side makes me happy. The new game mechanics for the defensive side, the passing and catching game, and the running game are all brilliant and allow the game play to be better than ever. If you’ve skipped out on a couple Maddens and have been waiting out, pick up Madden 16. If you are a Madden enthusiast, you already have the game and this review probably just verifies all of your thoughts. It’s not a perfect game, it has some issues here and there; but if your hope in Madden has been deflated for any reasons at all, allow this review to pump your trust back into EA because this is the best Madden yet.

PROS:
1) New passing, receiving, defending mechanics
2) Improved running game
3) Franchise Mode’s changes are brilliant
4) Gorgeous graphics
5) Cerebral Football still at its best

CONS:
1) Super-Sim is broken
2) Jim Nantz and Phil Simms still suck
3) Occasional Glitches in Franchise Mode

8.9
Excellent

 

Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman akrham box
Cost
$59.99
Format
Retail, Digital
Size
45.4 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PC
Release Date
June 23, 2015
Developer
Rocksteady Studios
Publisher
Warner Bros.
Modes
Single Player

The Bat-signal has been lit--Gotham needs saving one last time...

The Bat-signal has been lit–Gotham needs saving–one last time…

In spring of 2007 Eidos acquired the rights to make a Batman game. In May of that year they appointed Rocksteady to handle the job. Rocksteady had only ever created one game prior to taking on the biggest name in super heroes; for many in the video game world, it didn’t seem like a great fit. At the time, and still to this day, making a great super hero/comic book game was nearly impossible. A few Spiderman games here and there worked out well, but overall the success in the super hero genre of games was few and far between. In August of 2008, Batman Arkham Asylum was first introduced. I personally remember being incredibly interested in the announcement, and I also remember many video game news outlets being very cautiously optimistic. The general vibe was, well it looks really good but it’s a super hero game so let’s not get our hopes up. And even later when those same people got a chance to play it pre-release at shows or backroom demos, I recall many of them still holding their breath. On August 25th 2009 those cautiously optimistic critics, fans, and gamers all collectively sighed in relief, while simultaneously having their breath taken away. Rocksteady created one of the best games in video game history and the new standard for superhero games in Arkham Asylum. They brilliantly took ideas and inspiration from games like Zelda, Metroid, and Bioshock. They brought in voice actors from the animated series and the story itself was based on little chunks from the comics and the series and it was all put together in an incredible game. The tone, eeriness, and graphics were all top notch. On top of that the gameplay was revolutionary. The brand new combat scheme was built around Batman’s fluidness and utter power, and many games have borrowed from the gameplay since. To go along with the top notch combat, Rocksteady added predator moments in the game, where each enemy is armed and dangerous and Batman picks them all off with terror inducing precision. In every category Arkham Asylum was a masterpiece. Just two years later Rocksteady added another first-class game to the series in, Arkham City. The story, set-piece moments, and sheer scale of the game were all pushed to new limits while still maintaining the core near flawless gameplay. Rocksteady was allowed four years to develop their third and final addition to the Batman Arkham series. (Batman Origins was developed by a different team, it was a fine game but nowhere near the excellence of the Rocksteady outputs.) Just like they were handed a challenging and downright nearly unfeasible task for the first Arkham game, creating a third and final act in this awesome trilogy that lives up to the first two was just as difficult.

Did Rocksteady handle this last mission and create a truly satisfying final moment for Batman in the Arkham universe? I can undoubtedly, without any remorse, say they absolutely did!

This is one of the many unlockable pieces of concept art available in the game. Often times a game can be great in concept, but the final product falls short. That's not the case at all in Arkham Knight. From start to finish, Rocksteady nailed it

This is one of the many unlockable pieces of concept art available in the game–often times a game can be great in concept, but the final product falls short. That is NOT the case at all in Arkham Knight. From start to finish, Rocksteady nailed it

Batman Arkham Knight takes place about a year after the events from Arkham City. Spoiler alert, Joker was killed at the end of Arkham City by the self-induced titan toxin he gave himself at the end of Arkham Asylum. Gotham doesn’t really know if Batman killed Joker or not, but they are truly just happy to see the menace gone. For months and months many waited to see when something else would rock Gotham back to its knees, but crime instead dropped and the city began to sigh in relief to its much calmer and safer home. Little did they know that Scarecrow had been working tirelessly on a chemical that had the potential to devastate Gotham like nothing else it has ever seen. On Halloween, a fitting night, Scarecrow dropped a small portion of his fear toxin on the city to show the world what it could do and draw Batman out of his cave. In one night Scarecrow wanted to humiliate Batman, take over Gotham, and show the world that fear was the ultimate weapon. To do so he asked nearly every nemesis of Batman to drum up trouble all over Gotham. Scarecrow even recruited a powerful new ally, who called himself the Arkham Knight, whose singular mission seemed to be killing Batman. All of this story is told in just the first few moments of the game, setting up what will obviously be one insane night for Batman.

The story in Arkham Knight is incredible and it truly drives the game. It’s hard to go into detail because there are many moments throughout the game that twist and turn in every direction. In short, without spoiling anything, I’ll say this. Scarecrow is handled wonderfully. He is handled like a man with a mission who truly wants to wreak havoc all over Gotham and eventually the world. It’s clear he wants to take down Batman, but before doing so he wants to make sure the world sees Batman as a failure and not a hero. If Scarecrow just simply kills the Batman, than he would go down as a martyr. But if he shows Batman himself, and the rest of the world, that Batman is a lowly man full of mistakes and regrets, than the world will lose hope in heroes and fall into utter fear. The mysterious Arkham Knight however just wants Batman dead, but he decides to go along with Scarecrow’s demands for now. To help, the Arkham Knight has a massive Militia that does every will of the Scarecrow and Knight. Who is the Arkham Knight? Why does he want Batman destroyed? That is revealed later in the game and it’s a very interesting plot twist. I obviously won’t spoil it. Sadly the reveal for who this masked Knight is was a bit anticlimactic. I personally thought they hinted too much at who it was just by some of the things he said and story elements that were provided leading up to the reveal. However it really comes around at the end of the game in an amazing way that, as a HUGE Batman fan, gave me goose bumps.

 

Batman faces against a new adversary who calls himself the Arkham Knight... It seems like much more than mere mockery, it seems personal. Who are you?!

Batman faces against a new adversary who calls himself the Arkham Knight… It seems like much more than mere mockery, possibly personal?
“Who are you?!”

Joker also plays a much bigger role in the game than I had anticipated. He has two separate roles with the story of the game, both of which are amazing. Joker is dead, he died in Arkham City and they even start out Arkham Knight with Joker being burned in an incinerator. I choose not to say one more thing about Joker’s role in the game, because I really want everyone to enjoy his surprise role. But I promise that you will not be disappointed. And to be honest, even though he is dead and he isn’t threatening Gotham the way Scarecrow or the Arkham Knight are, his role in this game is more interesting than anything in the game and anything in the previous titles. And that’s not to downplay the story in the Arkham trilogy or the Arkham Knight’s story. The story for these games has always been amazing; that’s just how GOOD Joker’s place is in this game that it even outplays everything else. It’s like the story in Arkham Knight and the whole trilogy get’s an A+ in my book. Joker in previous games gets an A+. Joker in Arkham Knight gets an A+++. I’ve already probably said to much, I don’t want to spoil anything, I just really want to get my point across about how much I love the Joker in this game.

The Joker was killed in the events of Arkham City--yet his role in Arkham Knight is his most powerful and interesting yet

The Joker was killed in the events of Arkham City–yet his mysterious role in Arkham Knight is his most powerful and interesting yet

Batman’s rollercoaster story in Arkham Knight is amazing as well. His character, who he is as a person and who he is as a hero are attacked all night long, but he forever stays strong. More important than anything to Batman are his loved ones. His friends and who he considers family are the most important things in his life. Even the city of Gotham is like family to him, no matter how much it beats himself up. The roles of Robin, Nightwing, Oracle/Barbara, and Commissioner Gordon are all so strong. Each of them comes to Batman’s rescue at different points of the game and each of them are also saved by Batman himself. Lucius Fox plays a big part and of course Alfred’s has his ever remarkable role as Batman’s friend, helper, fellow detective, butler, and father-like role. For the entire game Batman is thrown into tremendously difficult situations that put him in just as much emotional and psychological danger as they do physical danger. Every villain seems to want to get into Batman’s head, and there are situations where it seems like maybe Batman made the wrong choice in trying to save everyone. He always has the impossible task of balancing who he needs help from and who he doesn’t want to put in danger in the process. In the end, the story wraps up in a bittersweet way but in an extremely satisfying way at the same time. There’s an ending to the main story and than a “Knightfall” ending that can be unlocked once all the side-missions (called Most Wanted missions) are completed. This ending is filled with both mystery and satisfaction and it leaves the door open for Rocksteady to maybe continue to create games in the universe or someone else pick up a very interesting story at a pivotal place.

Along with the main story being phenomenal, the Most Wanted missions are also a huge success. Part of the reason Batman is such an incredible super hero is his villains and the varying characteristics they have. Some of the Most Wanted missions are very small and some are quite large. Of course Penguin and Two Face are in the game but so are many others, I won’t spoil them. The world building in the game is amazing. It really feels like the city is falling apart and it really feels like all the super villains are taking advantage. Radom thugs in the street or Militia members comment on every new twist and turn in all the different Most Wanted and Main Story moments. There’s little Batman universe Easter eggs all over that diehard fans will appreciate. I can’t wait to see what secrets begin to be revealed in the coming months. There’s a whole room in Arkham Asylum that took over a year for the fans to find that shows massive hints to Arkham City. And in City there was a boat that had Scarecrow’s information about his upcoming attack that takes place in Arkham Knight. Those are just a few of the hidden goodies in previous games, what does Gotham in the Arkham Knight have hidden about?

Batman hijacks and destroys a flying drone from above--the skies belong to the Dark Knight alone

Batman hijacks and destroys a flying drone from above–the skies belong to the Dark Knight alone

The gameplay is right on par with the previous games. There are four pillars of gameplay in the Arkham series; traversal, puzzles, combat, and predator mode. In Arkham Knight the big addition is the Batmobile, and these four pillars all join right along. Let’s talk about that now. Obviously you can use the Batmobile to drive through the city, although there are different points where some of the three different islands that make up Gotham may be blocked off temporally. Using the Batmobile to drive through the city is awesome and it works wonders to get from point A to point B. There are also puzzles using the “Tank” version of the Batmobile. With a quick tap and hold of a button, the Batmobile switches from a more classic style to looking similar to the version used in the Nolan movies. In Tank mode the Batmobile can shoot missiles, cannon shots, machine guns, and more. And for the sake of puzzles it can use a power wrench that can attack onto things and break them down or possibly power up a generator. Batman doesn’t kill. So while driving around in the Batmobile he can only ram into other vehicles or shoot a disrupter shot that shuts off the power to the vehicles with multiple hits. While in Tank mode Batman shoots rubber bullets, incapacitated thugs and militia but obviously not killing them. The real explosive power comes when Batman goes against drones. There are unmanned drones flying through the air and moving about the streets, as well as drones that play big roles in the story. At these moments, Batman uses the tank mode to completely obliterate the drones. There’s also stealth type gameplay that uses the tank mode. There is a specific type of drone that is extremely powerful and has a weak spot on the back, so you have to stealthily sneak up behind it. To be honest, for puzzles and traversal, the Batmobile feels right at home at it’s a lot of fun. But the Tank gameplay just doesn’t quite feel Batmany enough and although it provides some definite fun, it isn’t quite on the same level as the other gameplay mechanics.

Batman's Batmobile in Tank Mode does ferocious damage to the unmanned drones that lurk the city streets. It offers great gameplay verity(Rocksteady's MO) But it doesn't quite feel "Batmany" enough compared to the rest of the game

Batman’s Batmobile in Tank Mode does ferocious damage to the unmanned drones that lurk Gotham’s streets. It offers great gameplay verity (Rocksteady’s MO). But it doesn’t quite feel “Batmany” enough compared to the rest of the game’s perfect gameplay

As far as the standard Batman gameplay, it’s as smooth, precise, and instinctive as ever; and maybe even better than ever. The puzzles are fun, interesting, and totally fit right at home for something “The World’s Greatest Detective” would need to solve. The combat is still my favorite in gaming. Batman attacks, counter attacks, uses gadgets, jumps over enemies, and does amazing takedowns in beautiful splendor. It’s all incredibly fluid and becomes second nature in no time. There are many different types of enemies. Some have riot shields, some are big brutes that are twice the size of the average brawler, some fight with electrical taser-like sticks, some are medics that can revive his allies, some use knifes, swords, bates, and more. Every single one of these guys can be taken down in different ways, but also they are immune to certain attacks as well. A brute for example will just block a normal punch, but stun him first with a swing of the cape and he’ll be open for a barrage of punches. Overall the fighting system can be slightly overwhelming at first, but once I got used to it back in Arkham Asylum, it quickly became my favorite combat in gaming. There are new enemies, new takedowns, new gadgets, etc in Arkham Knight and it all feels perfect.

As well as combat, the predator mode is back and better than ever. For me, predator mode is the definition of Batman, it’s the best “OMG I AM BATMAN” feeling I can possibly have. In predator moments of the game, the enemies are armed with guns, gadgets, and gear and their one and only task is to hunt down Batman and kill him. Of course, Batman is the one that ends up doing the hunting. The stealth in this predator gameplay is some of the best in all of gaming in my eyes. Batman can hide inside grates, up on high ledges, behind walls, and wherever else he desires. One by one Batman will take down each enemy, and the bad guys get more and more terrified with each fallen comrade. There are so many ways to take down enemies in predator mode. Batman can sneak behind an enemy and choke him out. He can use the batclaw to grab someone and pull him off a ledge. He can drop down from a vantage point, pick up the enemy, and hang him upside down from his feet. All the great takedowns return from previous games, but there are plenty of new additions as well. For example there are now environmental takedowns that use surrounding equipment to do extra damage to takedown an enemy quickly. One of the main things that seemed emphasized in this game is using the enemies gear against them. There are many different enemy types to watch out for that make things quite difficult for Batman. There’s an enemy that controls a flying drone that patrols the air directly above. There are medics who can resuscitate someone who Batman has already taken down. There are big brutes that carry mini guns and can’t be taken down by some of the more basic moves. There are enemies who have devices that block Batman’s detective mode (used to see through walls, analyze environmental objects, understand the enemies current weapons, gage enemies fear level, etc) and other enemies that will be able to track Batman when he does use detective mode. As overbearing as all that might be, one of Batman’s greatest strengths is using the enemies weapons against them. So nearly every single enemy type has a counter. That enemy using the drone, Batman can use his hacking tool to make the drone blind for 30 seconds. Or better yet, he can use that hack tool to take the codes from the enemy controlling it to reprogram it to shock the user instead. The disrupter weapon is astoundingly multi-purposeful. The enemy trying to track Batman when he uses detective mode will actually backfire and shock him instead of finding Batman. Or the enemy that is about to resuscitate someone, instead of that shocking him back awake, Batman can sabotage it to shock the medic to sleep. This list goes on and on. But Batman only gets a few shots with the disruptor, so use them wisely.

Batman in Predator Mode using his Detective ability to see through walls, gage the enemies' fear, and analaze the environment--soooo many beautiful options to take them down and they won't even know what hit 'em

Batman in predator mode using his detective ability to see through walls, gauge the enemies’ fear, and analyze the environment–soooooo many beautiful options to take them down and they won’t even know what hit ’em

Another huge addition to gameplay in general and most useful in predator mode is the Fear Takedown. Batman is known to bring fear into the hearts of his enemies. When he is lined up at the right place, maybe right above the enemy, hiding below, or right behind a corner, Batman can use the fear takedown method to instantly takedown multiple enemies. Basically, he pops out of nowhere to completely incapacitate someone in the blink of an eye. This happens in a very cool looking slow-motion way. When this happens just a couple feet away from another enemy, they get temporality stunned or start firing the gun recklessly aimlessly out of total fear. Batman can chain the fear takedown and sort of “bounce” from one enemy to another in seconds and take down a group of guys. At first Batman can do this to three enemies, but in time it can be upgraded to five. Setting up a scenario to take down three, four, five enemies in seconds in one fell swoop just feels so Batman, it’s perfect. Batman can make a wall explode, take down an enemy loudly, manipulate the bad guys to specific spots to set up a fear takedown of a sorry pathetic bunch. To “reload” the fear takedown again, Batman needs to successfully stealth takedown an enemy, this makes sure that the ability isn’t overpowered. Another way to make sure that all these new takedowns, and specifically the fear takedown, are fair and don’t make Batman too powerful is simple making the levels larger and adding more enemies. In the past there would be five, six, seven enemies on a predator section level. Now there can be as many sixteen. But with the added tools and options, it feels just as fair. Planning out what to do and when is what predator mode is all about. Building that strategy and it working to perfection is so satisfying. Batman just feels like Batman in these predator moments.

Fear Takedowns offer a game-changing twist to combat and especially predator moments. Rocksteady handles it to perfection and Fear Takedowns instantly become one of the coolest and most useful new additions

Fear Takedowns offer a game-changing twist to combat and especially predator moments. Rocksteady handles it to perfection and Fear Takedowns instantly become an extremely satisfying, cool, and super useful new addition

Traversal has a few new great additions as well. Batman needs to be able to move quicker in Gotham, as it’s three times as big as Arkham City. Batman has free roam to go anywhere with the limits of the game, and to do so he can use the Batmobile or fly/glide through the air. Using a grappling hook and launching into the skies is a great way to move about the city, see just how amazing the scale is, and see just how beautiful the world is.

As mentioned before, there is so much to do other than just the story in Arkham Knight. The most wanted missions took up a lot of my time, but I thoroughly enjoyed them. The Riddler challenges take up the most time, as they are hidden everywhere throughout Gotham. I enjoyed every single most wanted mission. Some of them are stronger than others, with the weakest ones being Batmobile focused. I just can’t help but want more and more, the Arkham games always take place in one night, I wish I could be Batman for years and just continue cleaning up Gotham from all the corrupt and crazy villains. As well solving riddles and completing the most wanted, there are also AR challenges. In previous games there was a challenge mode that could be played from the selection screen, instead of jumping into story mode. Now the AR challenges can be entered into from the selection screen AND they are in different spots in Gotham. This is a cool addition, because there were plenty of times I’d notice myself being right next to a challenge and thinking, hey what the heck, I’ll go for it. It feels like it’s a part of the world now, and that’s cool. However challenges do have some problems as well. First off, they didn’t used to be AR challenges. It makes more sense in a world building sense, that Batman can challenge himself with some crazy technology based on augmented reality to hone his skills, as opposed to before when he’d somehow be beating the same bad guys to a pulp over and over. So in a world building sense, it makes more sense. But it also ended up narrowing down the arenas or cool places to fight because now they are scattered throughout Gotham instead of being based on locations in various levels in the game. For example, in Arkham City there were challenge rooms in places that ended up getting blown to bits or are deep inside of labyrinths where whole sections of the story took place. Now, in Arkham Knight, that’s not an option. Since its all “AR” it’s always in easy to reach places in the city. In Arkham Knight there were multiple times that I did a predator mission and thought to myself, oh my gosh this area is awesome! I can’t wait to return to this spot in a challenge! But then I realized that it just won’t be the case, since that cool area isn’t just at the top of a building in Gotham somewhere, it’s instead buried deep inside a story sequence, that may be possible to return to, but there won’ t be AR challenges here. Another big thing that bothered me with challenges is that they totally reworked the combat versions. In previous games it was always round based, in some cool little arena Batman would take down three waves of enemies and the final score would build up to hopefully being one, two, or three stars. In this game the combat is all just one wave, one round, and I just don’t like the way it’s set up. Lastly there are just not enough AR challenges anymore. Honestly in the older games the challenges were some of my favorite parts. I would play them for hours and hours. In predator mode, to get three stars, the goal is to follow the instructions on specific takedowns. For example it might say, get a triple fear takedown, save the medic for last, and get an inverted takedown, do all three of these for three stars. Its loads of fun! But in Arkham Knight there are only four predator challenges and four combat challenges. FOUR OF EACH?!? There were over 50 in the previous games. Plus, they were all playable as Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing in Arkham City, so that’s 200+ challenges. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking here. There are also now three different kinds of Batmobile AR challenges, so it almost makes me hate them because I feel like they took the place for the ones I enjoy more. To be fair, the Batmobile racing challenges are a lot of fun, especially the ones based on Riddler challenges. But I’m not as big of a fan of the tank and pursuit challenges. Overall I just really miss the huge amount of predator and combat challenges from the older games. This is huge replay value that is completely gone. Perhaps it will be DLC down the road? But will it ever add up to the amount in the previous games?

This Riddler race is a part of the AR challenges as well as being a track the Riddler built to attempt to finally outwit The World's Greatest Detective

This Riddler race is a part of the AR challenges as well as being a track the Riddler himself built in attempt to finally outwit The World’s Greatest Detective

The strange and often times not fun boss battles of the previous games are gone, and that’s a great thing. Each climax to every character arch, whether from the main story or most wanted missions, is fun and satisfying and doesn’t need “boss battles”. Instead, the times when Batman does go head to head against one of his arch nemeses, it feels like a natural battle. For example in Arkham City for some odd reason Two-Face took like 75 punches to take down. Now, after taking down his henchmen and avoiding his gunfire, it takes one quick takedown (I mean come on, Two-Face would be on the ground from one punch from the Dark Night…)

Let me just say this; Batman Arkham Knight is one of the best looking games I’ve ever seen. The detail, the colors, the rain, the lighting, the effects, the whole city of Gotham, it’s just all delicious eye candy. My only complaint when it comes to the visuals is the character design for some. Scarecrow, Batman, Arkham Knight, Joker, Robin, Oracle, Penguin, Two-Face, they are all homeruns. But some of the characters went through some major plastic surgery or something because they look drastically different from previous versions. Poison Ivy for example looks like a completely different character from the last game, and I’m not a fan of the design. They went for a more realistic look, I understand that, but I still don’t like it. The Riddler has always been one of my favorites, his design in the last game was perfect, I don’t like what he looks like in this version. Overall most of the slight changes were for the better, but some were just so drastic that it kinda threw me off. The voice acting and the writing is first-rate. The Joker is incredible, Mark Hamill as always, nails his role as the clown prince of crime. Kevin Conroy, as the Dark Night, is consistently marvelous. Every voice and every line sounds like it fits perfectly without the world of the game, within Gotham. The music in the game is wonderful. In predator mode is where it shines, as the music ramps up to great intensity with every additional take down. The music has sounds from the animated series, while still giving it its own unique feel. Meanwhile, for the first time in the series I also heard hints of the soundtrack from the Nolan films, and the mix of all three of these adds up to a beautifully Batmany soundtrack that my ears seriously love.

Batman: Arkham Knight's visuals are some of the best I've ever seen. Look at the color, detail, and art style. I don't know if Gotham has ever looked so good

Batman: Arkham Knight’s visuals are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Look at the color, detail, vastness, effects, and art style. I don’t know if Gotham has ever looked so beautiful

Rocksteady had a very difficult task in completing the Arkham series and Batman’s incredible story told through these games. But they’ve proven once again that they are one of the best developers out there. The main story, with all of the twists and turns and amazing character development is the best of the bunch and something that every Batman fan should enjoy. Scarecrow, the Arkham Knight, Joker, and of course Batman and his family each have perfect roles in the game. And again, the way Joker is handled is phenomenal. The story is definitely hard to swallow at times, the game is now rated M for a reason, with some events being a kick in the gut, but it’s bittersweet in the best ways and something I really loved. The varying gameplay is top notch; Rocksteady knows how to create a game that never gets boring. The game switches from puzzles to combat to tanks to predator without missing a beat. The tank stuff may be just a bit off-putting when compared to Batman being Batman, but it’s still certainly a lot of fun. The combat and predator modes are as amazing as ever. Meanwhile the city of Gotham is massive and traversing it and cleaning up the streets are so much fun. Batman’s tool set makes the game a true sandbox experience; allowing the player to tackle scenarios in any way they please. The Most Wanted side missions add hours and hours of fun to go along with the perfect length 10ish hour main story. The AR challenges are a bit of a letdown, since they are bare in comparison to the robustness from the preceding games. They are still extremely fun, I just want more. The game feel in Arkham Knight is special. The story, world building, music and sound, and visual art style combine for a game that really feels like an extraordinary place to be. It just feels so Batman, and that’s all a gamer like me wants. I want to thank Rocksteady for their footprint in the Batman universe. From the animated series, to comics, to the big screen, finding a place in the world of Batman isn’t easy. But somewhere Rocksteady created possibly my favorite way to experience the Dark Night. The Christopher Nolan films are some of my favorite. The animated series will always have a huge place in my heart as the definition of what Batman is to me. Experiencing Batman, playing as him, being him, in a wonderful world that pays homage to all those things I’ve grown to love and creating a series of games that matches my extremely high expectations for the caped crusader is something that truly blows me away. I want to be the night, to be vengeance, I want to be Batman! And thanks to Rocksteady and the Arkham series—I can and I am!

PROS:
1) Amazing engrossing story that wraps up the Arkham series wonderfully
2) Gameplay still some of the best in the industry
3) Being Batman
4) Joker Joker Joker
5) Stunningly beautiful
6) So much to do
7) Nearly unprecedented fan-fare
CONS:
1) AR challenges not handled as well as in the past
2) Tank gameplay is fun, but a bit out of place
9.7
Phenomenal

 

The Arkham series has always been on top of the industry with awesome collectibles and fan-fare--this sweet Joker model is just one small example

The Arkham series has always been on top of the industry with awesome collectibles and fan-fare–this sweet Joker model is just one small example

(I reviewed the game on the Xbox One. My version played near flawlessly, with just a few tiny hiccups hear and there. I’m aware of the PC version and it’s problems, I do feel bad for the PC crowd. I didn’t allow that to effect my review in any way, because my version, and anyone playing the Xbox One or PS4 version deserves a 9.7 in my eyes. And the PC version deserves the same score in my opinion once the game is fully patched, as long as the game is then major glitch free and has all the features of the console version.)

Review: Roving Rogue

Roving Rogue
Roving rogue
Cost
$7.99
Format
Digital
Size
500 MB
Available On
Wii U [Reviewed]
Release Date
July 2nd, 2015
Developer
Padaone Games
Publisher
Padaone Games
Modes
Single Player and Multi Player

Roving Rogue is a 2D platformer designed to look and play like games from the golden-age of gaming. Developer Padaone Games endeavors to create a game with 42 frantic levels, a story interestingly told backwards, and simple yet deep mechanics. There’s tons of attempted humor, a classic art style, and a fascinating platforming tool. With indie games in a renaissance and kickstarted games taking over, classic throwback 8-bit and 16-bit games are suddenly flooding the market. Standing out as a truly special game is difficult. For every Shovel Knight, one of the best games of the last decade, there are hundreds of shovelware piles of crap that are reminiscent of why the video game industry crashed back in 1983. Sadly for Padaone Games, Roving Rogue definitely falls closer to the shovelware category.

Roving Rogue’s story is funny and interesting for about 5 seconds. In the very first moment of the game, you will kill the final boss. From then on the game is actually played backwards; since the main character has lost his memory and needs to recount what actually happened. While there could have been so many amazing gameplay elements revolved around playing a story backwards, the game doesn’t take advantage of this. Levels still play the same way, enemies attack and the goal is to get to the finish line of the level. If the game didn’t tell me that I was starting in world 6 and the story didn’t tell me everything is backwards, I would have had no idea. The game also starts each level with text from different characters in the game. In this it seems Padaone wanted to build lore and add humor. Every single quote ends in a hashtag joke, but it gets old very quickly and with almost every #joke it is extremely obvious that they are #tryingtohard.

There are two huge problems with the gameplay of Roving Rogue. One is that the gameplay is extremely repetitive. In the game’s 42 levels it really doesn’t introduce anything knew. The second problem is that that aforementioned repetitive gameplay is borderline broken and just plain boring. It would be one thing if the game was repetitive but still fun. For example Temple Run was a huge success, Guitar Hero is another example. Those games are pretty darn repetitive, but it’s still full of a lot of enjoyment. Roving Rogue just isn’t fun. As I already mentioned, the gameplay is tedious and monotonous. There are new enemies and new levels, but they don’t add anything to the game. The enemies are not a threat at all; they slightly bump the player backwards a bit. Some have swords, some have arrows, some can levitate, but all of them are just minor annoyances in the way. In every level there is always an environmental hazard forcing the player to run to the exit. There’s lava, rocks, etc; the goal is always to get to the exit without letting those things catch up. There are also three collectables in each level. Actually managing to pick up those collectables is a real challenge, and sometimes they are positioned in places that are almost impossible. Sadly the reason they are so hard to get is not because of bad level design, although that is most certainly the case as well, it’s more because of bad and nearly broken platforming.

This broken platforming all has to do with the character’s special ability. He is a ninja of sorts, he can teleport; vanish and reappear to jump across pitfalls, make higher jumps, and dash throw objects. To pull this off I just had to press and hold the button, move the analog in one of eight different directions (North, Northeast, East, South East, and so on), and let go to disappear in a pink cloud of smoke and reappear at the requested destination. One major problem…. It just doesn’t work. Countless times I would attempt to point the teleport jump northeast, only to have the arrow move in a blink of an eye to the east instead, and I’d fall to my death. So many times I would CLEARLY set up to land perfectly on a platform, only to have my character mysteriously land multiple platforms below and completely miss the landing spot I was shooting for. The irritation and frustration kicked in very quickly. Everything revolves around these ninja teleports and it truly felt like half the time I attempted them the game would screw up and I’d land in a pit of lava. The gameplay just doesn’t need finished. The jumping is floaty and unnatural. The enemies are pointless. The level design feels like it is poorly procedurally generated as opposed to being put together brick by brick with purpose.

The graphics in Roving Rogue are awfully basic and lifeless. There are so many old 8-bit and 16-bit style games from the past that are gorgeous. There are also numerous brand new 8-bit and 16-bit games designed in this era, made to look like they are from the 80‘s and 90’s, that look stunning. Roving Rouge just looks dull. The color palette seems limited. The game is unimaginative and just kinda ugly. The sprites design, both enemies and playable characters, aren’t special in any way. The music is atrocious. It’s repetitive and quite painful to the ears. It’d probably be best to play the game on mute, if you choose to play it at all.

There is multiplayer in Roving Rogue, it’s simple but it could add some fun to the game. The only option in multiplayer is just to add another player, up to four, to the fold in the normal campaign. Rushing to the exit however, when the jumping and controls are already so busted, only makes beating the levels more obnoxiously difficult; not because of good game design, but because of lousy controls.

In a platformer, gameplay is everything. First and foremost a platformer needs to have pinpoint responsive controls; Roving Rogue doesn’t have this at all. A platformer needs to continue to bring new elements of fun to the table and avoid being repetitive, unless the core game is loads and load of fun (although being a bunch of fun AND not being repetitive is obviously the best of both worlds); Roving Rogue fails in this department. And obviously, above all else, the second to second gameplay in a platformer needs to be fun; Roving Rogue is just not fun.

PROS:
1) Interesting story idea

CONS:
1) Backwards story not fleshed out
2) Repetitive
3) Teleporting is broken
4) Subpar art style and music

3
Lousy

 

Review: Adventures of Pip

Adventures of Pip
adventures_of_pip_v3_by_harrybana-d8y45f8
Cost
$14.99
Format
Digital
Size
555 MB
Available On
Wii U [Reviewed]
Release Date
June 4th, 2015
Developer
TIC TOC Game
Publisher
TIC TOC Games
Modes
Single Player

Adventures of Pip is a 2D side-scrolling platformer from Tic Toc games, an independent developer. The game was a Kickstarter project; it was backed by 2,578 people and racked in $65,974. It’s a throwback and takes gameplay elements from classic 8 and 16-bit games. In Pixel Kingdome, each character is made up of pixels. The less pixels you have, the less you are worth. Some characters have faces that have no features at all, like from an old 8-bit Nintendo game. Meanwhile the rich and mighty have 16-bit faces with eyes, mouths, etc. However, everyone is still happy, the land is prosperous and they love their King and Queen. However, a witch named Queen DeRezzia has kidnapped Princess Adeline, who possesses amazing powers. Derezzia uses the princesses’ powers to create havoc and reign supreme over the land. It’s up to Pip, a lowly little pixel, to save the day.

Pip has very unique powers, he can harness the bitsteam. In the first level of the game you happen across an old ghostly knight who awakens Pip’s skills. When Pip jumps on a specific type of enemy, ones created by DeRezzia herself, he can evolve into an 8-bit version of himself. This version can run faster, attack enemies with punches, and most importantly wall jump! However, single pixel version of Pip is far from useless. He can jump higher off of mushroom springs and float slower, thus jump further, across platforms and into secrets. He’s also the shortest version, which means sneaking into small crevasses for goodies or passageways. Once the third world starts, Pip can evolve again into a 16-bit version of himself. This version can’t wall jump or even jump of off the mushroom springs, he’s too big and bulky. Nevertheless he can push heavy boulders and does wield a sword, which has the ability slice through rocks and is great at killing bad dudes.

To evolve from a single pixel to 8-bit and then 16-bit, Pip must kill a glowing blue enemy who has bitstream flowing through it. Pip instantly evolves once he kills one of them. To “devolve” backwards, for the sake of a platforming jump of a secret for example, you can simply hold the button down and Pip will go back to his lesser pixely form. Also when he does “devolve” a little explosion comes out of Pip; killing very nearby enemies and destroying pink colored blocks that are often in the way of his progression. The levels are designed to take advantage of each of Pip’s form. I was constantly evolving and devolving and it’s a lot of fun. For example there could be a line of pink blocks in the way of a secret passage. So I would need to simply devolve from 8-bit form and the explosion would blow up those pink blocks. Then after squeezing through the tiny tunnel in single pixel form, there could be few bad guys to kill, one of which was connected to the bitstream, which allows me to evolve back into 8-bit form. Now there could be a wall jumping section to get up to a higher spot, where one more bitsream enemy is waiting, once I kill him and go into 16-bit form, I could use the sword to destroy the rocks in my way and get the treasure chest behind it. All of the switching pack and forth feels very natural and not at all overwhelming; the clear differences between each pixilated form of Pip allows for fun gameplay without confusion.

Along with each of Pip’s forms being used for level progression and secrets, the evolution gameplay is also used heavily in platforming, and this is awesome. While controlling Pip I needed to analyze the situation and then quickly change back and forth on the fly to land tricky but enjoyable jump sequences. As the levels go on, the platforming gets more and more challenging, but never too frustrating or overly difficult. A perfect simple example of pulling off all the switches in one event happens in the very first level you unlock Pip’s 16-bit form. To jump high enough, I needed to first be in single bit form and jump off of a mushroom spring. Once launched in the air, I could land on top of a floating bitstream enemy, which evolved me into 8-bit form. Instantly after bouncing off of that enemy I needed to hug the wall and wall jump right off of it to jump far enough to land on the next floating bitstream enemy. Once I landed and bounced off of that bitstream enemy, I changed into 16 bit form and had to immediately slice away a rock wall that was blocking the platform to get to the next area. As soon as I performed all of this for the first time, I realized the special style of gameplay in Adventures of Pip. It’s unique and seriously cool. I wish the game had more of these brilliant platforming jumps, if the entire game was that alone, I’d be happy. The quick switch puzzley type platforming is what sets the game apart from the average throwback platformer.

Developer Tic Toc also made some smart moves when it comes to the design. One of those smart choices was how they handled enemy respawns. If you kill a normal enemy, he dies and doesn’t return, unless you leave the ”screen” and come back into that room. You won’t need to do that often, so not allowing the enemies to respawn instantly makes sense, while still giving the option to bring them back once you leave the screen and return makes sense too. Conversely, bitstream enemies DO respawn. In just a few seconds after killing one, the bitsream enemy will come back to life, almost like a dry bones from Mario. Why is this so important? It allows the player to take chances and test out little theories when it comes to the evolving and devolving puzzle type moments. Let’s say I had to get to the top of the platform, and to do so I needed to evolve Pip a few times in very specific ways. Well, I can just go for it and play while having epiphanies on the run without the fear of totally screwing it up. Because it I did mess up, those bitstream baddies will just reappear and I can have another go. But if they didn’t and I killed the bitsteam enemies without making it to the top of the platform, then what would I do? I’d have to kill myself or run backwards to “reset” the screen. The frustration of having to do that would be a major turnoff. Not only that, it would have changed the way I played. Instead of letting the game feel free and natural, and allowing for minor mistakes, I’d be forced to play the game slow and get seriously annoyed every time I missed a jump. How much would Portal have sucked if the blocks you had to place never respawned or if you had to get a new gun every time you took a couple shots? A lot! It might seem like a simple thing to do, but it could have been easily missed. And the fact that Tic Toc made normal enemies NOT respawn while bitsream enemies DO tells me that they thought hard, tested the game, and developed the game correctly in a pivotal moment.

Tic Toc also made the game a lot of fun to explore. Each level is filled with secrets. Walls you can go through, tough platforming high spots that utilize the different Pip’s jumps, and hidden places that can be opened up with the each pixilated form are everywhere in the game. Some of the secrets have chests with money; other secrets have civilians to save. Every level has three civilians that need saving, and finding all of them is the perfect mix of challenging without being daunting. And the gameplay is just fun enough that I always wanted to see what walls were hiding what and which leaps of faith could take me where. There is also a hub world, the town, that gets more and more filled the more civilians you save; I thought this was a really cool extra touch. The town also has shops, which can only be unlocked once you save the shopkeeper civilian of that specific shop in the levels. One shop may specialize in potions or heart pieces. Another shop could give you special armor to allow for less health to be lossed when hit by a bad guy. Some of these things are extremely over priced, there are single use items that show you if the screen has hidden stuff, but for the cost it’s not worth it. Meanwhile saving up for another heart piece or more armor is totally worth it. It just sucks that it takes so long to save up that money. The average level will give you 300-500 pixels, the games currency. But the shop items themselves, at least the ones worth buying, cost 3k-5k pixels. With 5 world and 8 levels in each, you can only really buy a handful of those good items on your first playthrough.

Speaking of the worlds and levels, this is an area that could have used a bit more work. The lava and castle type levels later in the game look really cool. But the first few worlds are lacking. The first world is a forest, the second is a swamp. And they are far too similar. Each level in each world usually didn’t have enough diversity either, every level looks the same. It would have helped, for example, if say the forest level had a level that looked like it followed a river, another level that seemed to be deep inside a massive tree, or other cool places that totally would fit in a forest world. As opposed to every level in the forest world kind of just looking like the same green forest with minor changes.

The graphics overall don’t impress. Of course it’s a classic 8/16-bit game. But I’ve seen many of those that totally blow me away. The enemy design, the world and levels visual design all seem flat. There aren’t too many wow moments to the eyes. There’s nothing visually distracting either, it’s just maybe too simple. One thing about the graphics that is really cool is the maintained art-style throughout the different pixelated characters. It’s interesting that an 8-bit character with little detail can still look unique and can fit into the world right along side a fully detailed 16-bit character. The music also seems out of place. At times it sounds really awesome, but more fitting for a classic Japanese rpg or that kind of game. It doesn’t really fit with the visual style or gameplay. Overall the music gets a bit monotonous.

The boss battles at the end of the eighth level in every world are underwhelming. They seem less about skill and fun flowing gameplay and more about trial by error. They also just aren’t enjoyable to fight. Instead of creating bosses where the goal was to jump on its head three times typical Mario style, why not have running bosses or collapsing levels where Pip needs to evolve and devolve fast through the levels and make it to the exit alive. That would fit the gameplay much better in my opinion.

Adventures of Pip is a fun game. The second to second gameplay is distinctive and exciting. My favorite moments were when I was forced to use all of Pip’s different pixel versions in one awesome platforming sequence. I honestly wish there were many more of these. The bosses could be dropped from the game and it would probably benefit, although a new climax would be needed instead. The text between the characters is filled with chuckles, as the humor often revolves around making fun of Pip’s single pixel form or pixel related puns. The graphics and music are fine, but if the game had a more distinctive and beautiful art style it would have propelled Pip to newer heights for sure. Secrets are plentiful, but buying stuff in the stores just costs too much. Overall evolving and devolving to make jumps, find secrets, and eventually save the princess and Pixel Land is a whole lot of fun; Tic Toc should be proud.

PROS:
1) Unique new evolve/devolve gameplay
2) Packed with secrets
3) Good ol’ fun

CONS:
1) Weak boss fights
2) Bland graphics

7.5
Good

 

Review: Splatoon

Splatoon
Splatoon-Box-Art
Cost
$59.99
Format
Retail and Digital
Size
1.80 GB
Available On
Wii U [Reviewed]
Release Date
May 29, 2015
Developer
Nintendo EOD2
Publisher
Nintendo
Modes
Multiplayer and Single Player

Splatoon is a third person multiplayer turf-war shooter from Nintendo. It’s the Big N’s first true attempt at an online shooter. The game was announced at E3 last year in 2014 and was made available for the masses less than a year later. There was definitely excitement and intrigue upon the games announcement. And that has carried over and multiplied until the release just this week. With much hype comes the chance for a big let-down, so Nintendo has to tread lightly. Nintendo is jumping into a whole new genre for them and a whole new franchise. There are two things that can always be predicted with a Nintendo game. It has the chance to have brand new revolutionary things that the world has never seen before. And it also has the chance to completely skip out on key features that other games have nailed down for years. As a Nintendo fan, I always hope for that first thing and fear the latter.

Splatoon’s second-to-second gameplay is incredible. It provides some of the most fun online shooting I’ve ever had a chance to play. You play as a squid kid, called an inkling, with special powers. As in normal shooters, you have a gun, some grenades, and various ways to take down your enemy. There are different guns that are great in different scenarios, from high powered assault rifles to long range snipers. That’s about where the comparisons stop when it comes to every other shooter out there. The HUGE difference maker and home-run hitter when it comes to gameplay and execution, is the INK. Each team has a different color ink to work with. It might be green vs pink. It might be blue vs yellow. In the various game modes, the ink is everything. The main gamemode is called turf war. It’s a quick three minute battle where the objective is to cover the map with as much of your color ink is possible. At the end the score is tallied up and whichever team has more ink percentage wins. The stage starts out completely ink free; when you shoot ink from your fun onto the floor it covers that area in your ink. If it stays there the whole game, that would go towards the teams final ink tally at the end. However the other team can just as easily spray their own ink right on top of yours and take over the area. It’s a constant battle for dominance. Of course you can also take out the enemy with your ink guns as well. Another game mode is like king of the hill, called Splatzone, but with an awesome twist. Instead of gaining points by standing in the area and fending off the enemy, you gain points by making sure the whole area is dominated by your teams color. There’s a lot more strategy involved than the average king game, because you don’t need to stay in the area at all times, you can leave the spot and kill bad guys or flank around, as long as you keep an eye on that Splatzone. Both of these game modes with the ink being the center of it all is so much fun. In a world were deathmatch is king and almost every other game mode falls to the wayside, Splatoon’s ink is the reason why these new game modes are so much fun.

On top of the gamemodes being “ink”centric, the ink provides so many new gameplay opportunities. The biggest thing revolves around your inkling being able to turn into a squid and swim through the ink. With a touch of a button, you can transform into a squid and fly through the ink at double the speed when compared to running. This is also how you reload/refill your weapons. You have an ink container on the back of your inkling. And you can see it drain away with every shot fired; you can then duck into your ink to refill your tank back up. This feels intuitive and natural very quickly, as does swimming around in the ink itself. The most important fact about all this ink diving is that you can only do so in your own team’s ink. Meaning if you are playing on the green team, you can only swim around and refill in the green ink. And if you walk around in the enemy’s ink, you will slowly take damage and you won’t be able to move at all, almost like you’re stuck in mud up to your knees. You also have a special meter that fills up whenever you cover areas in your ink. Once the special meter is filled, you can use your specials, which are similar to kill steaks. Some of them drop down a huge tornado like missile from the sky, others provide a safety bubble around your inkling for a few seconds, and others allow you to shoot a huge rocket from your back for maximum carnage. So the whole game revolves around the ink. Along with it being your weapon to splat and take down the enemy, it’s also used for the game modes themselves as the goal of the game and also it’s used for traversal, gameplay mechanics, and more.

Some of the gameplay mechanics that can be done with the ink is truly revolutionary to the genre. When being attacked by an enemy, it’s not simply about going behind cover or firing away, the ink adds so much more. As soon as a gunfight starts, you can drop into your ink and flank around him before he even notices. Remember the ink on the ground would have to be your own color to do so. But even though you can go into the ink, the enemy can still hurt and kill you while you’re underneath, and there’s still a bump and ripple effect around the submerged inkling, so they can still see you with a quick eye. Flanking around some enemies before a gun fight even starts and catching them off guard is very satisfying. Of course camping is a huge annoyance in shooters, so you’d think ducking under the ink and hiding would be a major camping problem. But it’s not really at all. First off, you can’t shoot while underneath, so you are actually in a more dangerous spot since the enemy can still shoot and kill you while you are submerged. Secondly, since EVERY game mode and so many gameplay elements revolve around the ground being saturated with your own team’s ink, players are constantly shooting and covering the ground with their own ink. So even if you think hiding under the ink and waiting for them to pass is a safe thing to do, they can start shooting and killing you without them even noticing because they were just planning on taking over that area and turning it from green to pink for their own team’s sake. The map design is also quite open, and the range of the weapons is rather low, so camping is almost entirely nonexistent, which is awesome. Another amazing gameplay ability with the ink is climbing up walls. Covering the walls will not help your team gain points, only the ground counts. But it can help you climb up to new areas or perches to jump off of and catch the enemies off guard. The amount of tricks that you can learn and conquer over time is thrilling and really sets the game apart from the average shooter. The ink really makes this like nothing else I’ve ever played before.

The controls themselves feel very nice, you can use the gyroscope to aim, but I recommend just going with the dual sticks like a normal shooter. There are a few cool abilities when it comes to the touchpad on the gamepad. If you have the inkstrike special, you use the screen to tap on the map where you want it to land. But the main reason you will use the touchpad is when you respawn. You can choose to just start right back from the original spawn when you die, or you can click on any teammate on the map and launch into the air and land right next to them. Be careful though, the location you will land appears on the enemies’ screen, so if it’s a really hot spot it might be an instant death. Powerups and special abilities can really ruin an online shooter. In destiny the game got really out of hand, as every five seconds it felt like I was getting killed by a massive sun orb or titan punch. In Splatoon, every special powerup can be extremely effective. But a skilled player still has the chance to see it coming and avoid it. It’s a fair balance for the most part.

Progression, weapons, and perks is a very important part about any online shooter. Is there diversity? Is there balance? Is it fun to unlock new things? These are all questions that need to be answered with an emphatic yes. Every time you launch up Splatoon you spawn in Inktropolis, the game’s hub world. Inktropolis is awesome. It’s colorful, vibrant, and full of life. It feels like a real place and really sets the tone for the world the game takes place in. The hub world is filled with other Inklings of real people online. It’s very much like Destiny’s hub world, the Tower. Only difference is characters are not walking around in real time. It’s just there in game characters with their names, their gear, and a miiverse message. On the left hand side of the city there are a set of stores, where you can buy your gear and weapons. On the right hand side is where you’ll find the single player, the local multiplayer, and a black market dealer who can sell you rare stuff for a lot of cash. And straight ahead is where you can jump into online multiplayer. The stores on the left side are where you’ll find yourself running into as often as possible. There are four different stores, each one of them specializing in a different item. The shop keepers are full of character and impossible not to love. There’s a horseshoe crab helmet wearing salesman of guns, a big shrimp who sells shoes, a jellyfish who sells shirts, a girl who has sea anemone for hair with a clown fish living in it. Each character is funny and unique, for example the sea anemone girl is very shy and unsure of herself, meanwhile the clownfish on her head is often screaming at you and telling you to hurry up and pay. All of the buyable gear has unique look and style. On top of that they have abilities attached to them. Each hat, shoes, and shirt has random abilities and it’s up to the buyer to pick which one they like the best. There are abilities that range from giving your weapon a bit of extra damage power to making your movement while swimming under ink invisible. Picking those perks that best utilize your play style is crucial. None of them seem overpowered; they just give small advantages in different styles of play. One example of these abilities is one that allows you to use your specials longer. So when you cover enough area with ink and you gain your ink bazooka, you can use it for an extra few seconds thanks to the extra ability in your gear. However if you have the inkstrike, which is an airstrike of ink, it’s a onetime use special. So there’s no point in having the ability of being able to use your specials for longer. So it’s your job to switch out the gear to better help you with whatever play-style you choose.

The weapons are done smartly as well. At every level you unlock a new gun pack that you can choose to buy with your coins that you unlock in multiplayer. Some weapons are certainly better at different jobs than others. There’s SMG style guns, mid range assault rifle style guns, snipers, and rollers (which I’ll get to in a second). The sub-weapons, your grenade and mines, are good for different styles of warfare as well. And of course those powerful specials can be deadly. Here’s the very smart thing Nintendo did with the weapons. Instead of allowing you to pick individual guns, subs, and specials, you have to pick packages. Meaning you can’t just pick that best SMG mixed with that best grenade mixed with that best special. Otherwise quickly the game would become top heavy with the “best” weapons. Think how Call of Duty games often have three or four guns that everyone always uses with the same perks that everyone uses with the same equipment and same kill streaks. ACR, Stopping Power, Claymores, Scavenger Pro, Harrier, Attack Choppper, Nuke from Modern Warfare 2 anyone? (If that went over your head, ignore it.) The way Splatoon handles the weapons is in packages, and each gun has a couple different package options. For example if you like the .52 Gal gun, you have two different options. You can pick the one that comes with the Splash Wall sub and Killer Wall special. Or you can pick the package with the Seeker sub and the InkStrike special. If you like the Aerospray gun, you can have the package with the Seeker sub and Inkzooka special. Or the Aerospray with the Ink Mine sub and Ink Strike special. These different packages create different play-styles and allow for fair balanced gameplay.

To jump back to the Roller class I talked about earlier, there is a style of weapon that is called a Roller and these can be very deadly but also can be easy targets. Imagine when you are painting a wall; you use big rollers to spread paint across large areas, a lot quicker than a paint brush. This is the same principle in Splatoon. Roller weapons can be used to spread ink across large areas very quickly, and they can get kills by running over other players like a cement roller.

Single player is surprisingly fun. The story is very simple and nothing special. But the gameplay takes everything from the multiplayer and adds so much more. The bad guys are silly, creative, and a lot of fun to kill. When you jump into single player, there are hub worlds filled with four to six levels and they climax with a very Nintendoy boss battle. The single player also unlocks weapons for multiplayer, including the very fun Aerospray.
The graphics in Splatoon are very very pretty. Colors are vibrant and bright. Animations are slick and cartoony. In single player the enemies are lively and fun. The gear, weapons, and maps all have unique and fun looks. The music is very hit and miss. Splatoon does a great job of creating its own unique sound, but some of the songs lean more towards annoying than. The more laid back and quiet songs in the city, shops, and hub areas are all awesome. But some of the music during gameplay is pretty bad and others are amusing and memorable.

For the most part this review has been filled with all the good of Splatoon. But there are definitely some major problems, luckily they can be fixed and it seems like Nintendo is working on them. First off, there are only 6 maps. 6 maps for a launch of a multiplayer focused game is kind of absurd. Also there are only three game-modes in multiplayer. Add on the single player and it’s not half bad, but it definitely needs more. Thankfully Nintendo is on top of that. Already, less than a week after launch they’ve updated the game twice, one new map and two new weapons. At the moment, the top level is 20, which is doable in a decent amount of time. There is no prestige. I’m definitely hoping Nintendo ups the top level or adds a prestige. Probably the most baffling design choice is that there is no voice chat. A 4v4 online shooter without voice chat is unheard of today. But Nintendo us stuck in its ways. Luckily, in the short matches and tight gameplay, it isn’t missed quite as much as you’d think. Nintendo has promised to continue to support Splatoon with new maps, weapons, game-modes and more in the near future and far far beyond as well. If Nintendo can support this game more along the lines of PC Arena shooter over the next two years then this game has the real chance to grow into a classic.

The love and support for Splatoon is very real. Nintendo fans and gamers a plenty are all about this game. Its new unique gameplay is exactly what the genre needs. Nintendo has created something truly special in Splatoon. The game is balanced, fun, and challenging. All the crazy gameplay, movements, and gunplay allowed through the ink is unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Nintendo needs this game to be a big hit, and I think it has a very strong chance to be. It’s not perfect, but the problems are not design problems, they are fixable issues that can be addressed in time. The Splatoon community will play this game for a very long time as long as the Big N continues to support it.

PROS:
1) “Ink”credible new gameplay
2) Balanced gameplay and progression
3) Hub World and World building
4) Just so much fun

CONS:
1) Needs more maps and gamemodes
2) Some iffy music mixed in with great music

8.6
Excellent

 

Review: Toro

Toro
toro omg why
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
2.17 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed]
Release Date
5/15/2015
Developer
Recotechnology S.L.
Publisher
Recotechnology S.L.
Modes
Single Player

Toro is a bullfighting simulator developed by Rectotechnology S.L. The game promises to challenge your skills and reflexes against an array of dangerous bulls worldwide, as you face the beast with style and excitement. Sadly however, the game fails to do any of that. In fact Toro is one of the worst games I’ve ever played on so many different levels. Pulling a single redeeming value from this game would be harder than being thrown in the ring and facing a bull myself. From top to bottom Toro is a miserable failure. Making a bullfighting simulator video game is hard enough, since the idea doesn’t really translate into video game mechanics that well. If someone made a bird watching simulator, it probably would be darn-near impossible to pull off. But maybe if the game was gorgeous, immersive, and well designed, it could find a niche small audience. It’s the same for a bullfighting sim, maybe it could work if done right. But that is certainly not this game, all of Toro reeks of complete bullshit.

The most important thing in any video game is the gameplay itself. It needs to be fun and have depth. If it’s a puzzle game, it has to inspire and give the player “eureka” moments of joy. If it’s a fighting game, it needs to have complex but fulfilling actions that give the player a sense of achievement. If it’s a shooter, it needs to feel crisp and give the player satisfaction with every pull of the trigger. Every game in every genre needs to have fun deep gameplay. Toro falls flat in its face in this regard. To face the bull you do two things, call the bull towards you, and then press a couple buttons to do a “pass”, which is a style of move to avoid the bull. That’s it. Call the bull, double tap X. Call the bull, press X and B, call the bull, double tap X again. Often there are times when I failed to time it correctly, but the bull ran right through me. Other times it should have worked just fine but I was run over for who knows why. This goes on until you enrage the bull, and you do this for three minute rounds.

If you successfully avoid the bull after a few runs, the game goes into a clumsy quick time event. In this event the game doesn’t change at all, you don’t do a cool move or anything different in any way. The bull and your character look exactly like they did when you were doing normal passes with your double X nonsense. As you successfully press the button for the quick time event, the bull runs right by you and you wave your flag just like normal. Why is there a quick time event when nothing changes? Why am I not still playing the game normally? I honestly don’t see the point. In a normal game, in a good game, a quick time event is in place of something that cannot be done in the normal gameplay. For example, let’s say you’re playing a star wars game as a Jedi. In the normal gameplay you can attack with your lightsabor, dodge and parry, use the force, and jump about. However, what if you are going up against an AT-AT Walker? (A giant walking tank) Well, the developer can choose to use a quick time event for something like this. Get close enough to the Walker and jump underneath it, suddenly the game tells you to press A, if done so correctly your Jedi starts climbing up the leg of the Walker! Now press B, your Jedi reflects a blaster shot from a nearby enemy while continuing to run up the leg! Now click A, your Jedi flips in the air and slices the power source of the Walker and it explodes with epic glory! This is what quit time events are for. Yes, the developer could have programmed it so you’d just slash away at the legs of the Walker till it falls. But it might be more satisfying and more fun to allow the player to do new and thrilling moves to take down the enemy with flashiness. Jedi’s can do some really crazy stuff can’t they? Now as soon as this quick time event is over, the game will go back to the normal, yet still rewarding gameplay with your saber in hand. But for Toro, the quick time event is literally the same thing as the normal gameplay. In my Star Wars example, it would be like if in the middle of fighting off stormtroopers with your lightsaber, the game goes into a quick time event were you just kill more stormtroopers with your lightsaber. What’s the point?

If the bull “gores” you, nothing happens. You’re in game character doesn’t get hurt. You don’t have a life meter. There’s not injury. There’s nothing. Even the sound effect is pathetic. If the bull gores you, it sounds like someone throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall. There’s a small noise and the crowd makes an “oooh” reaction. Then you get right back up and continue tormenting the bull. IT’S A GIANT 1,500 POUND BEHEMOTH WITH SPEARS ATTACHED TO ITS SKULL! Yet you get run over by it over and over and over and shrug it off like it’s a freakin’ bag of cotton candy. They call it GORE for a reason don’t they? There’s no suspense in trying to avoid the monster. There’s no satisfaction in fighting him off. It’s like you’re playing bumper cars or something, oh wait it’s nothing like that at all, bumper cars is actually fun.

The first and third rounds play exactly the same; call the bull, double tap x, occasional boring quick time event. The second and fourth rounds are more quick time events that last only about five seconds. In round three you places cones on the back of the bull, the quick time event does all the work. And in the final round you stab the bull with a sword, the quick time event again doing the work. It’s strange however since you don’t see the bull once you thrust the sword. As soon as you finish the quick time event, a small crosshair appears, but it’s another ridiculous design choice because the crosshair is always at the perfect spot as soon as it starts. You don’t need to line up anything, just press A as soon as the cross hair appears and you’re all set. And when you do hit the bull, instantly the bull is out of the picture and the screen pans to your bullfighter who is soaking in the applause. Maybe they didn’t want to look cruel? Maybe they didn’t want to do the work to show the stabbed bull? Either way it feels empty and strange and unrewarding.

Speaking of empty, that’s a perfect word to describe something that is hard to put into words about Toro, but I’ll do my best. The game is just so quiet and empty. There are seconds that go by where there is literally no sound whatsoever. To go along with the horrid graphics, which I’ll talk about shortly, this emptiness creates an almost eerie sense of loneliness. There’s no life in this game. There’s no heart. It’s not to say that the developers didn’t create the game with heart, it just doesn’t come out in the final product at all. Hearing the same sound effects over and over started to drive me mad! The tennis ball sound when I get gored, the same “hut” every time I call the bull, the same exact sound of the crowd cheering for 2 seconds and then instantly disappearing again is repetitive and obnoxious at best.

After completing matches you unlock more bullrings to fight in and more costumes to wear. The customization is lackluster. While character customization is sometimes a great way to make the player feel involved, if it’s not fleshed out it can actually push the player away from that emersion. There is just one face to choose from, a few different hair styles and colors, and different lengths of sideburns that they comically call facial hair. Why can’t a pick between a handful of faces? I understand they want to make the game look in-line with what real bullfighters look like, so no Amish-style beard allowed. But why have customization at all then? Other than your actual character, there are several costumes to choose from once you unlock them. These look fine and you can adjust their colors.

Once unlocked, there are two mini-games to play. For 2 seconds anyway, they are more fun than the real game, but after those two seconds you realize they are as repetitive and boring as a Dora the Explorer episode. I GET IT YOU’RE THE FREAKIN’ MAP YOU DON’T GOTTA SAY IT 74 TIMES! But an episode of Dora is still 700 million times more entertaining than Toro. The first mini game had some promise; you play as the bull, build up power, and launch the bullfighter into the sky hundreds of feet. It’s funny the first and maybe second time but that’s it. Again they have the exact same sound effects over and over and there’s no strategy or fun in the gameplay. Once you do it a couple times there’s no reason to try it again. What am I saying there’s no reason to try it in the first place! The second mini game you play as the bull again, you run down a hallway with double doors at the end. You aim the bull left or right to make it through the doorway and you press, “A, B, X, or Y”, whatever it asks you to press, to open the doors. Three major problems. One, it’s obvious you’re not moving the bull, you’re actually moving the entire screen left or right and it just looks offsetting. Two, it’s like a dumbed down even more boring and repetitive and ridiculously easy version of flappy bird. And three, you can cheat the game. It asks you to press a button, but in reality you can press any button you want as long as you press the correct one as well. Meaning you can just continually press all four of the buttons nonstop and you will always open the doors and run through, there’s no penalty for pressing the wrong ones.

The graphics in Toro literally the worst I’ve ever seen on a console post 2000. And who cares if a game doesn’t look that great in 1997, that was the technology of the day. This is 2015! I could easily compare the graphics of Toro to the Sega Dreamcast, and that’s not hyperbole. There are Dreamcast games that look better than Toro. I think that really sums it up just fine, but for the sake of explanation I’ll put it this way. The animations are appalling. The textures and details are nonexistent. 99% of the crowd doesn’t move, making the 1% that does move stand out in the worst way possible. There bullfighter and the bull’s faces don’t move at all, frozen in a perpetual state of stupidity. The sound effects are actually almost creepy. I don’t want to continue, it’s painful for my finger tips to express it all.

Toro is a mess. I don’t even want to call it a video game. I’d rather succumb to Chinese water torture than play another minute of this abomination. I probably shouldn’t be putting this on the internet for the world to see, but if anyone wants to torture me, make me play Toro. Within seconds I’ll be on the floor balling my eyes out and telling you everything you need to know. It might sound harsh, but Toro is that bad of a game. I’m ashamed that the game is on the Xbox One. It shouldn’t even be free to play let alone a game someone would need to purchase to play. The Xbox team should be embarrassed for letting this game enter its marketplace. Whole consoles, like the Wii for example, have truly suffered due to shovelware. The entire gaming industry fell apart due to shovelware in the video game crash of 1983. Toro does teach what bullrighting is about. It has information of the different types of bulls, the different passes that are performed and what the “sport” is like. But if you want any of that information, look on the internet, in books, or wherever. But stay away from Toro. To be blunt, the game should be gored by a bull and left to rot in video game obscurity as one of the worst games in video game history.

PROS:
None

CONS:
1) Boring and repetitive gameplay
2) Awful game design
3) Terrible graphics, three generations old.
4) Just everything…

1
Pathetic

 

Achievement Guide: Mega Coin Squad

Gone in 60 Seconds – 20gs – Complete a single player level in under 60 seconds

Complete a single player level in under 60 seconds

Gone in 30 Seconds – 40gs – Complete a single player level in under 30 seconds

Complete a single player level in under 30 seconds

Blingingly Good – 20gs – Earn 3 gems in a single player level

Earn 3 gems in a single player level

Gotta Catch ‘Em All – 30gs – Earn all available gems in a single player world

Earn all available gems in a single player world

Diamonds Are Forever – 70gs – Complete the single player game and collect all available gems

Complete the single player game and collect all available gems
World 1: Green Valley

World 2: Desert Plains

World 3: Snow City

World 4: Lava Land

Out of the Shire – 20gs – Collect the Mega Coin from Green Valley in single player

Collect the Mega Coin from Green Valley in single player

Sankara Coin – 30gs – Collect the Mega Coin from Desert Plains in single player

Collect the Mega Coin from Desert Plains in single player

Fargo’s Millions – 40gs – Collect the Mega Coin from Snow City in single player

Collect the Mega Coin from Snow City in single player

Out of the Furnace – 50gs – Collect the Mega Coin from Lava Land in single player

Collect the Mega Coin from Lava Land in single player

Saving for a Rainy Day – 30gs – Bank a total of 10,000 coins in single player

Bank a total of 10,000 coins in single player

Money Can’t Buy Me Love – 70gs – Bank a total of 50,000 coins in single player

Bank a total of 50,000 coins in single player

Easy Money! – 80gs – Bank a total of 100,000 coins in single player

Bank a total of 100,000 coins in single player

Die Broke – 10gs – Die without collecting a single coin in single player

Die without collecting a single coin in single player
This achievement is a bit tricky at first, but once you understand, it’s cake.
Start a brand new single player. Now go to level 1-1 and DON’T TOUCH A SINGLE COIN! Find something that will hurt you and let it damage you three times, carefully avoiding any coins. If you die without touching a coin, you will get the achievement!

I’d Like to Make a Deposit – 30gs – Bank 1000 coins in a single bank in single player

Bank 1000 coins in a single bank in single player

Smashed it with Mike – 50gs – Complete the single player game with Mike

Complete the single player game with Mike

Smashed it with Steph – 50gs – Complete the single player game with Steph

Complete the single player game with Steph

Smashed it with Chunk – 50gs – Complete the single player game with Chunk

Complete the single player game with Chunk

Smashed it with Mouth – 50gs – Complete the single player game with Mouth

Complete the single player game with Mouth

Smashed it with Data – 50gs – Complete the single player game with Data

Complete the single player game with Data

Road Runner – Beep Beep! – 70gs – Complete the single player game within 30 mins

Complete the single player game within 30 mins

Not Today – 80gs – Complete the single player game without using any continues or retries

Complete the single player game without using any continues or retries

Smashed it with Robot Unicorn – 60gs – Complete the single player game with Robot Unicorn

Complete the single player game with Robot Unicorn. This is a secret achievement.
To unlock Robot Unicorn, you must beat the game AND collect all of the gems in a play-through. Then beat the game again with Robot Unicorn and you’re all set!

Review: Thomas was Alone

Thomas was Alone
alonebox
Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
465 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, Wii U, Windows, PS Vita, iOS, Android
Release Date
11/21/2014
Developer
Curve Studios
Publisher
Curve Digital
Modes
Single PLayer

Thomas was alone… what a strange title for a video game. When I first heard this name, I instantly assumed it was an indie game, which I often truly enjoy. And on top of that, I thought it was probably an exploration game. I thought of Journey. Or maybe a first-person exploration game like the upcoming “Everyone’s Gone to Rapture”. I certainly wasn’t thinking about a narrative side-scrolling platforming puzzle game with rectangles. But that’s exactly what Thomas was alone is. It’s a puzzle game with clever ideas, but not enough substance.

The basic explanation of the game is that there are multiple different rectangles that you can control. At first you just start out with one, and the goal is to get to the end of the level. About every five levels the game introduces another rectangle to the mix. Each rectangle is different in color and size. The player controls the rectangles like a platformer, pressing a button to switch between each rectangle on the fly. Each rectangle moves at different speeds and jumps at different heights. In the world the only pitfalls are things like water and spikes.

The first three rectangles don’t vary enough. They are just different sizes and height which makes for some very boring puzzles. Early on the answers to the puzzles were all far too similar. One rectangle can jump extremely high; the other can barely jump at all. So use the one rectangle as a stepping stool and the short rectangle jumps slowly up like a staircase. It’s boring and not creative at all. Eventually there are more rectangles that join the party and they switch things up much more. There’s a HUGE rectangle that can float and be like a boat for the others. And there’s another long flat rectangle that acts like a trampoline and launches the others in the air. The puzzles get slightly more interesting once these rectangles come into fruition.

Now strangely enough, each rectangle has a name and personality. This is where one of my major complaints comes into play. I love character driven games. I love a game that has personality. I love dialog between characters and character development. And Thomas is Alone tackles a lot of these ideas. However I believe they fall very short. The characters in this game are little rectangles. That’s right, the rectangles that you use to jump around and float and climb are actually characters in the game. Yet they have no faces, no expression, no voice, nothing that helps them stand out other than their size and color. Thomas is red, Chris is short and orange, John is tall and yellow, Claire is big and blue, and so on and so forth. These characters are developed and have personality, but for me, it was so hard to let these little rectangles effect me emotionally in any way. Think of the game “Threes”. It‘s a simple card puzzle game based on numbers. If Threes could have existed before video games, it would be similar to Sudoku, with just simple numbers. Numbers are just numbers; they have no life at all. But since Threes is a video game, it can do much more. In a simple yet brilliant design move, each of the numbers in Threes has a face, voice, expression, and character. It’s a small touch. But when you create the number 48 and it’s a little bucktoothed face that says, “Hey Guys!” it instantly make the game have so much more emotion and life. I laugh every time I can’t figure out my next move and I hear one of them sigh and say, “I’m booored”. Why couldn’t Thomas was Alone have this type of detail? Thomas is supposed to be a light-hearted rectangle who just wants friends. And Chris is kind of a jerk who doesn’t like anyone at first. So how about giving Thomas a happy go lucky grin and as he moves along why can’t Chris squint his eyes and look at him with disdain as he jumps over his head? I know we can use our imagination. But this is a video game. The possibilities are endless. Don’t restrict the game in such a way that it takes away from the experience. I know that the developer put time and effort into wanting to create characters that developed and grew on each other as time went by. And this could have been pulled off so much better if these little guys weren’t simply quadrilaterals without a face.

The way that the story told is through a narrator. The narrator talks for the characters themselves, knowing their feelings and thoughts. The characters never talk to one another. This I don’t have a problem with, I like this move. Let’s say in this world that these little rectangles can’t talk, but they still have motives, thoughts, ideas, and emotions. I would have liked it if we could just see these emotions. It’s hard to really care about anyone when they are just shapes with colors. Plus, the narrator in my opinion gets extremely irritating. He’s a British narrator, and when he just talks normally it sounds fine. But when he tries to be funny, by changing the complexion of his voice or talking fast or things like that, he sounds extremely annoying and not funny at all. I would have preferred if the game was entirely in text over hearing the narrator’s aggravating voice.

The puzzles themselves are far too easy in the early goings. Until “Claire” is introduced, the game is entirely about jumping and climbing only. And Claire manages to change that just slightly, as now the game is more jumping and climbing, just with Claire’s floating ability thrown in there. The puzzles’ difficulty does heighten to some degree with the trampoline rectangle, Laura. But the game just takes too long to get interesting in its puzzles. And still, the puzzles are unexciting and not creative. The goal is always to just get to the end. And the way to get there always involved jumping on each other, pressing buttons, and not falling in water. There are a few levels that really take advantage of the different rectangles abilities and make for a bit of fun, but those levels are much too rare.

The graphics in Thomas is Alone are as simple as can be. I mentioned earlier about how I feel the characters could have used more personality, emotion, etc. The game is far too bland and lifeless. It’s really just a game with a bunch of squares and rectangles; it looks like an unfinished prototype.

Overall Thomas is Alone is a game that disappoints me on multiple levels. It’s visually ugly, the narrator is obnoxious, and the level design is uninspired. I want to care about the story and the characters, but the way the story is presented and the fact that the main characters are emotionless rectangles makes it just so hard to stay invested. Thomas should have stayed alone, away from the consumer, until the game was much more polished and filled with more life, meaning, and personality.

PROS:
1) Interesting character dynamics

CONS:
1) Characters fleshed out in strange way
2) Uninteresting level design
3) Too easy difficulty
4) Ugly graphics
5) Annoying Narrator

4.4
Poor