Category: Uncategorized


You’re probably wondering why I haven’t written anything in months. Well, for those who I haven’t told, here’s the skivvy. I’m now part of another site: www.mediakick.org. Seriously go there rather than here. The past three years or so have been hard graft, and on Mediakick I aim to carry on with the skills I picked up whilst working on this portfolio. I’ll probably keep all the things I wrote in one form or another, but this site will no longer be updated as of this point.

Advertisements

Review Updates

Been a while since a person communication! I’ll make it brief.

DLC is an important way of enhancing a game, and as such my integrity to provide clear reviews has meant that I need to maintain each review to reflect their DLC too.

The following reviews have been updated to reflect DLC as of 29/03/11.

  • Fable 3 (Xbox 360)
  • Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)

It’s been a while since I communicated with you on a personal level. Bit naughty of be to be honest.

Let’s just say I’ve had a busy time with other commitments. My workload got far larger at my paid job, and suffice to say that took its toll. I had to spend less time doing what I wanted to do because I didn’t have the time to do it.

But technology gives me a new helping hand. As I am now able to update on the go, things will be different in 2011 (“twenty-eleven”). One thing that will also change is the fact I now have access to mobile phone gaming, so you will see games you may have played on your mobile phone come under scrutiny (having said this, I haven’t seen a particularly bad mobile phone game that is put on more official channels (Xbox Live compatible or iPhone App Store recommended, etc).

There will also be more mini-reviews and indeed longer more in-depth articles to come from me. I’m currently working on an extended review at the moment for what I think is the most socially important game of 2000-2010. Watch this space…

Starting from next week, I’m back to my Fortnightly arrangement.

Hope to see you then. In the meantime: A mini-review on the brand new expansion for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers.

Plants vs Zombies 
Version Tested: Xbox 360

Since around the early 1990s, zombies in video games have been invading our homes, towns and indeed world ever since. There have been many different tools of the trade for zombie extermination that would send a pest controller into a giddy frenzy. The use of live ammunition has been the widely used method of dispatching the hordes. But they just keep coming. Other methods need to be thought of. Dead Rising already thought of humiliating them, but as is the case here; it only serves to make the rest of them annoyed. Mind you, a lot of methods appeared over the years. Draining their brains of fluid, running them over with various contraptions, using the power of…horticulture? Confused? Perhaps, but not as much as Monty Don when his geraniums start taking arms against undead human beings. It’s hard to imagine the concept behind Plants vs Zombies; a tower defence game where you must cultivate your defensive line against a group of particularly bitey people trying to get into your house, probably to participate in an exercise of mass eating.

If you are familiar with the concept of the tower defence strategy game, then think of this as one with a bizarre theme. If like me you are as unaware of the genre as a metal fan is with the ins and outs of the drum n bass scene, then think of this as quite simply defending a certain object from waves upon waves of enemies. Each level of the game will send a quota of zombies hurtling towards your house. Using a combination of solar power together with super cultivation powers, your job is simply to block their advance. There are 49 plants in total you can use, one unlocked after every mission. Essentially, it is best to look at these plants in two groups. The first are universal plants, those which are needed regardless of the circumstances. These include the Wallnuts and, in most cases, the Sunflower/Sunshroom. Others such as the Exploding Cherries and the Chompers are regarded as situational. Developing a strategy that works isn’t particularly difficult, but there will be certain zombie types that will cause a minor headache. Luckily there is always a quick solution to a monster issue. If all goes to pot, the lawnmower will act as a lifeline for that row and kill every zombie in it. Simple gameplay, but really as a casual themed title there is a fantastic array of strategy.

Let the power of horticulture smite the heathen zombies!

The main game isn’t very long, lasting for 50 levels spanning 5 worlds. It’s the amount of extras that really make the 1200 Microsoft points worth spending. With a history of casual hits to choose from, including them in zombie form for mini-game levels is just brilliant, with the likes of the highly addictive BeJewelled being represented. My only issue is that levels such as this needed two forms. The first should be as the standard Plants vs Zombies style and the second should be an endless score attack (where scores could go on leaderboards). This wouldn’t be difficult as there are survival and endless modes already in the games options. Every mode is unlocked via the main game, but stuff within is unlocked as you play these modes. Then there is the Zen Garden. As unlikely as it seems, this mode allows you to farm money. This money can be spent on stuff for the game modes, or to cultivate more money in the long run. To say this game is light on content as is the case with a lot of video games these days would be a desperate lie. Finally, in case you think this is very one sided, the zombies get a turn to eat brains in the I-Zombie mode, just to add to the strategy.

Finally, there is a Zen Garden mode which is unlocked after completing the main experience. You’ll start obtaining plants in stages and mini-games at this point, which are sent to the Zen garden for you to raise from sprouts, and then ultimately sell. Marigolds are bought from Crazy Dave, which can be matured and them farmed for coins that emerge from them. It’s an interesting idea that keeps some kind of incentive post-ending. Another large plant to raise is the Tree of Wisdom. This will increase in size after every special feed you put on it. The feed does cost a fair bit, so every little indeed does help. This means finding more plants to raise, sell and pay for the feed. It stands to reason that zombie killing is a kind of economy. The more you kill, the bigger the tree grows. Thankfully the variety of modes and the new “hard” mode makes this seem like an extension of that experience, rather hoarding more gold than the average dragon for the sheer kick.

Bowling is simply better when done with a friend.

Visually, it is a fairly standard affair resembling something more in tone to a Flash based game than anything of big developer budget. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t completely without charm. There are almost as many zombie types as there are plants, and they’re all themed in some way or another. There is even a dancing zombie who can summon backup dancers to surround him. What is amusing is that while the main dancer looks like he jumped straight from the disco scene, the backups resemble Freddy Mercury. It’s not just the cosmetics that are relatively amusing, but also the element of self parody. The descriptions for the plants and zombies, combined with the bizarre ramblings of Crazy Dave being…well, stark raving mad; are witty, if a little strange. This is the kind of game that could and indeed has generated a cult following. The new details in this version are as fresh as the plants you plant, rather than the stale decaying zombies that you obliterate.

Cult phenomenon on the PC and iPhone apps, it is nice to see that for the console ports that there is the same amount of playability but additions to make things even better. As a concept, it is probably the only tower defence game you’ll ever need. Units are balanced on both sides, and with this much variation between modes it is hardly surprising that people rave so much about it. So should you spend however much it costs on any version? It depends on whether you like innovative gaming and wish to reward it, or whether you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind playing the billionth generic first person shooter. PopCap might not be the first company you’d find a great idea, but a tower defence game involving botany and necromancy together is worth a peek, even if it’s just out of morbid curiosity.

(Errata: PC/Mac version is operated via mouse, iPhone version operated by touch. 360 by pad. Pad does work, but has some issues in certain situations (ie: when you’re frantically racking defences)

New look, new provider

Just got a message saying that I could convert my Windows Live Spaces thing to this instead. All I can say is: Why not? So here we are. I’ll be changing the layout repeatedly until it’s just right, so bear with me. Some posts will look a little odd in comparison to the old layout, especially with pictures.

The most recent posts will now be labelled at the top, with the most recent one now appearing here immediately. This should make the page a lot more organised. I will need to take time to create a proper browsing page, but the reviews come first.

Also, this weekend I will be at the Eurogamer Expo 2010. I’ll be the guy in the smart hat with a dictaphone and possibly a camera. It will be an experience I won’t forget, and I hope that I get good scoops!

Buh?

500x_sf_x_tekken

Okay, I’ll explain. It seems that Capcom have come to a deal with Namco about these two game franchises. There will be two games: Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken X Street Fighter (X is pronounced “Cross”). As to be expected, one will run from the hugely artsy Street Fighter IV engine and designed by Capcom, while the other one will be using the Tekken 6 engine and be developed by Namco. The announcement was made at Comic Con 2010 much to the excitement of the geeks and nerds who attended the convention.

I have to admit, this one confused me. Both games have polar differences in terms of their style. One is full of super moves and over the top finishers, and the other is full of fast reflex combinations and actual martial art inspiration. The Namco developed title seems to have a little more going for it simply because you could theoretically incorporate the Shoryuken into the move set. Others such as the Hadouken might have a bit of a “cheapness issue”, while others like the Spinning Bird Kick might look a little weird in comparison. As for the Capcom developed title, I am confused as to how they’re going to give the Tekken characters over the top moves. I guess these are questions that will only be answered when a gameplay video is unleashed for us to look at. Currently, there are screenshots of the Capcom title out there and they do look pretty good. But without fluid motion, it is a little hard to tell. It’s like being baited to go to the cinema by a friend, but not being told what film your seeing and the anticipation of being disappointed being overwhelming.

It seems Capcom have gone cross crazy recently, with the hugely anticipated Marvel vs Capcom 3 being shown in more detail at this years Comic Con, this at the very least has the potential to be ridiculously good. Some character choices are awesome (Thor) whilst others are questionable (Amaretsu from Okami). With a more relevant roster, this is one to keep an eye on.

Reviews are now coming on Sundays (still Bi-weekly) as weekends seem to generate more free time.

Until next Sunday.

Due to an unforeseen drive failure, all my previous reviews on my hard drive and all the reviews I had lined up somehow got deleted… This is really annoying as I had at least three written… As a consequence, I will now have to use this site as the basis for my archives and backup.

Therefore, in order to re-establish the foothold I once had on the situation, there will be a delay of a week for the next review. I would apologise for the inconvenience, but I think my E: drive needs to do that itself. Shame it isn’t a sentient being…

It is finished, finally…

Your review for the start of 2010 is probably one of my favourite games of last year:

  • Dragon Age: Origins (PC/Playstation 3/Xbox 360)

Because it is one of my favourite titles of last year, I wanted to make sure that everything I said about it was absolutely 100% authentic without any twists to the logic. This meant that while I’d normally give a game at least one play-through, this I had to give several partial play-throughs and one more dedicated one. The fact that after the review I still want to play it is something I’ve not felt in a long time with a game. Not through lack of enjoyment and not through lack of content, but an abundance of both.

Those who are observant will notice in the tags I’ve referred to something known as “Dragon Age: Journeys”. The reason is basically because there was a flash based game based on the same universe. Those who haven’t come across it should probably look into it.

  1. It is fairly consistent for a flash based game.
  2. It has exclusive DLC attached to it for a limited time. (June 30th 2010)
  3. The content will take roughly half an hour to obtain if you think carefully about it.

Please note that THIS IS NOT AN ADVERSITSEMENT! This is so that you can obtain three very useful starting items for the price of 30 minutes of your time. Trust me, they’re worth it. The link is below.

http://www.dragonagejourneys.com/

If you do not have Dragon Age: Origins, but are thinking about it; this is not a lot like the actual game. There are similarities, but the retail version is significantly better. As for the DLC, if you do plan on buying it and want the DLC you might as well do it now. It works with ALL VERSIONS of the retail game as well as long as they’re linked to the same EA account.

All that is left for me to say is: Happy New Year, look out for my 2009 GOTY stuff (I did one this year!) and I’ll keep churning more reviews in the next decade or so! (Whatever it takes to get a big job at a magazine!)

Until next week…

Delay

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there will not be a review this week. Next week there will be one. Sorry for any inconvenience.

To the yanks, Happy Turkey Day! This year’s heavily stuffed, undercooked bird is:

  • The Legend of Zelda 2 – Adventure of Link (NES)

And yes, that was a quip at the early Thanksgiving Day special I had over in Norwich. That chicken (only thing that would fit in the oven!) just wouldn’t bloody cook! When it did look alright, we soon found out only the top cooked.

Thankfully, the chicken wasn’t the source of my current illness. For that I have a bug going round to thank. I also have it to thank for an unusually raspy voice-box at the moment. Let’s just say my voice currently sounds like a certain James Earl Jones. I’m not even kidding. I’ve said the words "I am your father" along with Darth Vader and there is no difference. Whilst it is cool, I hope it is temporary as I kind of like my sense of pitch back again. But this is the coolest aspect of my cold. The not so cool is the weird ass linked dreams I’ve been having as a consequence of being too hot in bed temperature wise. Heat affects your sleep and your vision turns from peaceful dream into a weird as one where the only thing you remember is George Takei looming over you. There’s also the fever I had, unusually hot feet, loss of co-ordination and repeated coughing of phlegm.

Still, could be worse. I have Lemsip (original lemon flavour) on my side. I’d drink that stuff any day of the year if they made one without the drugs that tasted the same. Also the release of Street Fighter HD Remix on downloadable markets for the 360 & PS3 has cheered me up. Two things strike out though. Never switch to classic display (sound you’re fine, but visuals, it’s just funny) and there’s only one dancing girl on Balrog’s *cough**hack*Mike Tyson*hack**pitooee**ting* stage. Fortunately she’s the best looking background sprite there, so it’s a win situation.

And on that note, I grab my newly warmed Lemsip, snuggle in my duvet fortress and hope that George Takei doesn’t haunt me again tonight… *shudders*

Notice from Writer: The writer actually respects George Takei’s talent and thought he was awesome in the original Star Trek, Heroes, and C&C Red Alert 3. Whilst this was based on actual experience, I wish Mr Takei no harm and hope he comes out of that wilderness. I mean c’mon, "I’m a Celebrity?!" You can do better George!