Destiny

Destiny is a title that pushes immersion at all costs; the storyline that players are provided with stands as bleak opposition to the pristine future as described by Star Trek. The game is broken off into Titan, Huntr, and Warlock classes, granting players the ability to straddle both shooter and RPG titles. The different races and environments that players will encounter further increases the replay value; there is a sort of wanderlust that will ensure players seek out every possible twist and turn. Continue reading “Destiny”

EA Sports UFC Xbox One Review

EA Sports UFC is a title that captures the exciting battle of strength and skill that is the UFC. The game contains a number of distinct modes that will keep players on the edges of their seats. Continue reading “EA Sports UFC Xbox One Review”

Windforge PC Video Game Review

Windforge

There’s an old adage in sports journalism that goes, “No cheering in the press box.” It means that no matter how much you’re rooting for one team or outcome, you must remain neutral as a member of the press.

Reviewing Windforge has been my cheering-in-the-press-box moment because I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release since I first found its Kickstarter page that promised a Contra-meets­-Minecraft building-block RPG. It had Steampunk aesthetics and flying whales and shipbuilding – the description basically read like a checklist of my most-wanted gaming features.

I didn’t come into Windforge as a passive reviewer, I came in wanting to love the heck out of it and champion it as the next can’t-miss indie smash hit. And that makes writing this review all the harder, because for all of its promise and potential, Windforge has a lot of issues.

On its surface, Windforge is an easy game to love. It’s a 2D-style crafting game similar to Terraria, but with gorgeous graphics and a greater focus on narrative to help drive your exploration. In an era when so many indie games are going the 8-bit nostalgia route, it’s refreshing to see a studio go all-out with their art style, and the visuals are one of the game’s biggest selling points along with its wonderful soundtrack.

But for as good as Windforge looks and sounds, problems arose almost as soon as I took control of my custom-created character. The first thing I tried to do was examine my ship’s engines and I got kicked back to my desktop. Twenty minutes later I died by walking into my ship’s propeller and chose the option to be spawned in town and got kicked back to the desktop. The latest patch that I auto-downloaded nuked my manual save file (guess where I got kicked when I tried to load it?), forcing me to load from an earlier autosave instead. From then on I saved nervously every couple of minutes just in case I hit another glitch, and that’s something no gamer wants to deal with.

Patches will surely serve to even out some of these glitches (I’ve seen multiple updates being pushed through both pre- and post-launch), but even when Windforge is running smoothly from a technical standpoint, the gameplay still hits its fair share of rough patches. Your on-foot character feels like you’re controlling a mini airship rather than a person, making even basic navigation a chore. The best way I can describe it is ‘floaty,’ and your character glides at such speeds that I actually started to get a headache after extended sessions from the detailed scenery rushing by. Jumping onto the back of a flying whale and blasting away until it crashes to the ground below should be great fun,  but more times than not I felt like I was battling the controls as much as my enemies.

Crafting and building – the other half of this ContraMinecraft marriage – also comes with its set of frustrations. Everything can be broken down and mined for elements in Windforge, but the tradeoff of the beautiful graphics style is that element blocks are not as clearly defined as they are in other mining games. That makes mining feel imprecise, like you’re waving your mouse at a cluster of ground that’s producing blocks rather than selecting each individual block to mine. Building also felt clumsy, and trying to get turrets and propellers to ‘stick’ to the right spot of my airship was unnecessarily touchy.

Of course, you need to explore in order to mine resources, and Windforge pulls no punches early. You’ll be under constant assault from winged monsters and human enemies as your underpowered airship scurries from one floating island to the next, and often times I found it best to just put my head down and run to the next objective rather than deal with the constant assault as I scrapped for resources.

It’s too bad, because there is a framework to a good game in Windforge, and one that will hopefully emerge as Snowed In Studios continues to patch and tweak it. But right now that good game is stymied by bugs and a general lack of polish. The soundtrack and art style are both some of the best in the indie gaming scene, but those ultimately feel like a shiny coat of paint on a house with some serious structural flaws.

Rating: 5.0/10.0

Windforge PC Video Game Review | Snowed In Studios | March 11, 2014

(This game was reviewed with a download code provided by the publisher)

(Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Manhattan Before8 and Seattle Before8. Follow him on Twitter at @CGidari)

Powerstar Golf Review

Powerstar Golf CoverAt times, Powerstar Golf feels a lot like playing its real-world counterpart. Like real golf, Powerstar is filled with frustration, botched shots, curse words muttered under your breath as your shot bounces into the bunker for the hundredth time, and promises that you’ll never play again. But then you hit that one shot, that one perfect shot, and it makes all the frustration worth it.

Powerstar Golf is an arcade-style golf game through and through. You select one of the Pixar-stylized characters, then play them through a series of tournaments in challenges in increasingly dangerous and exotic environments that earn you coins and experience. Shots are handled via a power meter – tap A when it reaches its peak for maximum power, then tap A again in the middle of the accuracy gauge to try and hit your ball straight. It’s challenging, especially when factors like wind and water hazards come into play, and that challenge can be startling when contrasted with the cartoony animations and overall tone.

Each golfer has their own special ability that can be used a limited number of times per round, like a power boost or an energy field that draws your ball closer to the pin. You also equip a caddy with their own ability to either show the predicted flight of your drive or the predicted path of your putt. None of these abilities are overpowered, and they’re limited enough that they won’t save your entire round, but they can be a lifesaver in a tricky situation.

Early rounds in Powerstar Golf are rough. Your golfer (there are only two available at the start of the game) is woefully underpowered, and that means scraping for par in even the first few events. You gain experience and coins through completing holes and in-game challenges, and while leveling up your experience unlocks more courses and challenges, coins are your life-blood here.

Coins allow you to buy booster packs, and those packs contain random clubs and stat boosters that are the only way to improve your golfer. That means that you never know which upgrade you’re paying for, and that can be frustrating when you’ve already unlocked three sets of woods and you’re dying for a new putter. And like seemingly every next-gen offering on the Xbox One, coins can be purchased for real-life currency to speed up the process.

To complicate matters, there are also custom clubs that can be unlocked for each golfer, but those are also randomly inserted into the most expensive packs. The problem is that the more golfers you unlock, the more those elusive custom clubs will spread across your entire roster regardless of who you play with. It’s frustrating that the best strategy is to only play with one of the two initially-unlocked golfers to try and unlock all of their clubs first instead of unlocking the rest of the cast to experiment with.

Fortunately, the gameplay on the course really makes up for Powerstar’s microtransaction shortcoming, especially the brilliant Rivals mode. Powerstar Golf has no online multiplayer in a traditional sense – you can’t jump into a lobby and play live against an opponent – but Rivals mode puts you against three other friends or strangers who have already completed certain rounds, then lets you play through the round with them just like a live game. You see their shots and you rotate strokes just like in a normal online game, but the benefit here is there’s no waiting and no risk of an opponent backing out because they need to leave or are playing poorly. It’s a great way to earn coins and experience quickly as you get more reward for each player whose score you beat, and you can even earn XP offline if another player fails to top your score.

There’s also incentive to go back and replay holes because the best shots that you and your friends make are indicated by markers on the course, and you earn bonus XP each time you set a new personal best or outdrive your friend. It’s all wonderfully addictive and builds a great level of competition and oneupsmanship because your friends’ shots are always in front of you begging to be beaten.

Powerstar Golf isn’t the killer launch app that is going to send you running to the store for an Xbox One. Its graphics are akin to most Xbox 360 games, and there’s nothing truly new or groundbreaking at play. But what Powerstar Golf is is a heck of a lot of fun, and the online features give it a ton of replay potential.

Rating: 7.0/10

Powerstar Golf Xbox One Videogame Review | Microsoft Game Studios | November 22, 2013

(This game was reviewed with a download code provided by the publisher)

(Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Manhattan Before8 and Seattle Before8. Follow him on Twitter at @CGidari)

NASCAR ’14 Xbox 360 Video Game Review

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NASCAR ’14 is one of the few sporting-based video games on the market that showcases the sheer difficulty of the activity.  The tweaks, paint schemes, and the variety of upgrades that are available to players allow the game to have considerable replay value, while the pain-staking amount of detail paid to the recreation of a number of the actual NASCAR tracks will appease die-hard and causal fans of racing alike. I believe that players will get the most value out of the multiplayer mode, which has been upgraded to allow matchmaking based on each player’s skill level. Players can create leagues to make a miniature version of the Sprint Cup Chase. I feel that the ability to have a long-term league showcases the overall skill of each players in a much more salient fashion that a single race would indicate. For those individuals that are playing the single-player mode, the AI has been similarly refined. This means that players will have to be at the top of their game to eke out a win against these computer players, which have been given all the savvy and talent of those at the highest echelons of the NASCAR hierarchy.

The graphics on NASCAR ’14 are absolutely stellar, with ETX Racing crafting the crispest graphics that we have seen in an auto league title. The graphic representation of damage gives players some semblance of the sheer danger one would be in should they strap up and experience a NASCAR race from one of the cars, while the control scheme makes it an approachable game for a wide subset of those sitting down to the title.

Make sure to visit your local department store or favorite online retailer to purchase a copy of NASCAR ’14 for the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3.

Rating: 9.0/10

NASCAR ’14 Xbox 360 Video Game Review / 2014 Deep Silver / http://www.deepsilver.com

LocoCycle Xbox One Video Game Review

LocoCycle CoverComedy is one of the finest lines that a developer can walk while making a game.

Do it right and you can produce a classic like Portal or the Monkey Island series that keeps the player laughing and engaged throughout the experience. But if you miss the mark, you risk subjecting the player to hours of eye-rolling and cringe-inducing ‘humor’ that can overshadow every other aspect of the game.

Unfortunately, LocoCycle misses the mark far more often than it hits it.

You play as I.R.I.S., a sentient motorcycle built by the Big Arms Corporation to be a military weapon. But when I.R.I.S. gets struck by lightning, she develops the urge to be free and makes a run for a biker freedom rally in Scottsburg, Indiana, dragging her poor mechanic Pablo behind her by his pants leg.

What follows is an absurd chase through Middle America with Big Arms agents, SUVs, and a rival bike named S.P.I.K.E. all trying to take I.R.I.S. and Pablo down. LocoCycle is a vehicle combat game with action that bounces between shooting, ping-pong melee attacks between flying enemies, and a healthy dose of quick-time events. Your score builds as you chain combinations and avoid taking damage, and that score can be used as currency at the end of each stage to unlock health perks and new combat options like helper drones and the ability to fling Pablo like a ninja star.

This all unfolds at breakneck speed, and it’s just as silly as it sounds. But even at just four hours in length, LocoCycle becomes extremely repetitive, and the upgrades and few enemy variants don’t do enough to mix up or enhance the shallow combat. It’s fun in a mindless, daytime-TV kind of way, but there isn’t much of a hook to go back and keep playing once the final credits roll.

But to get to the final credits, you have to suffer through LocoCycle’s dreadful live-action cut scenes, and they are far and away the worst part of the game. While the in-game action contains some genuinely funny moments, the live-action scenes that serve as a bridge from chapter to chapter aim to be campy but veer wildly into overacted and unfunny territory. The production value is akin to something shot in your friend’s backyard, and the scenes don’t have nearly enough charm to justify the several minutes that each one takes to unfold.

LocoCycle is fun in spurts, but that fun is undermined by repetition and humor that will leave you groaning rather than grinning. The Xbox One post-launch library is sparse, but you’re better off holding out for a more substantial offering.

Rating: 5.0/ 10.0

LocoCycle Xbox One Video Game Review | Xbox One | 22 November, 2013. Twisted Pixel Games

(This game was reviewed with a download code provided by the publisher)

(Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Manhattan Before8 and Seattle Before8. Follow him on Twitter at @CGidari)

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Xbox One Review

Max,_The_Curse_of_Brotherhood_box_artMax: The Curse of Brotherhood is a sequel to 2010’s Max & the Magic Marker that released across the Wii, Playstation Network and a variety of touchscreen devices. Developer Press Play has gone exclusively to the Xbox One for their 2013 sequel (with an Xbox 360 version reportedly in the works for 2014), and their outing represents one of the few post-launch downloadable titles available on the Xbox One to date.

You play as Max, a boy who must rescue his little brother Felix after accidently banishing him to an alternate dimension. Max is aided by a magic marker that can control elements of nature, and he sets out to reclaim his brother from the evil Mustacho.  It’s a thoroughly goofy affair, but each of the characters have their charm and the simple story is actually a highlight of the game. There aren’t many twists and turns thrown at you, but as a vehicle of moving Max from point A to point B, the story does its job in a pleasant way.

Gameplay is divided between basic platforming and using your magical pen to manipulate environmental triggers, with occasional chase scenes thrown in as a change of pace. Max has no direct attack against enemies, so every encounter becomes a puzzle in how to safely bypass your threat.

Max isn’t the fleetest of foot, and that lack of jumping height and movement speed combined with one-hit kills means that there isn’t much margin for error if you misjudge a jump or enemy. Early in the game I sprinted up a hill only to realize a second too late that a boulder was about to come crashing down, leaving me with no time to escape back to a hanging rope before I was crushed. My playthrough was filled with these kinds of deaths, and while it taught me to play more cautiously than I would in a game like Super Mario, there was a feeling of trial and error at play like there was no chance of me reacting with the necessary speed without knowing what was coming first. Fortunately checkpoints are spaced fairly frequently throughout each level, so you’re never bumped too far back after a death.

Holding down the left trigger brings up Max’s magic marker, which you can use to ‘draw’ items from glowing prompts like dirt pillars, vines, and tree branches. It’s here that The Curse of Brotherhood shows its touchscreen roots, and the translation to a controller isn’t as seamless or precise as it could or probably should be. Early in my playthrough I remember thinking that the delay in holding the trigger and the marker appearing on the screen could be really annoying if you ever needed to draw something quickly, and that fear was realized in later chase sequences that were made far tenser by battling the imprecise controls than the baddies chasing Max down.

But while the controls can be a bit stifling, there is a lot that enjoyed about The Curse of Brotherhood. The art style is reminiscent of a Pixar movie, and the environments are all beautiful and engaging. Pacing is also handled well, and I found myself unlocking a new marker power right at the point when I was getting bored with the status quo.

As much as I enjoyed the game – and ultimately I did enjoy it – $15 is a steep price to pay for roughly eight hours of mediocre gameplay and pretty visuals. Even the added collectibles are mostly hidden in plain view or require some minor exploration to find, and any achievements you don’t collect on your first playthrough can be mopped up with a handful of replayed levels.

If you’ve already exhausted your Xbox One launch library and are searching for something new to justify your early console adoption, you’ll find some things to love in this offering. But as far as essential downloadable titles goes, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is one you can skip.

Rating: 7.0/10

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Xbox One Review/ Xbox One/ December 20, 2013, Press Play

Adventure Time Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! Review

 

 

 

 

Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is one of the few games that adds a decent amount of the lore of the inspiring show while having a graphically distinct art direction. The gameplay style is reminiscent of the Zelda titles for the Super Nintendo, while the choice of characters (Finn, Jake, Cinnamon Bun, and Marceline) really provides a Gauntlet-like sheen to this game. The game does a great job in varying the experiences of players as they delve ever deeper into the Secret Royal Dungeon. The game does well in varying the gameplay styles of each of the characters – Marceline is able to fly but cannot block, while the melee players are able to boldly ignore projectiles. A shop allows players to further boost the gear of their characters (in a fashion similar to the AT ep “Dungeon Train”), while the lower levels will ratchet up the difficulty to ensure that players still have a fun go of it. The title is rendered beautifully and represents a great time sink. The controls are intuitive and the game does not bog down. DLCs have been planned to allow players to assume the roles of other popular Adventure Time mainstays like Flame Princess, Lumpy Space Princess, and even Peppermint Butler.

 

The game has been released for a variety of consoles (aside from the Playstation 3, there are also PC, Wii U, and 3DS versions of the title. This would be a perfect addition to the collections of anyone that is a fan of Adventure Time or of isometric titles like Zelda, Diablo 1 or 2, or Neverwinter Nights. The sheer amount of replay value that is present (especially when other players get into the mix) ensures that players will have this in their consoles for months after purchasing the title.

 

Rating: 9.3/10

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Adventure Time Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! Review / Sony Playstation 3/ 2013 D3Publisher / http://www.d3publisher.us