In a feverous haze one Tuesday night, Evan sent me a link to a new Kinect indie title. Within moments of briefly skimming the press release and seeing that it said FMV, Kinect, and Chris Evans, I dropped everything I was doing and rushed to my Xbox. Fearing this was some kind of joke or PR stunt or something, I thought I should download it as soon as possible before it gets pulled for being too crazy or something. Well, it’s plenty crazy and we played through the whole thing so you won’t have to. [Read more...]
Dean Dodrill. That’s a name anyone interested in playing XBLA’s Summer of Arcade closer Dust: An Elysian Tail should know. An artist by trade, he decided he wanted to make a video game, all by himself. So he taught himself how to program. That was nearly three years ago. The road to release has been a long one, for sure, and I can’t imagine how difficult designing a game by yourself must have been. I’m happy to report that from the designer’s perspective, it was worth the effort, and from the consumer’s perspective, it was worth the wait. Dust is fantastic.
The past few years, PSN and XBLA have been havens for pure artistic expression in video games. On these platforms, a single, driven designer could create something to their specifications. We saw this with Jonathan Blow’s Braid, we saw it with my personal game of the year thus far, Phil Fish’s Fez, and now we’re seeing it with Vander Caballero’s puzzle/platformer Papo & Yo. Highly autobiographical, Papo deals with a child learning to cope with his father’s alcoholism by retreating into a fantasy world. It is an incredibly brave attempt, and one I recommend people see for themselves. I cannot convey how bad it makes me feel to tell you, then, that Papo & Yo is a rather terrible game.
The word “dyad” means a great many specific things across different fields, but those definitions are all bound by a simple similarity: in all cases, a dyad is a pair. Whether it be a pair of sister chromatids, a pair of musical notes, or a pair of people. The new PSN-exclusive racer Dyad is aptly named.
With the 3DS having a lackluster games library, it is nice to see a game show off the handheld’s power that stays consistently fun. The colorful title has a full single-player mode, complete with a career, challenges, instant play, and free play. It also has a smaller two-player mode, that is played locally by passing off the handheld. This download-only title is available for only $6.99, and I found it to be worth every penny. [Read more...]
Finally, after all the hoopla, Xbox’s Summer of Arcade 2011 has come to an end. From the critical darling Bastion to the party game Fruit Ninja Kinect, its been a pretty great year for the promotion. The final game released was Toy Soldiers: Cold War, and it’s a nice way to go out.
Toy Soldiers: Cold War is a pretty basic tower defense title with a few fun twists. For one, at any point you can hop into any of the turrets or battery-powered vehicles and fight the Commie scum yourself. If you do well enough in these sections you can unlock a barrage, which is essentially a killstreak. These are a lot of fun (one even allows you to play as a muscle bound Commando who constantly shouts “DON’T TREAD ON ME!” in hilarious fashion) but they are unfortunately a little too difficult to obtain, as I only got one a few times the whole campaign. Otherwise, the game performs quite well aside from a camera that wouldn’t perform correctly a couple of times.
The game does have a nice smattering of modes to help it out, including a survival mode (with co-op), versus mode, and a few minigames. All game types also have challenges you can complete and leaderboards for the competitor in you.
Probably my favorite thing about this game is the extremely well done Cold War vibe, which is played up nicely. The game constantly plays absurd 70′s and 80′s music, and the environments are as deliciously cliché as you can get. The game itself looks extremely good for a downloadable title; even the animations of the infantry are pretty solid. Ultimately, Toy Soldiers: Cold War won’t win over strategy game naysayers, but it’s a nice title to round out the Summer of Arcade.
The Good: An excellent homage to the era of Commando and Top Gun, tight strategy gameplay, a nice smattering of modes
The Bad: Some of the more ambitious aspects of gameplay could have been better, a disappointing lack of story
The Ugly: An occasionally finicky camera can annoy
Final Comments: Toy Soldiers: Cold War is worth a purchase almost as much for the atmosphere it exudes as the polished gameplay
Score: 8 out of 10
Bastion is beautiful; there is no getting around it. Not just in visual art, but narrative as well. Every action you take has a deeper impact in the narrative than you would ever think possible. Instead of reading millions of lines in a codex, the world is explained through an omnipresent narrator with one of the most intoxicating voices in a game.
Discovering the lore and unraveling the story of Bastion is part of the appeal to this game, so going into too much detail is blasphemy. You play as the Kid, who wakes up after an apocalyptic event called the calamity. The Kid is alone in the world, except for a voice looming over him, explaining the story as the game unfolds. Not just saying “The Kid goes right” but explaining why that path was chosen, or why another one wasn’t, along with illuminating the history of different enemies and environments. This narrator doesn’t just spout out lines of information; he speaks his mind and his opinions on events are ever present. The rest of this gripping tale is up for the players to figure out.
Bastion can cater to all combat types with eleven distinctly different weapons from pistols to spears. The Kid is able to carry two of these weapons along with a shield, and one special skill at a time. In addition, the Kid can also equip special tonics that act as buffs. Gameplay is from an isometric view, however Bastion employs a real time combat system. Some enemies even have the ability to hit the ground hard enough to loosen chunks of the world, adding a twist on player strategy.
Free 360-degree control is given to the player to move all along the level. When moving through the world it is rather linear, with paths rising and falling before you. However, the landscape opens up wide for battles against multiple enemies and adds branching paths that usually lead to dead ends.
While only one path can lead to the objective, the journey there never ceases to amaze the eyes. Vibrant colors leap off the screen and you feel transported to a world full of wonder. One level may take you through an abandoned burning town, the next you’ll be in a lush, green jungle. Each area feels different than the last, all while retaining a similar world palette.
If Bastion becomes too easy, just throw on some Idols, making the enemies stronger and faster among other effects. Triggering these Idols also gives increased money and XP to the player. Every item, tonic, and Idol has a unique story beat to it making them engaging and entertaining to experiment with.
If the story isn’t enough, Bastion also supplies many weapon challenges to tackle. These challenges help teach how to use specific load-outs to the best of their ability, as well as introduce more depth to the world. Three arenas also await those who dare accept the challenge. Don’t be deterred by the wave based mode, these arenas bring even more backstory and depth to the few characters in the game, making the content difficult to disregard.
Bastion is a must play game and an excellent debut title for indie developer Supergiant Games. While it isn’t without flaws, such as long load times and the rare frame rate dip, the pros far out weigh any con. Great story, music, and art all mold together into one excellent title that no one should overlook.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Coming to PSN…soon?
In March, North American Parasite Eve fans were treated to a double whammy as Square Enix released the original Parasite Eve released on the Playstation Network and the PSP-exclusive third entry in the series, The 3rd Birthday, followed shortly after. However the question was raised “Well, what about the second one? When does that release?” The answer to that question seems to be coming soon, or so we’d like to hope.
Game Informer reports on a new ESRB rating that shows that the game has been re-rated for a Playstation Network release. The game is rated for Mature audiences, and promises to feature some “Blood and Gore” as well as a bit of “Violence” thrown in as well. There’s no word of a release date yet, but it should be rather soon. At least one would hope.