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Life is Strange Episode 3 Review

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Episode 3: Chaos Theory

The story of lead character Max, her best friend Chloe, and the various people that cross paths with these girls in the small Oregon town of Arcadia Bay continues.  We are now on the third episode of five, which is the time where typically the twist of the season presents itself and the direction for the overall story arc begins to come into view.  I don’t know where Life is Strange is headed – the twist at the end I never saw coming and it only furthered my intrigue – but I am pleased to say that the flaws I was detecting in the second episode are quite absent this time around.  In fact, it feels like perhaps two different teams at Dontnod are programming episodes because Chaos Theory feels more like the first episode and might even be able to get by if episode 2 didn’t exist (save for a plot point or two).  Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this third iteration, although despite my gripes from episode 2 being resolved, all new ones have emerged that prove there’s still room for improvement on this project.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Life is Strange Episode 2 Review

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Episode 2: Out of Time

I was quite taken with my initial impressions of Life is Strangethe episodic game that’s part modern adventure and part Choose Your Own Adventure, but there’s a part of me that acknowledged many works have started with fantastic openings and fall short at the end.  In fact, much of the first episode was probably how the game was pitched for development.  Typically the second outing, especially in the case of episodic titles, give us a much better feeling of what the overall title is going to be like and allows us to gauge how effectively or ineffectively the unwinding story and gameplay goals are executing.  It’s also important to note that almost universally the second episode is hit with the largest amount of criticism and negative feedback, if only because it’s a focused burst of reality on the high hopes of the first episode, but also because it’s an awkward in-between time for the plot.  I wish I could say Life is Strange overcomes this potential hitch, but it does appear that like most of the others it just doesn’t quite pack the punch of the first.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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Mk3

Switching It Up

mk3_1A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3).  For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release.  In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades.  The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas.  These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games.  Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title.  It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory.  Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite.  Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.

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Monster World IV Review (English Translation)

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mw4_boxPlatform: Mega Drive and PS2 (Japan Only), English translation available on XBLA (360), PSN (PS3), and Virtual Console (Wii)
Released: 1994 (Japan only), 2012 (English Translation)
Developer: Westone (English port handled by M2)
Publisher: Sega
Digital Release? Yes
Price: $8.00 (Wii), $9.99 (XBLA & PSN – part of Monster World Collection)

The Wonder Boy/Monster World series is one of those unappreciated darlings in gaming that has spread its love across various Sega consoles and even arcades but never reached it’s height of popularity in the West. So I guess it made sense that the series swan song, titled Monster World IV, was released on the Mega Drive in Japan only. It was not until 2012 that a official English re-release came out on services like XLBA and PSN, which is the version I will review here.  [Editor’s Note: There is a fan translation of the original game released by DeJap in 2000, that site can be found here.  Our review does not account for or evaluate this fan translation.]

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Written by jamalais

April 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Genesis, PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Wii, Xbox 360

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Making PSN Accounts in Other Regions

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We so very often recommend our listeners/viewers/readers get a foreign PSN because it’s so “easy”, but I figured with this morning’s news of Shadow Tower coming to the US PSN later today and the massive amount of games I purchase on the various PSN stores that it was high time to make it easy for you.  Creating a PSN is not a difficult task, however it can be a challenge without knowing the language, written or otherwise, of the territory you seek and also knowing what you will and won’t gain from each.  With the average Playstation 3 being able to tether up to 5 PSN accounts, I have chosen to dedicate one to my home base PSN, three to outside territories, and the final one to guests in my house.  The best benefit of a PSN account on multiple consoles is that all accounts on that console can share installed games, so I purchase a game on my Japanese PSN only to use it on my American account for the sake of trophies and keeping my friends informed as to what I’m playing.  Perhaps you don’t know how to create a PSN for another country or perhaps you don’t know the benefits, well this little article will assist you in making the proper decision.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 31, 2015 at 11:36 am

Posted in Blog, Import, Lessons, PS3, PS4, Vita

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review

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The original Hotline Miami is still a massive indie hit that has a colourful over the top retro look to it with a fantastic soundtrack to accompany it. The goal of each level was simple: kill every enemy on screen by any means necessary. Although that comes across as a very basic concept the game is very difficult and you will find yourself restarting constantly until you finally figure out the magical formula to dispatch all the bad guys in the level. I was hooked to this game instantly when I first played it, and was pretty excited to hear a sequel was on the way.

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Written by jamalais

March 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Hotline Miami Review

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Getting that “retro feel” in modern games is a particular challenge that few actually nail.  Sometimes the aesthetics are spot on, but at the expense of gameplay, which can feel sluggish or imprecise and the developer often sites authenticity for retro consoles or some other excuse.  Many times the soundtrack is fantastic but it’s the only notable aspect of the game.  By process of elimination there are those titles that get the gameplay down but at the expense of aesthetics and story a la Retro City Rampage.  That’s why Hotline Miami seems such an achievement because it looks like a 16-bit top-down game, plays like a twin stick shooter from the 90s (Smash TV anyone?), and manages to pull off the unreliable narrator concept that usually falls flat.  On top of that, it has a fantastic soundtrack that Dennis Wedin composed for the game and stands as the first thing you experience upon booting it up and the most notable part of the experience.  All the elements are there and the result is an unforgetable title from start to finish.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

The Evil Within Review

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The Evil Within is the stuff nightmares are made of.  I’m not being dramatic, almost everything in this game will cater to the popular nightmares that plague humanity – in my case that happens to be clowns – and throws them right in your face.  That’s not to say it is a scary game, because unlike other contemporaries the goal of The Evil Within is to disturb you and create tension rather than grab you with a quick jump scare (although it can’t resist the urge to do that as well at times).  Bundled altogether it creates the closest representation of a haunted house without forgetting that it’s also a video game and therefore can make death a reality for all parties involved.  This would be a fantastic reality for the definitive horror experience if it weren’t for the abundance of setbacks that range from visuals, to AI, and even creep into gameplay that no matter how big a fan you are just cannot be ignored.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

Life is Strange Review

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Episode 1: Chrysalis

Adventure games have always been a bit of a split for me.  I was never good at them, never completed many of them, and thus I wanted to write them off as worthless but what they did for storytelling is undeniable.  TellTale somewhat switched up the definition of what goes into an adventure game, but try as they may I was hindered by either losing investment in the story or just not valuing these games any more than my current frustration with trying to beat Grim Fandango Remastered because I had never played before.  I guess the biggest problem for me was the balance is never quite there.  In a point-and-click adventure game there’s too much emphasis on puzzle solving and figuring out the developer whereas the TellTale games traditionally have too little and stand as nothing more than slightly interactive movies (that always seem to end in the same place regardless of those decisions).  Life is Strange stands out because developer Dontnod (known previously for the great action title Remember Me) acknowledges the reality that you are a player interacting with an environment, but also allows you to relate to the person on screen so distinctly that you get the best of both worlds.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Remember Me Review

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remember_me_boxRemember Me is not a sum of its parts.  That’s an important factor to keep in mind as you progress through this game, and frankly, is quite counter to a majority of experiences out there.  This title is trying to tell a complex story in the world of interactive fiction, which has been tried before with varying results, and manages to keep its focus on the big picture instead of being bogged down by the limitations of a video game.  As I played through it was fascinating to me how I wanted to keep note of the little gripes and problems I was seeing instead of paying attention to what was going on.  This is the one large hurdle, or caveat if you choose to view it as such, that separates whether you will enjoy Remember Me or pitch it to the wayside as a product of the end of this cycle.  Keep in mind it is by no means perfect, or even groundbreaking, but it offers a story and world that are unique and manages to maintain suitable gameplay that makes progressing the plot intriguing.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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