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My review of Rain

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rain

A boy emerges from sleep in a bright, painted world. He climbs from his bed to gaze out the window when the rain begins. His eyes meet those of the rain-soaked silhouette of a young girl, who then turns to run away from a shadowy, hulking monster in pursuit. Drawn to the girl, the boy gives chase with the hope of helping her. As the girl and the monster disappear into a bright doorway, the boy follows close behind. Emerging on the other side, he now finds himself in a dull, lifeless version of the same town where he, too, is a rain-soaked silhouette.

In Rain, you take control of this curious boy. The fairly esoteric story does not provide much clarification on why he insists on helping the girl, but the captivating visuals and wonderful soundtrack are sure to distract. Characters player and NPC alike are invisible in this game, only evidenced by their outline in the pouring rain, or their wet footsteps in dry areas. Story points are spelled out organically in the setting itself. Accordion, piano, and strings beautifully serenade the entire experience.

Unfortunately, there arent many more factors left to encourage you to continue forward. Rain counts on its unique aesthetic to carry it through an otherwise-average gameplay experience.

Full review up at Gaming Trend

My review of The Wonderful 101

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image

The aesthetic of Viewtiful Joe and the painting mechanic of Okami meet the bombast of God of War. This is likely the simplest way to explain the experience of playing The Wonderful 101, though there's really nothing else quite like the epic 100-man brawler from Platinum Games. Tiny protagonists brimming with personality literally join forces to face off against foreboding enemies that begin at the size of skyscrapers and only come larger - much larger. It's gargantuan, chaotic fun, but it carries with it some frustrating camera and control issues, and it's certainly not friendly to newcomers. Those that tough it out will be treated to some of the biggest, baddest, unforgettable displays of this gaming generation.

Read the full review at Gaming Trend: 

http://gamingtrend.com/game_reviews/big-things-small-packages-the-wonderful-101-review/

My review of Killzone: Mercenary

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KZ:M

It's an awesome concept: Take the standard dichotomy of the Killzone universe - ISA vs Helghast - and turn it on its head, inserting unbiased mercenaries catering only to the highest bidder. Memories of Wing Commander: Privateer danced in my head as I fantasized of comparing contracts, accepting jobs and turning down others. Unfortunately, while the pure combat in Killzone: Mercenary is well-executed, the freedom of choice never comes to fruition, and it smacks of lost opportunity. Thankfully, its absence has no impact on the entertaining multiplayer modes which are worth returning to again and again.

Developed by Guerrilla Cambridge, Killzone: Mercenary is touted as putting you in the shoes of an indifferent third-party for hire, focused solely on the dollar and unconcerned with the political aims of the ISA or the Helghast. The storyline of the four-hour campaign does entail some light twists and turns, clouding the idea of who the "good guys" are. But aside from earning currency to reward your actions - and your colleagues constantly referencing how much they like money - there's not much different about being a mercenary when compared to championing the ISA cause in every other iteration of Killzone. It's still a matter of traipsing through a linear progression of missions, dispatching anyone who stands in your way, with only a modest investment in plot. And it's not without groan-worthy one-liners like, "Look, now its raining YOU," or a peculiar tendency to stab enemies in the groin, things that might be funny if the game didn't take itself so seriously.

You'll be facing the same assault rifle-wielding enemies for the majority of the campaign, with a few shotgun or sniper soldiers peppered in for good measure. They're not particularly intelligent, occasionally taking cover but also content to run around in the open. A few specialized enemy types show themselves towards the end of the game, but Killzone: Mercenary relies primarily on its stealth mechanics to diversify gameplay, for better or worse.

The rest of the review is up at Gaming Trend, so please check it out if you have a moment! Thanks!

Hands-on preview of Shadow Warrior

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Here's an excerpt from my hands-on preview of Shadow Warrior that went live on Gaming Trend today, and also an embed of the full video version of the preview. Please take a look if you have a moment! Thanks!

 

shadow warrior

"If you were playing first-person shooters on your PC back in 1997, you may remember Shadow Warrior from 3D Realms. While it deserves credit for introducing room-over-room maps, ladders, and vehicles to the FPS genre, most probably remember it for protagonist Lo Wang, utilizing his trademark katana and throwing stars. And of course, there's the developer's insistence on playing up Asian kung fu movie stereotypes.

When it came time to reboot the series, publisher Devolver Digital enlisted the help of developer Flying Wild Hog. With their release of Hard Reset in September of 2011, Flying Wild Hog had shown a propensity for mixing the old school with the new, and proved that the classic no-cover shooter still has a place in today's gaming universe. And now, they turn their sights to a reboot of the classic Shadow Warrior. I was fortunate enough to ride out a portion of the game in a preview build, and we may be in for a treat when this game is completed."

#videodrome

At long last, I have a review on Metacritic!

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This may seem like no big deal to many of you, but as someone who has been working for years to hone my game-reviewing craft and have it, you know, matter, I'm celebrating my first review to be included in Metacritic aggregation.

rott metacritic

It's my Rise of the Triad review for Gaming Trend. Thankfully, all of my reviews from here on out will now be part of Metacritic aggregation. This is a very exciting time for me and I just wanted to share!

I AM EXCITE

2013 Finished Games Post - Shadowrun Returns, Rise of the Triad, Guacamelee

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Games I've finished in 2013:

1/15 - ZombiU [Wii U]

2/13 - Omerta: City of Gangsters [PC]

2/29 - Valkyria Chronicles [PS3]

3/19 - Batman: Arkham City [PC]

3/23 - Orcs Must Die! 2 [PC]

3/29 - Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC [PC]

4/3 - Dead Space 3 [PC]

4/10 - Dead Space 3: Awakening DLC [PC]

4/25 - Surgeon Simulator 2013 [PC]

4/29 - Professor Layton and the Curious Village [3DS]

5/1 - Theatrhythm Final Fantasy [3DS]

5/3 - Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon [PC]

5/11 - Metro: Last Light [PC]

6/5 - Prime World: Defenders [PC]

6/16 - The Swapper [PC]

6/28 - State of Decay [X360]

7/1 - The Last of Us [PS3]

7/3 - Tomb Raider [PC]

7/3 - The Walking Dead: 400 Days [PC]

7/13 - Dark [PC]

7/14 - Hotline Miami [PC]

7/18 - Metro: Last Light Faction Pack DLC [PC]

7/28 - Shadowrun Returns [PC]

shadowrun returns

In hindsight, it seems unthinkable that a universe of Shadowruns cyberpunk/fantasy stature has gone so unheralded in the world of gaming. Since the 16-bit era, almost two decades have passed without a game properly set in the tabletop RPGs world. Ultimately, the people have spoken, crowd-funding a Kickstarter to the tune of $1.8 million in April of 2012. The demand was there; all that was needed was the game. Fast-forward to July of 2013 and Shadowrun Returns.

This new iteration serves as somewhat of a spiritual successor to 1993s SNES release. Its an isometric RPG heavily dependent on character conversations. Shadowrun Returns even makes several nods to the original title, including variations on the music from the SNES game, and even an appearance from classic games protagonist Jake Armitage as an NPC. Nostalgia is not the only positive factor driving this game, but there are enough misses that it certainly wont please everyone.

Read the rest of the review here!


7/30 - Rise of the Triad [PC]

My Gaming Trend video review:

 

8/2 - Guacamelee [VITA]

guacemelee

I finally sat down over the last few nights and finished playing through Guacamelee. What a great game.

The art style is fantastic and the game is legitimately funny. The platforming was challenging but not unreasonable, and the game was generous with the checkpoints. Even better, falling off a ledge into a pit or a pool of acid didn't require you to jump back to a checkpoint - just back from the ledge you were last on. It took all the frustration out of platforming and kept it fun.

The combat was up to par as well. The rate at which you unlocked new moves was gradual enough to make it easy to work them in to your regular combat routine, but they also came often enough to get you excited when you found one. Some of the combos that would seem ridiculously daunting at first started to come out naturally during the arena battles.

When it was over, I definitely wanted more. And since I got the "sad" ending, I think I'll be continuing to play this for a bit.

Shadowrun Returns review

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Note: This was intended to be my final review for Default Prime, but as it appears the site was taken down altogether, I am posting it here instead, and on my Tumblr blog as well.

shadowrun returns

In hindsight, it seems unthinkable that a universe of Shadowruns cyberpunk/fantasy stature has gone so unheralded in the world of gaming. Since the 16-bit era, almost 2 decades have passed without a game properly set in the tabletop RPGs world. Ultimately, the people have spoken, crowd-funding a Kickstarter to the tune of $1.8 million in April of 2012. The demand was there; all that was needed was the game. Fast-forward to July of 2013 and Shadowrun Returns.

This new iteration serves as somewhat of a spiritual successor to 1993s SNES release. Its an isometric RPG heavily dependant on character conversations. Shadowrun Returns even makes several nods to the original title, including variations on the music from the SNES game, and even an appearance from classic games protagonist Jake Armitage as an NPC. Nostalgia is not the only positive factor driving this game, but there are enough misses that it certainly wont please everyone.

The strength of Shadowrun Returns is rooted in its excellent universe. Set several decades in the future, Shadowrun chronicles a magical Awakening that occurs in 2012 after the end of the Mayan calendar. Once-mythical creatures like dragons begin appearing, and a new race of metahumans emerges - orcs, elves, dwarves, and trolls now live alongside humans in everyday life. Sprinkle in some major advances in technology, and this cyberpunk fantasy world is ripe with possibilities.

But Harebrained Schemes gives equal life to the characters in Shadowrun Returns. A lot of love went into the writing of this game. Conversations with characters do not simply result in an exchange of dialog. The game describes moods, facial expressions, settings, and reactions with the skill of a novelist. Nearly every personality youll meet - from the bartender to the cyber implant vendor - is memorable. Like a good role-playing game master, this titles writing guides you through its dystopian world with ease and aplomb.

This makes up in large part for a distinct lacking in production value. If youre looking for flashy visuals and acting, youll be left wanting. Shadowrun Returns is without any cutscenes or voicing. Theres a lot of reading to be done, here. All of the narrative progression is accomplished through the written dialogue and descriptive settings.

Even so, the hand-drawn style permeating Shadowrun Returns is quite attractive. Every area, from the run-down city slums to the stark cleanliness of the Universal Brotherhood building, feels detailed and alive. The character models are a bit plain, though, mostly due to the scale of the game. Its fun to customize the look of your character when starting out, but youll almost never get a good look at him or her again for the rest of the game.

The other character customization options pay off in more tangible ways. You can choose to play as a pre-determined class to help steer you in a specific direction, or you can start with a blank slate and a pool of points to distribute among skills as you please. Whether your character ends up as a decker, a shaman, or a samurai, the way combat situations are approached as one class could feel very different from the others, resulting in a solid replayability factor.

Unfortunately, thats about all the replay value there is. For an RPG seated in a vast, established universe, Shadowrun Returns is surprisingly linear. The all-too-few options for sidequests are easily missed, so youre most likely to find yourself traveling a quest line with no impetus to explore. Even though said campaign could last you upwards of 15 hours, it feels like such a promising universe is going to waste.

When youre not engaging in conversation with various characters in Shadowrun Returns, youll be fighting alongside some of them. The combat in this game is of the turn-based variety, popularized by XCOM and the like. And for the most part, its a great time. Putting together a balanced party to manage buffs and healing while having your heavy hitters dish out some punishment is satisfying and rewarding.

But combat also serves to highlight some of the games biggest weaknesses. The isometric camera is fixed. Youll often find yourself wishing you could rotate the map to better see cover areas, but theres no option for that. Shadowrun Returns also doesnt do a great job of explaining some of the aspects of combat, leaving you to experiment to figure them out.

But experimenting is not something youll want to do too much of due to the games checkpoint system. There is no manual save function. If you want to try something new and it backfires, you could lose a good half hour of progress, or maybe more. This game, unfortunately, forces you into playing it safe at all times.

These are significant blemishes, but the gameplay is otherwise great. Balancing battle while simultaneously taking your fight into the Matrix - essentially waging war over the Internet to hack door locks and information stores - offers some of the best moments in the game. And thanks to the excellent writing, watching the plot unfold goes a long way to make the struggles worthwhile.

Shadowrun Returns is indeed a valiant return of the Shadowrun universe to gaming. The writing is its greatest asset - from the descriptive text to the character dialogue. The combat has peaks and valleys, ranging from nail-biting thrills to maddening frustration thanks to the fixed camera and an irritating checkpoint system. And for all its RPG goodness, the game is as linear as they come. Still, the best news here is that the Shadowrun world is alive and well. This title might be a small serving, but its also only a $20 buy for a solid game. If Harebrained Schemes can find a strong financial backing for another title in the series and give us the open-world game this universe deserves, the definitive Shadowrun experience could indeed be yet to come.

Score: 3.5/5